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Pre-critiquing HBO's Treme
April 11, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

The New Orleans blogosphere and twitterverse have been abuzz about HBO's Treme, which premieres tonight. Today's edition of the local paper features an open letter to New Orleanians from director David Simon.

The New Orleans blogosphere and twitterverse have been abuzz about HBO's Treme, a series (premiering tonight) about the lives of New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There are blogs about the Treme series, with much discussion of whether the producers/writers will "get it [New Orleans] right". At least one blogger worries that they will! The series creators are apparently sensitive to all the local fretting, so much so that today's edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune features an open letter to New Orleanians from director David Simon.
posted by muffuletta (55 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a great intro to what I'm really hoping will be a great show. I'm really looking forward to tonight!
posted by nevercalm at 11:47 AM on April 11, 2010


But going forward, unless otherwise instructed, our suggested rule for watching "Treme," should you choose to watch, is to assume in every instance that someone, somewhere sat in a room and made all of this mess up.

Except for the band that is seen playing good, live music in a Bourbon Street strip joint in episode two. That is, of course, a Magical Strip Joint, of no fixed address.


Ha! Nice.
posted by brundlefly at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2010


Apropos of nothing, I'm really uncomfortable that the show title does not feature an accent aigu. Wikipedia seems to indicate that it's a more historical spelling, but that doesn't change the fact that I can't read it as anything but "Treem."

Tremé. Man, does that look better or what?
posted by lumensimus at 11:57 AM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


No, what worries me is that this is obviously turning out to be big. Like, nationwide big. Wire big. Sopranos big. The hype for this is as big as the hype for the Sopranos finale, the Wire final season.

I'm looking forward to the show as much as anyone, but this isn't even remotely true.
posted by dhammond at 12:02 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks. Don't mean to derail, but another great one that includes footage of neighborhoods suffering through Katrina and the levee breach, as well as the aftermath, is Trouble the Water.
posted by Rykey at 12:03 PM on April 11, 2010


i only watch the weather channel, and some times some mysteries.
posted by billybobtoo at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2010


Anyone get HBO? Can I get an invite? I'll bring beer.
posted by nola at 12:07 PM on April 11, 2010


Damn, doesn't appear as though it'll be iTunes tomorrow either.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:15 PM on April 11, 2010


It should be on the internet tonight though. WINK WINK

WINK.
posted by mathowie at 12:30 PM on April 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


HBO typically doesn't release things to iTunes and other video purchase sites until they release the box set for the season, or whatever. Their business model is based on getting people to subscribe to the channel in order to fund the network, rather than relying on advertising etc. You'll find that there aren't any HBO series which are posted to official sites until seasons have run their course on the network.

That doesn't mean that you won't be able to find it online. It will just be through less above-board channels.
posted by hippybear at 12:47 PM on April 11, 2010


I think mathowie has pinkeye.

Also, I have pinkeye. We've been sharing makeup.
posted by item at 12:53 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the show as much as anyone, but this isn't even remotely true.

I have to say that here (where here equals New Orleans) it feels bigger than those two combined. It's everywhere in my news and Facebook and real life conversations and overheard snippets and on and on and on. I think everyone is excited to have someone like David Simon showing the rest of the world a tiny insight into this bizarre, unruly, and fantastic culture that exists here.

Last night I was listening to some audio commentary by Jim Jarmusch about his movie Down By Law and in it he said, paraphrased: "There are two cities in the United States which I view as entirely separate countries: New York, because it has a little bit of everything and everywhere in it, and New Orleans, because it's like nowhere else."

I think we're all hoping that Simon shows everyone else a little bit of magic.

... aside from the pie, that is.

[I ate an apple Hubig's pie yesterday - if I'd known, I would have saved it for tonight. Maybe I'll go buy another one.]
posted by komara at 1:20 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love TV.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 1:37 PM on April 11, 2010


I love TV.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 3:37 PM on April 11


QFMFT. Suck it, haters. Can't wait for tonight.
posted by tzikeh at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2010


Hyped? You betcha, I just read the word Treme, I thought "gee shouldn't that have accent aigu?" and then a mysterious reaction: "OMG OMG that's the show I've heard about it's gonna be so great!"

