Tuesday, February 22, 2011

David Simon's "Treme".

c. David Grim (taken 2/12/10)

Well, I finally completed my viewing of the first season of the HBO series "Treme". I can't say I was particularly thrilled to sign up for cable at my house, but I am trying to make the best of it (and the On Demand feature). Anyway I loved 'The Wire" and learned to admire its creator David Simon, who has moved on to this love letter to post-Katrina New Orleans. Right out front I'll profess my deep satisfaction with "Treme". I am looking forward to the airing of its second season. Unfortunately I don't know when that's going to start, or if it will be available in my home. Currently I get HBO as part of some trial package.

Despite my overwhelming appreciation for this show, I have to warn readers of this blog that "Treme" has received ample criticism for "lacking plot". If you do a quick internet search for commentary on the first season, you'll see quickly that there were a lot of viewers who want more to happen in this story. I find that lamentable, if not surprising. There are too many folks who have become too dependent on twists-and-turns and big drama to enjoy the nuanced art of something like "Treme". How anyone can come away from this show without being overwhelmed by the detail and nuance of the writing, cinematography, and performances of the cast is simply beyond me. The cries for additional plotting and accelerated pacing seem like the hysterical outbursts of ADHD-afflicted children.

Why are so many Americans addicted to contrivances? Why must their art be overproduced and packaged as a neverending series of over-the-top, show-stopping, set-pieces? Have my fellow media consumers lost their ability to digest lovingly-crafted mood pieces, or has the viewing public here in the United States always been too immature to receive visual poetry with the necessary patience and attention? I'd hate to admit that the latter suspicion is the truest one.

If you don't need to be led by the hand from big moment to tragic incident to big catharsis in every hour-long episode of television, then you might have what it takes to enjoy "Treme". It is anchored by performances of New Orleans musicians, and examines how the city's inhabitants weave its unique culture throughout their lives to help them overcome the almost unbearable tragedy of the hurricane that changed their lives forever. If you have watched "The Wire", you will note the presence of a lot of familiar actors. But the cast is rounded out by otherwise recognizable faces and cameos by genuine NOLA performers from many fascinatingly underexamined corners. Their contributions form the heart of "Treme", and (at least for me) keep the drama beating and the blood flowing throughout the first season.

Now I eagerly anticipate more great things to come.

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