Treme is a show about people trying to rebuild their lives in a post Katrina New Orleans written by David Simon who was the creator, writer, producer of the Wire. The show features a stellar cast of both accomplished actors and real life New Orleans Jazz Musicians. Basically all this show needs is a subplot involving Olivia Munn working on Computers to fund her Bikini swim wear line, and it would be the perfect show for me.
So if the show has so many things that I should love, why do I hate it so much?
Nothing really Happens
Maybe I’m overstating or over simplifying or over something something, but one of the things that I can’t get past is this feeling that nothing is happening. When I think about it honestly however, I think the real issue is that nothing impactful or unsuspected happens in this show. (Also, fuck you to whoever feels like pointing out that “impactful” isn’t a real word, and is actually just made up business jargon) For the most part there is nothing that happens in the show that grips me and forces me to get emotionally invested and take a rooting interest in the story’s outcome.
Here are the major events from the first season:
- Jenette has to close down her restaurant and ends up moving to New York in the season finale. This could have been more interesting but it felt like no who knew Jenette really cared that much. In fact, it seemed almost impossible for the restaurant to make it starting in week one so by the time she did close it felt like a foregone conclusion. Plus even the people who worked for her really didn’t seem to be that affected by the restaurant closing. This might just be a classic “meh, who care, whoooo Jazz music, let’s drink” New Orleans attitude but it made the whole storyline feel unimportant. Since the staff seemed unfazed by the closing and Jeanette had other opportunities, and the actual building and name still belonged to her, the restaurant’s closing carried no emotional weight.
- Sonny and Annie break up. It was clear from episode one that Sonny was a loser who wasn’t in the same league as Annie, was holding her back musically, and was probably going to start using drugs again as soon as he hit the slightest road block. Oh did I mention he was pretentious. Yeah, he was a douchey pretentious fuck who didn’t deserve a woman like Annie who anyone who watched the show would instantly fall in love with instantly.
- Albert is able to dress up as the big chief and walk around N.O shouting some gibberish after he fails to get the government to open the undamaged projects. At no point in the show is there any explanation as to why the Indians are important to the culture of New Orleans. I had to go online and research this, and after I did, I understood why it was important. Maybe it’s just me, but when I watch a TV show or Movie, I think that my enjoyment of said TV show or movie shouldn’t be dependent on me doing research in my spare time. I know David Simon didn’t want to spoon feed the importance of the Indian’s and big the Big Chief to his audience, but at least some explanation would have been nice. In fact there is even a character that doesn’t know about the Indians that they have tag along and they still don’t take that opportunity to make you actually care about what Albert is trying to do. Since they never showed why, or said why, it was important, I didn’t care. I just didn’t care.
- Batiste is a terrible dad, does almost nothing to amend that, struggles for work as a musician, and has his mentor die. I know what your saying, wouldn’t that last bit about his mentor dieing be a big deal? Yes, normally it would, whoever they didn’t introduce the mentor or even mention him or hint that the character existed until half way through the season, then they kill him in the very next episode. It gave almost no time for the viewer to form any bond with the character or really learn exactly why he was so important to Batiste.
- Davis is a broke looser who briefly runs for some local political office before giving up fairly quickly. I will say this. Davis is one of the few characters I started to like more and more as the show went on after having hated him early on. Simply put, he is the N.O version of a N.Y.C hipster. In fact the best part of the series for me, was watching him get put in his place as he casually used the N word thinking that it was ok for him to do it cause he has a ton of black jazz friends and appreciates N.O like most white people can’t. Then BAM, some black guy punchasizes his face and i’m soooo happy. But back to the mater at hand. This guy could have not existed and nothing on the show would be any different.
I’m going to take a break from this to mention that all of these things could have been moving, thoughtful, gripping, intense, serious storylines, but the way they are delivered makes them seem boring and common place. I think there are three things that contribute to that. One, Katrina was such a devastating event that what these individual characters are going through in trying to rebuild is not very unique and probably not the most dramatic when compared to what others probably go through. The second thing that hurts the show is that we are in a sever recession. The woman’s restaurant closing, the jazz musician struggling for work, and many of the other story lines of woe can be seen today all across the country. The third item that makes these events seem unimportant is my next major topic.
Too Many Characters
Let me list all of the main characters who have their own individual storylines: Albert the Indian chief, Alberts Son who is a world famous Musician, Davis the NO hipster, Sonny the drug addict loser, Annie the amazing violinist, Jeannette the Chief, Ladonna the bar owner, Beatiste the Bone player, Creighton the N.O author, his wife the lawyer. That is 10 people who all have their own unique storyline. Yes they sometime intersect or intertwine with other characters but for the most part they are all supposed to be fully formed characters.
In most shows you have usually one central character and several supporting character, or you have a small ensemble where each ensemble member is some type of archtype and any real character development takes place over many seasons. Add to that list all the regularly reoccurring role and supporting characters and you have a huge cast. There just isn’t enough time to devote to each character and his or her story.
I know what you might be thinking “Isn’t that a little bit of a contradiction since your second favorite show of all time is The Wire and that show was by David Simon and also had an Equally large central cast?” Well let me first say that you just posed a very astute and intellectually challenging question. Let me also say; No your wrong, shut up.
Here’s the thing, the wire had the following main characters: McNulty, Kima, Carver, Herc, Daniels, Lawyer Lady, Omar, Deangelo, Avon, Stringer, and probably 5 or 6 more people I don’t feel like listing. The difference is that while each character was unique and well thought out and over the course of 5 seasons had significant character development; the majority of the characters were all working together towards something. And that brings me to my next point.
No unifying Goal
As I just mentioned, the wire was able to get away with having a very large number of central characters because they all had some shared goal. The unifying goal in the first season was bringing down the Avon Barks-dale drug ring. Granted some were working to bring it down, some where trying to keep it out of harm’s way, and some were just impeding the investigation for their own benefit. Anyway you look at it, everything that happened on the show had some type of impact on the investigation. It all tied in together (or as the show’s tagline said: “All the pieces matter”).
In Treme there is no unifying experience, goal, or aspiration. You could argue that rebuilding after Katrina could qualify, but to me that isn’t specific enough and is more an aspect of the setting of the story. Batiste’s goal to make enough money as a Jazz musician to make ends meets has no impact on Creighton’s inability to over come writers block. Creighton’s suicide in the season finale has no impact on Annie as she tries to find a place to live now that she’s left Sonny. Sonny’s drug use has no affect on Albert’s quest to finish all of the Indian’s costumes on time. So unlike The Wire, not all of the pieces matter, and I guess that brings me to my last point.
It’s not the Wire
Fan’s of The Wire are similar in nature to Losties but just in a much more condescending way. We (cause I am one) honestly believe that The Wire is the best show in TV history, despite the fact that it was never that popular and was only on 5 seasons. I could go into details as to why Wire fan’s think this, but that’s not important. What is important is that fan’s of the Wire had completely unrealistic expectations for Treme.
There were so many similarities between the two series that many Wire fans incorrectly assumed it would just be a Jazz version of the Wire set in New Orleans. This assumption led to very high expectations that just could not be realistically met. Unfortunately this high expectation makes it almost impossible for a Wire fan to look at Treme objectively. It is also a reason why Treme has such a large number of people watch the show despite it not being a show they would normally watch and enjoy.
So in summation, Treme < The Wire < Olivia Munn Cosplay.