Now, I live in Sweden, and I can't recall anyone in my twitterstream or email-list pal crowd discussing that show, so I have now idea where the hype injected in me came from. Perhaps I picked it up on a Delta airlines flight (they show a lot of HBO trailers) or something.
posted by dabitch at 2:42 PM on April 11, 2010


Mmm. Hubig's.
posted by egypturnash at 2:52 PM on April 11, 2010


I feel so lucky.

The New Orleans blogosphere and twitterverse have been abuzz about HBO's Treme...
posted by muffuletta

eponysterical.
posted by kittensofthenight at 3:15 PM on April 11, 2010


I got especially excited once I saw Kermit Ruffins was in the show.

In the meantime, you might also want to check out the excellent documentary FAUBOURG TREMÉ: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, accent and all.
posted by muckster at 4:23 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked Simon's article, but what I find ironic about the factual scrutiny that he anticipates is that, in the single year I've lived here, I've heard thousands of stories of local lore and history that are completely devoid of factual sources.

Pretty much anything older than recent memory in NOLA instantly morphs into full-fledged urban myth that barely resembles any original account you can find in the local museums and libraries. People here are far more interested in storytelling than facts.

This includes everything from the history of the Sazerac cocktail to the accepted location of the grave of Marie Laveau, from the origins of many Mardi Gras traditions and the meanings of street names to Congo Square, the Lafittes and their propery, which local gay bar is the oldest, even Andrew Jackson's hat in his equestrian statue in the square --not to mention the haunted history of the city.
posted by oraknabo at 5:10 PM on April 11, 2010


Soooooo....can we talk about it now?
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2010


ELIVS COSTELLO
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2010


I'm curious. I have no HBO access, so I'd love to hear some thoughts from MeFites who've seen it.
posted by brundlefly at 8:54 PM on April 11, 2010


I'm really looking forward to tonight!

People still watch non time-shifted TV?
posted by signal at 8:56 PM on April 11, 2010


It's an opener, so it has the problem of setting up all the various characters and situations, but I thought it was handed as well as you could o without the inherit drama of OMG POLICE WORK. It's clearly going to be more of a character drama now you don't have the hook of an ongoing investigation, but it worked. I want to see more of Ladonna, Overly Enthusiastic Recent Stoner Transplant, his Long Suffering Chef Girlfriend, Charming Cad Trumpet Player, and maybe more of Strident Female Lawyer and Angry Jon Goodman if their daughter doesn't show up too much.

Bubbles B. Hope McRebuilderstien? Well, if he wears that outfit at least once and episode, then yes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I want more of Stoner Music-Buff's gay neighbors cause damn the older fellow had on like the biggest motherfucking hat in the WORLD.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on April 11, 2010


I think I'm sufficiently invested in the characters at this point. Except for Lester-- that suit was a lot to lay on a guy in the first episode and still believe that the man's a person. Also, I think The Whelk's right on about Simon having a bit of a tougher time introducing people to his incredible world without the aid of some familar (cop show / family sitcom / hospital drama) paradigm to ease people into it.
posted by The White Hat at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2010


Yeah that character is the one that raises the most flags for me. Oh is his rebuilding of the bar going to be like rebuilding his scattered family and by extension, the neighborhood- even though he doesn't own it and this could be a problem later on cause the Government is gonna stop him from doing a good thing like it was some kind of microcosm of the city as a whole? Broad strokes for that character, seemed a bit out of place, but we'll see.
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on April 11, 2010


I thought it was great. It's the first time I've seen a fictional representation of New Orleans that felt like New Orleans. It layered on the inside references left and right, which felt a little stilted some times, but in many ways it seemed to be trying to be faithful to the countless quirks of the city. There was alot of camera shots, lighting, and scene back drops that triggered old memories for me.

Even though I grew up in New Orleans and identify with some of the character's environments, I feel like I'm going to learn a lot about the other sides of the city that I never got to experience. In some ways it seemed like the show is specifically targeting those who have a connection with New Orleans.

The intro is a very good visual representation of the snapshots in my head that i have from when i gutted my grandparents house which i grew up in; the water lines, the eerie stillness, the spotted black mold on white walls, and the countless disfigured childhood photos.

I think mostly I'm glad that this might help keep the ongoing struggle of the people and neighborhood in New Orleans from being just an occasional side note in the evening national news.

