Offered up in response to an invitation from the editors, who wanted something to “bookend” the series, given that I had written a short primer when the drama premiered. It’s never fair to declaim on what a story is or isn’t when folks are still absorbing it on their own terms and forming their own opinions, so I kept it to a couple elemental disclaimers and a thank-you to the cultural communities in New Orleans. I should also mention that the offer of a first round on me is for New Orleanians only, as they have been gracious about the necessary trespass. If you come up to me with concerns and critiques of the drama in Boston or Barcelona or Baltimore, the first one is definitely on you.
* * *
Four and a half years and 36 hours of television later, I still don’t know what “tu es pocky way” actually means. Or more accurately, I don’t know which to credit among the seven or eight definitions offered us by five or six different Mardi Gras Indians. Our prime consultant on these matters, Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr., assures me that he knows the correct answer and can only provide it to me if I’ve been sewing for a year or so, or conversely, if I’m willing to accept a hatchet in my head for trafficking in sacred Indian secrets without proper authority.
I also don’t know empirically who makes the best seafood gumbo, or the best roast beef po-boy, or exactly which piano lick belongs to Fess or Mac or Booker. I don’t know exactly which deviltry belongs to the Corps of Engineers, which to local levee boards and which to the congressional appropriation committees. I don’t know why the dictator of Krewe D’Etat is always a Dick. I don’t why you all can pronounce Tchoupitoulas with constancy and élan, yet founder in the simpler shallows of Burgundy.
Such is New Orleans.
And the truth is, I could churn out 100 hours of television, or live here for a quarter century as my confederate Eric Overmyer has, and still, there would be arguments and contradictions enough to set everyone’s teeth on edge.
Indeed, I am descended from an ancient race of prematurely literate Bedouins, who have been known to foster far more than our share of opinion and debate. We Hebrews have argued our way into a veritable Talmud of point, counterpoint and counter-counterpoint, yet we are pikers compared to New Orleanians. Every shard of your civic history is balanced precariously on the head of two dozen different bundles of personal memory, family history and political argument.
Let’s leave Faulkner to a neighboring state: It isn’t that the past isn’t even past. It’s that the past in New Orleans – all of it, seemingly – is still up for grabs, shaped and reshaped by a populace who is, to a soul, convinced that it knows it is Tracey’s over R&O’s, or that Mac copped that one from Booker, or that pocky way means two gangs in the street, coming at each other and any Indian who tells you otherwise is some jive-ass, glue-gun-firing Jazz Fest Injun.
For this reason alone, I wrote a column on these pages at the beginning of “Treme,” alerting all to the simple fact that a television drama would be set in a real time and place, but it would be a fiction. It would not be completist or documentarian. Nor would it be precise with fact or chronology. It would use the post-Katrina experience to create a narrative about some people. It would be definitive only in that it was the story that we wished to tell.
A ‘bookend’ to the story
Now, with “Treme” at its close, the editors of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune were kind enough to ask me to write something to “bookend” our television narrative, as they put it. And I confess that while I want to honor the invitation, I have very little to say about what “Treme” is. The work is done, and as of Sunday, Dec. 29, the last episode will be broadcast. Nothing said on this page ought to matter at all to what an individual viewer believes the show was or wasn’t. Whether you found any meaning or connection in the narrative, or not, is not for me or anyone associated with the production to argue.
Instead, as I did at the beginning, I’ll confine myself to simply restating what “Treme” was certainly not:
It was not journalism or documentary. It was fictional, and the fact that it is set in a real time and place – or even that the events depicted are relatively recent ones – is not an affront by every literary standard of narrative. From Melville to Mitchell, from Fitzgerald to Doctorow, from Robert Penn Warren to James Jones, our times and the events of our times have been good grist for the storyteller’s mill, and some fine works in the canon are the certain result of such a dynamic. The turbulence and journey of New Orleans after Katrina is certainly as worthy of a storyteller’s attention as Pearl Harbor or Huey Long.
