Treme is a fantastic show if even by any traditional means that we measure how good a television program is. Characters, plot, engagement, or whatever, Treme has it in spades, maybe not to the degree of others, but it certainly has that. No, what makes Treme so great is the atmosphere it created, its celebration of culture and how it made the city of New Orleans a living, breathing character that became more pivotal and influential than few others on TV over the past five years.
There is no other show that just absorbs you into its world and refuses to let you go for an hour. I’ve never been to New Orleans (one of these days…), but the show’s insistence on realism, a David Simon show after all, places you right in the middle of everything. Never has culture been so beautifully represented on a TV show than Treme. Plot and narrative development is jettisoned so we can listen to a live blue/folk song for five minutes. Conversations in bars over a couple Buds are the order of business. Drinking, partying, music, family, culture, selflessness. Treme. New Orleans.
Treme has been much maligned because of this, really not being about much, not any huge intertwining plot, just enough to keep things going enough for a show, and the characters just filling in the blanks wonderfully. Fantastic actors like Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo and countless others fill out the cast as people you know and not just imagination that fills your TV set. Real-life musicians of old and new fill the stage and the show, adding to that sense that you are there and this is all real, which for all intents and purposes it is, this has all happened in some form or shape.
Treme is a slice of life show that makes you want to have a good time, drink and party and have enjoy all of what New Orleans and life has to offer. But, it’s also about reflection, self-worth, reflection and realizing how every great thing in your life could be taken from you in an instant. Hurricane Katrina did that to the wonderful folks of New Orleans, it took physical property from them, but never broke their will, not for a second. Yes, Treme is about rebuilding after a disaster, but it’s also about reaffirming everything that they and we have, about what really matters, and how no matter of water damage will ever affect it.
I’m going to miss Treme for so many reasons, but the experience of it is what I’ll miss most. Just living in the show and its world, is nothing that any other show could ever deliver. The normal tenants of television don’t apply when Treme is on the air, storytelling doesn’t really matter, not much does besides the atmosphere, the music, the people. Quite simply, the culture, something we all live in, but often fail to appreciate, the experience and enjoyment always lingering under our nose, through thick and thin.