And damn do i want an apple Hubig's pie right now.
posted by Merik at 11:29 PM on April 11, 2010


I loved it, and I loved the music. Oh man did I love the music.
posted by threetoed at 11:32 PM on April 11, 2010


Merik,
I was going to suggest you order one on their site, but it appears to be down today.
posted by oraknabo at 6:54 AM on April 12, 2010


I didn't really know what to think when it was done. I guess my two main thoughts were:

1.) Yeah, that's New Orleans. That's New Orleans to the point that I'm kind of not even sure why I watched - I could have just gone outside. That's not to say I didn't love it - I did.
2.) There were so many things that I feel will make people say, "Wow, they made up some weird stuff like that Indian chief costume and that walking funeral procession with the horse-drawn carriage" and it made me want a way to communicate to viewers all over the nation that YES THIS IS REAL.
posted by komara at 6:58 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, meant to touch on this:

I loved it, and I loved the music. Oh man did I love the music.

I was so so glad that they chose to stick some Louie Prima on there. I thought Oh Marie! was a grand choice.
posted by komara at 6:59 AM on April 12, 2010


Man, part of me wants to be a journalist just so I can interview David Simon and ask him why he chose to be so inauthentic in his portrayal of New Orleans (I like trolling irascible writers).

Debuting a 90 minute premier after a 60 minute Pacific was hard for my attention span, and Simon wasn't making easier with the Altman-like ensemble he's created. I guess I feel like New Orleans is sort of played out but the scene between John Goodman and the Chef has me sort of hoping that this is about people and the neighborhoods they live in. That's a much broader story and one that's not really told. A neighborhood with character, that people grew up in and didn't move away from ... and isn't set in West Hollywood or Manhattan.

I always felt that the Sopranos characterized the late-90s, early-00s really, really well. There was a certain fin de siècle to the show, the characters all got wealthy, slowly, and there seemed to be no real goal, like they were just going to walk off a cliff. If Simon plays it right, and I think he will, Treme will capture the picking-up-the-piece, the government failed us again and again, but you can't take away our culture ethos of the last couple of years.

Though Lester in that costume (that was Lester right?) had me sort of having Angels in America flashbacks ...
posted by geoff. at 7:25 AM on April 12, 2010


I was struck by how much the Indian Chief costume looked like a Philadelphia Mummers costume. Then a quick google search took me to school on how the whole Mardis Gras thing as we know it was influenced by Philadelphia Mummery.

I feel sorry for cities that don't get to experience the joy of drunken street revelry involving sequins and feathers.
posted by snottydick at 9:42 AM on April 12, 2010


OK...what was that butt-kickin' funk tune that Steve Zahn's character blasted out the window at his neighbors?
thanks in advance
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2010


Though Lester in that costume (that was Lester right?)

It was indeed, but I did a double take, too. The way Clarke Peters carries himself in this, and the way he holds his face (if you see what I mean?) makes him totally not-Lester. Good acting, I think they call it!

I'm a little worried that it'll take me a while to stop seeing Wendell Pierce's character as Bunk with a trombone, though.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 12:11 PM on April 12, 2010


Damnit, OHenryPacey, if you hadn't asked I could have told you. My brain is telling me that it was Mystikal's 'Bumpin Me Against the Wall' but it could just as easily have been something by Juvenile, or ... hell, I don't remember.
posted by komara at 12:38 PM on April 12, 2010


OHenryPacey, komara, you can see (and purchase) the songs from each episode here.
posted by sotalia at 2:01 PM on April 12, 2010


The Whelk, go watch the first episode of The Wire again. Simons looks like hes setting up every cop drama cliche in the book, and then takes the series in a whole different direction. I'm a huge fan of The Wire and could not have been more excited for this to come out. Thankfully they delivered, I wasn't disappointed in any way.
posted by BenNewman at 2:38 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not what I meant. I meant that with The Wire he used the hook of "It's a cop drama! You people like those!' and then blowing away all the cliche's set up. Treme' doesn't have an obvious "hook" like a cop drama ..mostly I think cause Simon's now a household name and The Wire is so beloved that he could just say "it's a drama, here are some people" and not need a concept to lure viewers in. I'm tremendously excited to see how it's going to play out.
posted by The Whelk at 2:44 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


without the aid of some familar (cop show / family sitcom / hospital drama) paradigm to ease people into it.