All of which is not to suggest that the fictional story should or could in any way supplant the journalism, the documentarianism or, ultimately, the historical scholarship that has been generated and continues to be generated about post-Katrina New Orleans. Not only is the fictional narrative incapable of replacing empirical reporting and scholarship, it is reliant on such. And when the fictional narrative “cheats” a truth, it does so to better and more honorable effect when the storyteller knows enough to understand the where and why of the cheat. Absent that much, you’re pretty much just getting stuff wrong to no purpose.
Our last premiere event in New Orleans, held outdoors in ungodly weather a month or so ago, featured the screening of this last season’s first episode for crew members, musicians and the hardiest of bundled locals. But purposely, we screened “The Whole Nitty Gritty City,” a deserving and substantial documentary about music education in New Orleans, as a second feature. We did so, among other reasons, to make a basic point: The story of this city since August 2005 is deserving of attention and endeavor from all points of the narrative compass. “Treme” is merely one voice among many.
A glimpse, not the complete picture
Which brings up the second negation that should be offered at the close of this project: No story is about everything. And any story that claims to be about everything is, in the end, about nothing.
As with every narrative – whether it’s journalism, or historical scholarship, or the prose novel or filmed drama – choices were made and calibrated in the creation of “Treme.” We were interested especially in the role of culture in restoring and sustaining New Orleans; our characters, consequently, were heavily weighted to culture bearers, or those who supported, patronized or contended with culture bearers.
By contrast, the flooding that resulted from Katrina and the trauma and dislocation that followed the destruction of 80 percent of an American city were profound experiences in the lives of more than a half million people. Doctors, lawyers and all manner of citizenry – not merely Indian chiefs – endured a post-Katrina experience that was and continues to be wholly unique and deeply important to each individual. “Treme” is not the story of, say, a Lakeview financial consult whose life was utterly upended by Katrina, nor is it the tale of a Gentilly internist and his family, or a municipal employee from Mid-City.
No selective narrative – none specific enough to depict the detail and idiosyncrasy of actual lives and characters, anyway – is sufficient to speak in full to the experiences of individual New Orleanians, especially in this case. Just as we have too much respect for non-fiction to claim its authority on behalf of a dramatic narrative, we take what folks in this city have endured since August 2005 too seriously to think that any story can or should stand for what all New Orleanians have experienced and continue to experience, individually.
If at points, watching “Treme,” viewers found that the narrative touched on certain realities or experiences of post-Katrina life here, then we achieved as much as can be hoped. If no echoes of the real were evident to some viewers, then with them we certainly failed. But at no point do we expect or hope that anyone sees in our narrative the whole of his or her life’s arc replicated. The power of the Katrina narrative cannot be trifled with in such a way. It exists for each New Orleanian singularly, and it is maintained with great precision and deep emotion. By comparison, a fictional drama is always attenuated.
Such is what “Treme” is certainly not.
And again, as to what it was, we who made the drama now stand tacit, except to acknowledge that it was most certainly a trespass, albeit a respectful one.
Yours is a Southern city, and a polite one at that, and speaking for cast and crew as a whole, I can attest that we heard largely from those who were appreciative of the effort, while those who were affronted more often than not avoided an unpleasant conversation. But we are wholly grateful for the cooperation, creativity and even camaraderie that was accorded us as we labored to complete our tale. With only the rarest exception, the creative communities – musicians, club owners, chefs, restaurant owners, Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Club members, Carnival krewes, visual artists, writers – threw themselves into collaboration with us from the outset and never wavered. The result is as much testament to their commitment as our own.
And, too, regular folk were for the most part exceedingly tolerant, even when we got the location of the worthiest gumbo or the shelf-life of a Hubig’s wrong in their estimation. We were warmly encouraged in every neighborhood of the city.
Speaking here for Mr. Overmyer, for George Pelecanos, for Nina Kostroff Noble, for Anthony Hemingway, and for the other writers, producers, directors, cast and crew, I can safely claim that it was this collaboration with the actual New Orleans – the doing of it – that stays with us as much as the finished product. We don’t expect to work on a project that feels as this one did for a long, long time to come, if ever.
