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Saturday, 5 of December of 2020

Tag » Treme

Treme – “Carnival Time”

“You objectify me then you deny me?”

Albert looking pretty as Chief at Carnival '07

Yeah, you right.

With a show about New Orleans, you might expect the number of scenes featuring topless women to be much higher, especially when it follows a show like Game of Thrones (which I think is only rivaled by Dream On in the gratuitous nudity department).

That’s not to say that I feel like there’s a certain quota that needs to be met or anything (though I’m pretty sure HBO execs have it on their checklists) or that the show needs nudity to stay interesting. It really doesn’t. I keep watching every week, boobs or no, and stay pretty entertained. It’s just that, as a person that’s never been to New Orleans, the town has a certain reputation. That reputation is invested in plastic beads and some drunk women making some decisions they may not normally make. Other stuff, too, like parades and tradition. But this is what late night tells me is most important.

The reason why I bring this up is because we’ve gotten to another season’s episode dedicated to Mardi Gras and, of course, nudity is far more common when Carnival shows up. But even though there are more scenes with nudity (three), two of them are just flashes or obfuscated by chaos and only one involves actual sex. Whereas other shows use nudity as a weapon against the audience’s distraction and to bring in a certain demographic every week, it’s almost like Treme doesn’t want to call attention to it. Even the episode itself, what you would imagine would be the most important episode dedicated to the most important day in New Orleans, isn’t as climactic as you’d think.

Sure, stuff happens and it’s important but, in a show that’s not really into cliffhanger storytelling, what should be a pinnacle episode is really just another building block. This is a story of the New Orleans that is more than Fat Tuesday and that we don’t end either of these seasons during Carnival contributes to that theme. In fact, that many of the major characters of the show are either disinterested in or not in attendance of the festivities is probably an important point.

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Treme – “Accentuate the Positive”

“How long you been playin’, man?”
“Two months. It’s hard.”
“It gets easier.”
“It’s supposed to.”

Nelson calls out to his cousin from a Jaguar.

How could this guy not be evil?

Well. 10 years later and I guess it’s okay to make fun of New York again.

There’s no question from the first season that Treme is a love-letter to the city of New Orleans, at least to everything except its government. Music, food, culture are all mythologized and characters wax poetically about their city more often than Dan Rydell does during those twangy little moments on Sports Night. It’s like that whole “I didn’t know we could do that” schtick except everyone from New Orleans knows they can do it but are drowned by the wreckage of The Storm. The pride and swagger of this city believing itself to be the best place on Earth, in spite of it being smashed into rubble by nature and man’s follies, clashes with our idea that New York, in spite of its own older tragedy, is the jewel in the American crown.

We open up this season of Treme with two characters in New York having their experience colored by renewed and lingering roots in New Orleans combining with some doubts to the validity of New York as “greatest city.” Complicate that with things in New Orleans going swimmingly for some (and minorly less-swimmingly for others) and we essentially have the show presenting a case for why NOLA rules and NYC drools.

Let’s catch up with everyone, including our new resident douchebag character. Could he be more of a jackass than Davis or Sonny?

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Treme – “At the Foot of Canal Street”

“How you get to sleep at night, man?”
“I drink.”

Creighton shouts at his YouTube audience.

A star is born.

Three episodes and I don’t think I’ve even mentioned my favorite character on the show yet: Jacques. He’s the sous-chef in the restaurant of my least favorite character, Janette. He is certainly that voice of reason character, the grounded, quiet tranquility behind Janette’s whirlwind disaster. Never has enough lines, never has enough screen time, but always wins the scenes he’s in, especially when it’s a competition between him and Kim Dickens. It’s not that I really don’t like Janette. But she’s like everyone else on the show: a little abrasive. And her storyline of “my bustling restaurant is failing” gets lost in the “I lost my brother in the Storm” and “struggling to survive” storylines. The only bit of drama she’s really had, other than missing bills and screwing around with Davis, is hitting her parents up for cash. She is the character that, if they had to drop for money, no one would miss her. She is what the Lizard Man was to Carniv├ále except she’ll probably make it out of the first season.