I´d really like to see a David Simon family sitcom.
posted by concrete at 4:52 PM on April 12, 2010


Sotalia -- thanks, I'm sure to go there after each episode.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:10 PM on April 12, 2010


that is mystikal bumpin me against the wall.
posted by LouieLoco at 5:11 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was New!Bunk's kvetching about taking the bus to Baton Rouge a nod to A Confederacy of Dunces? I'm going with yes.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2010


Yeah, Clarke Peters really went out of his way to be the anti-Lester Freamon, although the plumage certainly helped.

Trombone Bunk even had a Bunky line when he got Kermit's permission to play at the gig and asked him for the cab fare, and said "it's not that funny, motherfucker" underneath his breath. Might as well have been telling Jimmy McNulty off.

But that's just my preconceptions, I like Wendell Pierce's character already (maybe even most right now) and I'm sure in time I will stop associating him with the previous character.

Knowing little about New Orleans, I really liked how the first ep was so strongly anchored both visually and plot-wise into universal elements, like music (music!) or food. Just the occasional shot of a bunch of asparagus being carried or some celery being chopped provided some excellent punctuation to bridge the gap to this NOLA-neophyte's brain.

On a geekish note, given that Simon et al. are rightfully considered masters of detail, I was delighted and then disappointed in rapid succession during the radio station scene, when the audio nerd that I am noticed the station using some rather cheap microphones -- a Studio Projects something-or-other and an MXL 990 -- which you might not expect in a radio studio but perhaps would in one not as well-funded; but then High Fidelity dude (Davis is his name I think) proceeded to yap into the 990 as if it were an end-address mic, whereas in reality you're supposed to speak into the side.

Lastly, a pedestrian question for which I apologise, but I have to ask: Peters' character is apparently the chief of a sort of tribe who's trying to get his people home to New Orleans after Katrina. This I understand. But he's very dark-skinned, so how does this work historically or ethnically? Sorry again, naive European asking here. But assuming this is not a Native American tribe, would it be correct to surmise that this is an originally African tribe that lives on in the U.S. Gulf Coast area through the descendents of slaves from that tribe? I'm finding this very hard to Google.

In summary, the episode had about five minutes of High Fidelity dude awkwardly trying to start a conversation with Elvis Costello, so I'm happy.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:47 PM on April 12, 2010


Peters' character is apparently the chief of a sort of tribe who's trying to get his people home to New Orleans after Katrina. This I understand. But he's very dark-skinned, so how does this work historically or ethnically?

It's not a real ethnic tribal thing. It's Mardi Gras Indians. Long story, but Google will give you more than you ever care to read.
posted by komara at 7:59 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, here's an interesting (and recent) NYT article about how Mardi Gras Indians are looking to copyrights for protection.
posted by komara at 8:00 PM on April 12, 2010


Thanks komara.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:22 PM on April 12, 2010


I really enjoyed the fact that Kermit Ruffins proclaimed his desire to eschew fame, play his weekly at Vaughn's, and eat barbecue forever...and proclaimed it on a nationally syndicated TV show being filmed at Vaughn's, which will advertise and showcase his musical talents weekly for at least the next year.
posted by eustatic at 12:21 AM on April 13, 2010


It should be on the internet tonight though. WINK WINK

WINK.


Say no more, say no MO-AH.
posted by Evilspork at 3:30 AM on April 13, 2010


eustatic: You'll have to pardon me for snarking on your snark, but Kermit has always barbecued and played at Vaughn's, and now he's still barbecuing and playing at Vaughn's. If fame comes to him because of this show it's not because he went out looking for it.
posted by komara at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK...what was that butt-kickin' funk tune that Steve Zahn's character blasted out the window at his neighbors?

Mystikal's classic Shake Ya Ass! I can't believe it is 10 years old.
posted by geoff. at 4:57 PM on April 13, 2010


HBO renews 'Treme' after one episode. lol.
posted by threetoed at 8:24 PM on April 13, 2010


I guess I feel like New Orleans is sort of played out

This is a little baffling?
posted by liketitanic at 10:15 PM on April 17, 2010


If you're still watching and reading, dfriedman brought us a good question about racial issues in Treme.
posted by komara at 6:03 PM on April 26, 2010


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