If you have felt otherwise, and if “Treme” and its purposes did not coincide with your own, or if our story affronted in certain ways, or if we even denied you parking or right-of-way with our trucks in such a way as to break all bonds, you might well encounter Mr. Overmyer or myself, or Wendell Pierce for that matter, in some ramble through town.
As per our standing offer, if you find yourself in just such a moment, feel free to pull us up, as neighbors do, and alert us to our myriad failures. If there is a bar nearby – and surely, such a thing is a possibility in these environs – the first one will be on us.
We were sincere in pursuing this project, and we remain so. But rubes we are not: If your jeremiad continues beyond the first drink, then, hey brother, the next round is on you.
David Simon is co-creator of the HBO’ series “Treme,” a drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans, which wraps up its fourth and final season on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. This is reprinted here with the kind permission of nola.com and the Times Picayune, which first published the piece here on Dec. 27.
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Dear Mr Simon,
I think it’s time for another Treme. This time not about Katrina but about people before, during and after the Covid-19 emergency.
I think that would bring a lot of stuff to talk about and inspire brilliant mind like you.
I’m from Italy, Milan, one of global main core of Covid-19, and we’ve been living strange, hard and sometimes challenging and stimulating times, at least from a human and creative point of view.
It would be great to get in. touch with you, because I’ve been writing a treatment about that, partially inspired by real people and true events, partially fictional.
I’m a big fan of your TvSeries, especially The Wire and Treme and the latter is definitely inspiring my need to write and share those times with people, once we’ll all be through with that.
[…] Given his careful and logical parsing of PTSD, I don’t wish to hop on the bandwagon. Life comes with inherent trauma. You live long enough and you will encounter something, even many somethings, that will bring you to your knees. It’s bound to change you, maybe haunt you. But labeling every undesirable outcome of life as PTSD cheapens it for those who experience it at the extremes. As one of my favorite writers and thinkers, David Simon, said when discussing Treme on his blog, […]
Dear Mr Simon,
I’ve finished watching Treme yesterday, and spend part of today reading interviews of you.
I cried over the last 15 episodes, because I’ve witnessed the same process go during the last 20 years in my neigorhood. I live in La Croix Rousse (Lyon, France), where the “republic of canuts” (silk workers) was pronunced, after the canuts riots in 1831 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canut).
This part of the city had the biggest concentration of artists (painters, rock musicians, sculptors, writters…) in europe. Treme was hard to watch because it remind me of so many failures, i’ve witnessed. The renovations, the lack of support of local initiatives, the desillision coming forward with artistic breakthrough attempts…
Being an outsider writer who attempts to testify of the social process i’ve be through (my last book, “No present” is a recreation of the first steps of the social destruction in France in the 90′), and working for 15 years to create writing workshops that make sense (both for writers and readers), I just wanted to thank you for your work. It gives hope, hard hope, in the hard days.
Rest In Peace Lionel Ferbos (1911-2014)
He passed away this morning at the age of 103. His appearance in Treme was nothing short of memorable and certainly opened my eyes and ears to an important piece of New Orleans’s musical history. Thank you Mr. Simon for introducing me and many other viewers to the man and his accomplishments through your show.
A gracious and good man. Can’t be sad knowing how long and worthy a life he enjoyed.
Only if I hit him over the head with the bottle.
David, my name is Bill Kulp. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. I applied to two colleges, Tulane and Wisconsin. Tulane accepted me with no stipulation, so I decided on Tulane, even though I had never seen the school or been to New Orleans. I arrived at school in early September in time for fraternity Rush Week. I took the Panama Limited train from Chicago to New Orleans to allow me to bring my large camper trunk. I was met at the train station by members of the ZBT fraternity, who helped me take my things to my dorm on campus, Irby House, and then immediately whisked me off to a house on Napoleon Street where there was a party going on–at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. There were girls, a live band and a keg of Falstaff (or maybe Dixie). I had no idea of what to expect of college, but I still remember that day and thinking that I must have died and gone to heaven. I pledged ZBT and graduated from Tulane, in a record 4 1/2 years, in 1963. During that time I learned to love, and once in a while hate, my now beloved New Orleans.
