Lunchtable TV Talk: Treme

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It’s hard to characterize Treme, a little-watched, slow and critically praised show that sometimes felt like it lost its way, even if it never had one. It meandered, and in many ways, that felt quite intentional. Much more like real life than the way television moves forward with unrealistic plot points and devices that are thrown in not to serve the story but to keep drama churning. But do you need non-stop drama to keep you caring?

Treme never had the slow-burning intensity or high stakes that its creator’s masterpiece predecessor, The Wire, did but it was also an entirely different story, a different kind of story. Could a collection of loosely interwoven tales of people’s lives in post-Katrina (I struggle with the fact that this was already more than ten years ago – it seems like yesterday, and I imagine it feels recent for people dealing with its ongoing aftermath) New Orleans hold together tightly enough to make people watch? Perhaps not – but Treme gave us a reminder that there still are serious after-effects of the storm as well as memorable characters from all walks of life who live with those after-effects day in and day out.

Perhaps that is the characterization: the show is about characters a lot more than it is about stories. Very gritty and real-seeming characters whose lives are in no way tidy or “decided”. Everyone is as ambiguous as real people are. There are no moral epiphanies and black-and-white rights and wrongs here (in that sense it is very much the rightful successor to The Wire, which brought us moral and legal ambiguity in a host of different shades).

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