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Treme: Storytelling at Its Finest

June 21, 2010

I have a confession to make: I have never seen The Wire. Nor The Corner. I have never been on the David Simon bandwagon. Not that I wasn’t interested. In fact, I waited for The Wire to finish, planning to get the boxed set – that says something considering I had never watched an episode. But that never happened. I knew that he made quality TV based on the critical acclaim everything he touched received. So, with that, I jumped into the pilot for Treme with excitement, unsure of what I would be getting.

I left the pilot for Treme, unsure of what I had just witnessed. I knew it was good, but I was not sure I liked it. There was a chance that the series might be too slow-burn even for me. And I like a good TV show that takes time to peel back the layers. I did, however, love the music. I loved the fact that New Orleans was cast as a character in the show. I loved John Goodman‘s performance. If I were an Emmy voter, I would have immediately written his name down on my ballot. Or at least a piece of paper to remind me when the ballots came out. I loved Khandi Alexander digging in and exposing those years she wasted (and was wasted) on CSI:Miami. I loved Wendell Pierce‘s luckless, living day-by-day portrayal of a displaced New Orleans musician. I loved Kim Dickens‘ chef who fought against the odds to keep her business afloat despite the economic downturn. I loved Steven Zhan‘s annoying-as-hell character of Davis because Davis is supposed to be annoying as hell. This cast is amazing: Hammer, meet nail. I returned the next week. And the next. And, slowly, the show made sense to me. I hope it did to you, as well. I hope people fell in love with it like I did. I want more from these characters.

As the season wound down last night, I understand the connection people have with Simon’s shows. In capturing these characters’ desperate attempt to return their lives to “normal,” we are welcomed into their lives, into their minds… was there anything more heartbreaking than when Alexander’s LaDonna realized that her brother was dead, but refused to tell her mom until after Mardi Gras because she wanted to let her hold on to that slim, slim possibility that he was still alive? Or when we realized why Goodman’s Creighton was spending the day pampering himself? I will admit: I wasn’t ready. And then, they seamlessly interwove a brief series of scenes pre-Katrina, as the characters dealt with the storm exactly the way we could imagine them doing so, we saw LaDonna’s brother get arrested, unaware that he was about to lose his life, we saw the worry on her face as she kept calling to check on him. I connected. I saw my sister as LaDonna and how she would react as she tried to find me. It, quite literally, hurt my heart.

Treme doesn’t have huge hooks, it doesn’t tell over-the-top storylines, it doesn’t make you feel gluttonous after watching. Instead, it is an intimate telling of this simultaneously mysterious yet mundane phenomena that is life. And they do it extremely well. I will be anxiously awaiting season 2.

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