I began watching “Treme” for the second time a few days ago. I loved it the first time but this time I was paying closer attention to the nuances of the tale. For example, early on, Davis’ little diatribe about Earl King. He had a hit record at the time “Trick Bag”, and I hired him for a party we had with the DKE fraternity. I also hired Lee Dorsey for a party, who also had one big hit, “Ya Ya”. “Ya Ya” was playing in the background at Antoine and Desiree’s apartment a scene in Episode One
You and your team wonderfully captured the essence of New Orleans. As I suppose is the case with many places that have a real history and tradition, New Orleans is a strange and bittersweet experience, and you got it right. My compliments and many many thank you’s.
I just finished watching “Treme” in full. This SF native and resident says, thanks for a brilliant series, and excellent primer into the history of the first truly american music ,and a for real portrayal of a great american city in the process of recovery. I myself was in SF for the Loma Prieta quake, and can relate NOLA’s pain.
Great cinematography, music, writing, acting, editing, sound, locations… Everything.
[…] Though he’s talking about a television show, David Simon has interesting observations about how much truth and fiction overlap. […]
[…] I became acquainted with Lolis Eric Elie when he was a writer for the New Orleans Times Picayunne and co-producer for the documentary “Fauberg Treme” that premiered on the PBS series “Independent Lens.” Lolis eventually became a writer and story editor for the HBO series “Treme” which, in the words of the series’ co-creator, David Simon, recently wrapped up “four-and-a-half years, and 36 hours of television later.” […]
My wife and I just finished up the last episode last night. Just wanted to say thank you for Treme. I consider The Wire to be the best TV show ever, and I loved Generation Kill, but Treme was different in a special way. Just a very enjoyable time spent with some wonderful characters and a wonderful city. Sad to see it go, but I felt fulfilled. Well done.
2/4/2014. Right this minute, here and now, I am crying; reading these posts and thinking of how much Treme’ meant to me. Thank you Mr. Simon, and everyone else involved in the show. Worthy effort, well done.
True Detective on HBO is brilliant, and as I read on a review somewhere and concur that Cohle and Hart seem like they’ve emerged from Bunk and McNulty. Will you ever consider bringing them back for one season, since the word is that it will be different cast of characters and different storylines each season? I realize this is a long shot, one that has no chance of fulfillment. But the thought has been bandied about in the Twitterverse and fans can always implore…
The Wire is done. We wrote a beginning, a middle and an end.
I figured as much. Well, I tried. thank you for replying.
You’d admit though, bringing the band back together for seasons 6 & 7 of The Wire would get you paid. HBO suits probably wouldn’t even require you to fly out to LA for a pitch meeting.
How many yachts can I waterski behind in Baltimore harbor?
Love it…the only possible reply.
What about a wacky sitcom with a heart? “Bunk!”
This fish-out-of-water story has the newly divorced Bunk moving to Los Angeles, where he’s paired in the plainclothes division with a befuddled-but-ultimately-wise partner (Jim Belushi). While angering and disappointing a new, always-a-different-race girl each week, Bunk on the job is constantly annoyed and perplexed by an endless parade of Southern California characters, most of them victims and witnesses of petty crimes and minor domestic disputes — Hollywood phonies, mincing queens, struggling actresses, impossibly “street” rappers, dimwitted surfers. At the end, Bunk sees the humanity of each one of them. And they his, and each other’s.
Can’t you see Bunk in the TBS corner promos, slowly spinning, with his hands held out and a hangdog, “whattya gonna do?” look on his face, Belushi next to him in short sleeves, short tie, dumb-happy look on his face; his rumpled lieutenant (John Mahoney) on the other side, snarling at him?
Kill me now.
I felt that Treme’s commitment to dramatizing elements of a culture, a culture of difference and distinction in America, of celebrating it while grieving for the possibility of its demise, was the reason to return week after week–to the characters and location. I hope more people have become interested in New Orleans and difference via the series; that’s an achievement.
