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TREME Fall Premiere: NOLA Show Slowly Sinking?
The best New Orleans show on television aims for late September for its Season 3 premiere. Treme is coming back for sure, with its delayed wrap-up going down in May. It should be coming back strong too, given that Boardwalk Empire‘s premiere will precede the character-driven, crime-lite Big Easy drama. It’s not a pretty truth, but riding the coat tails of the Empire should lift Treme‘s ratings.
Treme may sink all the same. It takes more than a kind time slot and a dedicated HBO viewership to sustain a show.
It’s going to take some serious self-evaluation. Treme needs to decide whether it wants to be a Crescent City incarnation of The Wire or a self-interested literary-style love letter to NOLA.
Don’t get me wrong, the talent behind the show is towering: The casting is rock solid. Direction is run by top-shelf artistes of the trade. There’s no lack of passion from anybody, in front of or behind the camera, for the city – their cherished subject.
As for the Treme‘s writing, it’s brilliant. Only, it’s brilliant for the 19th century.
Does that come off as a knock? Well, people still read Dickens and Austen. But intricate interpersonal drama and slowly evolving plots don’t whet the appetites of many modern audiences. Everybody I talk to about Treme, even those committed to the show, recognize that the elements of peril and heroism that’s stock-and-trade of contemporary TV are almost absent in Treme.
Not many characters are given cause to care about, or even worry about. They’re interesting, fiery and saturated in the many flavors of New Orleans’ character, but that doesn’t put us on the edge of our seat.
In many ways, this disappointed audiences because we expected different. We saw names like David Simon and George Pelecanos, and we expected a setting-rich crime drama. Instead, we got a drama about a setting.
Problems compound because of that setting and literary lean. “New Orleans time” is the clock that Treme‘s production has run on – a pace of slowly savoring the project so that it comes out just right, if unmistakably late. Late doesn’t play so well in media. People want what they want and they want it now.
There’s no telling if Treme will ever be what people want. We don’t even know if it’ll be back for a Treme season four.
At least we know when it’ll be back. As much as “when” is a definite thing as far as New Orleans is involved.