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Treme - 101 - Do You Know What It Means

In case you didn't know Treme is made by David Simon, who created The Wire. So like The Wire this is an ensemble show designed to showcase real life as best as TV can simulate it. The "real life" being shown is New Orleans, three months after being hit by Hurricane Katrina.

When I first saw Mad Men I wondered if I would ever have much to say about it. It was a show set in a time and place that I felt inadequately armed to comment on. How should I know whether it was an accurate portrayal of the 1960s? Watching Treme I was struck by that feeling even more acutely. It surprises me that such a relevant TV show has been made. Katrina is only five years old and I imagine the wounds have not remotely healed.

Purely from my point of view it felt difficult to invest in such a strangely current simulation of events. It made me think about people still homeless there now and what they would think of it. Maybe they would love the show but I have no way of knowing. I also felt pretty culturally irrelevant watching it. It seemed like such a specifically American and regional landscape. It was far easier for me to have a reaction to the obvious comedic aspects of white middle class males Creighton (John Goodman) and Davis (Steve Zahn) than any of the subtler more tragic stories about black musicians.

The show also highlighted my own desire for more escapism in my TV. Post-Katrina New Orleans felt very much like gritty realism, something that I'm not always that comfortable watching. TV is an escape from the often depressing reality of life, this felt all too real. Which of course is a compliment to the show. It was undeniably effective in showing a broad sweep of lives, experiences and situations. The casting and performances were strong, authentic and engaging. The only false moment came from the implausibly stereotypical British news reporter whose insensitivity seemed entirely manufactured.

Treme may just not be my kind of show but then again, I had similar thoughts about Mad Men which I now thoroughly enjoy. So I will have to give Treme another chance at some point down the road. Your recommendations as ever are welcome.