I loved this series and I’m looking forward to watching it again, at least a couple of more times. Television in the Impressionist style. It took me about three episodes to get it, whereupon I was hooked, which to me is a sign of real greatness. It was unique in a way that even “The Wire” wasn’t. That show was surely unique in execution, but many of the conceits were pretty standard-issue. The execution nonetheless made it one of the top three or four shows in TV history.
An observation and a question:
36 comments here. But write something that the right-wing echo chamber picks up, and the enraged, fingerdragging hordes pile in. A good reminder, for me anyway, that my audience and the general public are increasingly two totally different things. That’s a shame, but at least what I think of as “my audience” (for journalism) is worth working for, and the hordes can be dismissed as irrelevant.
Question: was Janette cooking eggs while she was talking to Davis a bit of an homage to Stanley Tucci in the final scene of “Big Night?”
No, it was an homage to Tony Bourdain, who says that one of the most beautiful things a chef can do is to cook a perfect, simple omlet.
A fine scene either way. I think Tucci’s was a frittata.
Here’s that scene for anyone who’s curious. It’s best in context, (basically lots of farcical emotional drama, and recrimination between these two brothers) but I think it works on its own.
Hi David, i’ve never written here before and this has nothing to do with this “post” or “discussion”. I just wanted to say that you are my favorite TV Auteur of all time and you have been the only one capable of surpassing the legendary Chris Carter(who’s coming back to Television 12 years after his last series). I read your ambiguous comments about you possibly walking away from television and i have to say that it’s just something that cannot happen. First thing i had to do after Treme ended was re-watching Generation Kill for the third time. I consider your art(The Wire above everything else) my school system and as a filmmaker i just can’t accept the idea of not having you making television anymore. Television now sucks more than ever(this is no golden age of television) and if you leave the medium it’ll only get worse. No one is writing things that actually have some kind of relevance, you said it yourself, it’s all about entertainment(i can’t stand the craziness surrounding Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones) and you’re the only one who can still keep the medium alive, not in terms of ratings, buzz or success but in terms of art and quality. Maybe i’m talking as a fan and so it is a selfish appeal but you can’t just leave the medium, you’d be like McNulty not doing police work and being on a stupid boat instead. You’re the best television author of all time, you have to accept it. I’m sure there were moments when King Arthur regretted pulling the sword out of the rock…but he never gave up his mission.
Most people who follow Mr. Simon’s work would agree but obviously when you look at The Wire – more people have seen that show on DVD, or HBO On Demand, etc than watched it during it’s initial run. If you were going to try re-write “The Wire” to increase the show’s ratings…you’d have to completely destroy the story. Wallace would move in with McNulty, get an education, and turn into a pediatrician. Avon Barksdale would go to jail, and the streets of Baltimore would be safe once more. Stringer Bell would not have been killed…he would have been locked up, he’d testify against every person the Government could get him to role over on, then he’d be released and become a College Professor. You’d have to include a “Murder of the Week” scenario where one case or another got wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end of every hour. The whole point of the show would be lost (and i’m not smart enough to think i understand every point the show tried to make)…but it would be more accessible to mainstream television viewers. That obviously is going to be a huge problem for anyone truly interested in telling a story while providing commentary on the Country, or even the World.
I took several courses in college with a Professor who believed that a book was garbage unless you could read it 10 times and still not absorb all the book was trying to say. For me, there is a lot of that in The Wire, or Treme…The first time i watch these shows, I basically see what’s on the surface. I don’t think much about Creighton Bernette’s internet rants other than how they play into the story…plot points are just that at first. But with multiple viewings, I see much more. This, I believe, is a result of looking back at the entire season of a show rather than episode by episode…an offhand comment made to Antoine about whether he could play Charlie Parker or not…it’s not really going to stick in your mind until you see what happens with the character for the rest of the season. All of this is to say that anyone that’s watched The Corner, or Generation Kill, or The Wire, Treme, etc, would not like the idea that David has made his last hour of television. Obviously, Treme did not pull in the ratings that The Sopranos did…but it’s a far superior show. So what’s more important…the quality of the show or its accessability to a typical television viewer? Depends on your point of view.
