The new series from David Simon (The Wire) is good stuff for people looking for something out there in TV with some actual meat on the bone. If you’re expecting “The Wire: New Orleans Edition” (as Dick Wolf would have titled it) you’ll be a bit disappointed. The Wire was an exploration of crime, corruption, the nature of life in an American city, and the institutions we ally ourselves with (be they the police, unions, gangs, schools, etc.), Treme is almost a love story about New Orleans and music.
Set three month after Katrina you can be sure Simon will include plenty of swipes at FEMA and Bush-era politicians, but Treme seeks to tell a story not of institutional failures, but of the lives of several musicians living in the New Orleans neighborhood of Treme. Given that most of the major character are musicians, music unsurprisingly plays a major role in Treme, and even a musically illiterate person such as myself can enjoy what they offer the viewer. In some ways Treme lacks some of the punch of the Wire, whereas Simon burned with a love/hate relationship with Baltimore, it almost feels like he might not be much more than a New Orleans fanboy. On the other hand, I find some of the of the storytelling is much richer and more interesting. Many of the stories focus on the lives of the characters and their families, a motif that was pretty lacking in The Wire except for examples of failed families. I also enjoy that the over arching story is still interesting without the tension and conflict of the active case from each season of The Wire.
So, I’d watch anything David Simon puts his name on, but I’d recommend Treme as being more accessible and closer to The Wire than his other post-Wire piece: Generation Kill.