Treme : Episode One

Roughly chronological notes on watching the episode

I resisted watching Treme.  Seeing Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters (aka Bunk and Freamon) for the first time since The Wire ended would be a struggle.  It would be hard to see them as any other character.

Something else was stopping me from mustering interest in the show.  Maybe it was comments that the show was slow and unlikeable.  Maybe it was the setting, watching these characters struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  The Wire was far from cheery, but I felt like Treme would be an emotional slog, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that.

I knew at some point Peters would appear covered in feathers.  Maybe that was what convinced me to watch.

Given the New Orleans setting it’s surprising how forgettable the theme tune is. We’re off to a bad start.  I wonder if the show will focus on the music and culture of the city at the expense of story.  Already I get the feeling that the pace will be snail-like.

Steve Zahn makes an appearance as ‘that guy you vaguely recognise from lots of things’.

I love me some big band music.  And I love unusual cover versions.  So the Treme version of The Rolling Stone’s ‘I Used To Love Her But It’s All Over Now’ is simply sexy.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not going to care what happens in this show.

I tried valiantly to ignore The Wire, but Freamon’s (sorry, Clarke Peters’) daughter in Treme looks like his girlfriend from The Wire.  That’s just wrong.

A nice moment of subtlety.  Anytime a character drinks water it’s from a plastic bottle.  Many other shows, if dealing with this situation, would make that much more explicit, with perhaps a monologue about the water, or a sigh as the character stares at the bottle in close-up.  Treme, like…some other show about cops in Baltimore, isn’t dumbing-down for its audience.

I feel stupid.  John Goodman’s character rants about the government failure that led to the flooding of New Orleans.  Right or wrong, there must be a basis for this accusation, and it’s something I had never even heard about.  How ignorant am I?  I knew that many residents (and Kanye West) had a problem with the government response to the disaster, but I didn’t know of the idea of failure before the fact.

John Goodman rants in the way only John Goodman can, calls an interviewer a “Limey vulture motherfucker” and throws the man’s microphone into the water.  Goodman may be the best thing about this show.

For all the talk of the show’s leisurely pace, people seem to forget how much of a crawl The Wire often was.

Steve Zahn’s character seems to be a likeable shit.  He commits what should really be a felony – making his neighbours listen to Mystikal.

As Zahn blares music through his open windows in his neighbour’s direction, I realise that living in a cold place at least means you can keep your windows closed to muffle your neighbour’s awful tunes.

25 minutes in and I’m getting bored.  Nothing of interest happens for 15 minutes, until there’s a cool montage.

Calling a trombone a ‘bone’ is great.  I’m writing this on my ‘top.  Okay that doesn’t work.

And the Freamon feather moment happens.  I realise that it’s more of a Native American tribal thing but I’m too distracted by how bizarre it looks to make any sense of it.

This episode is full of compromise.  Peters convinces people to help him, even when he’s covered in feathers.  Bunk (yes, Bunk) has a habitual taxi habit, and talks his way out of paying the full fare.  He convinces people to give him some work *cough* playing his bone too.  Lots of moments, big and small, happen in this show because of people’s capacity for compromise.

By the end, Zahn’s character is the most interesting.  His charisma shines through and his story looks to be more entertaining than the rest.  Goodman may be a close second.

The episode’s final scene (a funeral march) is its best.  The dialogue comes off as so loose (“Who’s going home?” means ‘who died?’) in contrast to the event that the Treme band are playing at.  Wendell Pierce’s is always charming, but particularly here.

And that’s that.  I didn’t enjoy the episode enough to watch any more of the series.  I have so much on the backburner that this would’ve had to be special for the series to be added to that list.  Episode one was mostly watchable with a few boring moments, just not what I was looking for.


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