Her spot as filler on this show really stood out to me in an episode that lacked the power the previous three have had. If this had some build behind it, I’d say this was a breather episode but, really, it’s just a “shuffling” episode. People do things, go on road trips, see who they are in different situations, show a different shade of themselves. And, for once, they didn’t put the episode’s theme in Davis’s mouth.

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Treme – “Right Place, Wrong Time”

“I just want my city back.”

Albert and the rest of the Indians watch the Katrina Tour bus drive away.

Wake. Ruined.

Note: This post is for last week’s episode of Treme. The post for “At the Foot of Canal Street” is also available.

It took me a while to get into Mad Men. I was well behind (I’m still not totally current) when I someone finally gave me a copy of season 1 for Christmas. I watched an episode here and there, remarking to my friends that the show is very pretty but I was having a hard time getting into it. But then came “Babylon,” episode 6 of the first season. There is an extreme long shot at the end where Joan and Sterling are standing on the same street, waiting for different cabs, she with bird cage in hand and he with a fedora tipped forward to cover his face. It was that moment that I fell for the show. I’ve been hooked since then, even if I only get to watch it between all the other obligations in my life.

I had a moment like that with the end of this episode of Treme. Maybe not as strong as to convince me as that one moment in Mad Men since I still have trouble seeing how this show will sustain itself for a long period of time. But they do have something in common: character is why the audience keeps coming back. While Treme has storylines that may become repetitive and stale when played by ordinary archetypes, these characters are becoming developed enough to keep a viewer returning, especially if they catch the complexity of the writing.

I don’t want you to think I’m writing a love-letter to a show that’s barely started, one that has already garnered so much praise based on its producers and writers, but I am more impressed with the show, that feeling increasing with every week.

This particular episode dealt with the concept of the Other and the constant dance of repulsion and attraction. It isn’t as obvious at first, but stick with me and maybe I’ll make a convincing case for you.

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Treme – “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront”

“There’s pride on Bourbon Street.”

Davis beams after leading some tourists to the "real" New Orleans.

The devil’s grin.

Ah, the resentment episode. Or maybe the resentment series.

There was definitely a different feeling about this episode than the last. While the pilot exhibited more hope, this second episode demonstrated a lot more pain, suffering, and anger about the state of New Orleans. And a lot of that resentment is redirected at the city’s burgeoning tourism industry, especially the pity-tourists who came to see the damage.

Last time I reviewed Treme, I broke it down into the main storylines and talked about each in turn. This time, however, it’s a little crowded (there are a lot of characters to follow and, I assume, it’ll thin out eventually) so I’m going to break it down into “Interesting Storylines” and “‘Nobody Cares’ Storylines.”

The terms are probably self-explanatory but an issue with such a crowded show is that a couple of the threads are overshadowed by how good the other stuff is or that the thread is just made me fall asleep. So boring that not even John Goodman can save it. Oh, was that a spoiler?

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Treme – “Do You Know What It Means”

“That’ll work.”

A funeral procession in Treme.

Sending a man home.

How difficult it must be for some to watch a show like Treme and not be predisposed to affectation and nostalgia, maybe even still brewing rage for allowing what happened in New Orleans to occur. Years later, we as a country are still picking New Orleans as the underdog, rooting for them to win and rise from devastation, a destruction that is to the popular consciousness, a man-made disaster catalyzed by nature. Some four and a half years later, the country still champions the city as a site that deserves only the highest accolades for its perseverance, thus far represented by beating the favored Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

Trite as the venue of this nation’s full-fledged support may be (at least in comparison to the disaster), there is a certain fondness people look upon New Orleans with, pity in a lot of ways. This is a media-saturated culture and it absorbed just about as much in pictures, footage, audio, and overwrought narrative as it could take on. New Orleans rose to become a beacon of hope for every baby step it took from the wreckage was something to celebrate and coo about as if the city was an infant afflicted with rickets. Each wobble elicited a “good for them” from pasty, distant middle America.

I am not one of those people.

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