For me, I would like to see more networks move beyond the traditional ratings model and look at how many people are DVR’ing episodes, watching them “On Demand” through their cable systems…and buying or renting DVD’s. Youd’ have a far better idea of a show’s popularity then the basic ratings model would indicate. On HBO, they aren’t trying to sell advertising, they’re trying to sell subscriptions…I guess if more of us want to see really great television continue – and see Mr. Simon continue to pursue this line of work, we need to watch the show when it’s on the air. I will say though, especially with Treme and The Wire, the people I generally think would really love those shows are people who don’t usually watch tv. If they aren’t working or spending time with kids, family, or out pursuing one hobby or another, their faces are buried in a book. There is nobody who could watch “All On A Mardi Gras Day” on not be immediately hooked…unless you’re more inclined towards the Batchelor, or something like that. I obviously hope Mr. Simon continues to make incredible television…and I’m sure Mr. Pelecanos will be there to kill some of our favorite characters…but we need to figure how to get more eyeballs on the tv’s when the shows air, rather than waiting for the DVD’s.
Right on Jeff. To put it another way, I recall how shocked and pleased I was when I first saw The Wire on the tube. I thought, “How did they get that on TV?” But I’ll admit I only watched some of the episodes eight times.
Possibly the Simon crew and its dedicated audience will benefit from some of the on-coming distribution models, Netflix production and the like. Have your own TV “station” ?
“Treme” resumes its story in late 2008, some 38 months after Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous levee breaks that followed. It comes to an end just after Mardi Gras of 2009, still one year shy of the New Orleans Saints’ 2010 Super Bowl victory — an event considered by many New Orleanians to be a fitting bookend (if only a symbolic salve) to the Katrina tragedy. It’s a moment of crowning glory I would have liked to have seen told from “Treme’s” perspective.
I can tell you the story behind one way pocky way and two way pocky way. It was told to me by my friend the late great Herman Ernest. When some of the kids would take the bus out to Lincoln Beach they would take the plastic pockets that held brochures and stuff and bang them on the metal poles around the bus. If you used one of them and banged out the rhythm, it was a one way pockey way. If you got fortunate and got to bang on the poles with two of them, it was a two way pockey way Lincoln Beach closed down after the Jim Crow laws got upended but I’m sure there’s some bigger kids–like any of the Nevilles–that can verify Herman’s story.
I bought all the Treme DVDs and have a lot of friends that appeared in Treme and owe a lot to the production. I saw you speak and Rising Tide and I’m sort’ve weirded out to admit that I still haven’t watched the series. I lived through it all. I still am living through it all. I just can’t look back. I can only do forward but thanks for all the focus you brought to the hood.
A new one for me. Thank you, truly.
And I was proud that Herman Ernest was in the film, and that we had a chance to work with him before he passed.
I just wanted to thank you for Treme.
I feel such a mixture of sadness and joy when I think of the show and I have hardly been able to stop thinking about it for days now. It is really wonderful to see so many others here who have loved and appreciated the show as much as I have, because I can’t seem to find anyone in my day-to-day life to share this with. It has been a continuing disappointment to me since the show began that everyone I try to talk to about the show has either not seen it or has tried to watch it, but given up.
It’s a complete mystery to me, because I fell in love immediately. I want to believe that in time it will get the love and recognition it deserves, but I guess only time will tell. For me, Treme just hit all the right notes. The way the show handled the complexities of people and politics, dealt with issues of gender, race, and class, and mostly how it celebrated the full richness of life through art, music, food, culture, and personal relationships. Treme was brought to life with real heart and soul through the vision and commitment of everyone involved, so thank you all for getting it right.
I have finally caught up the final episode of your love letter to one of America’s greatest treasures.
I left the US last year after spending many wonderful days and nights in that great city. My reward was seeing the City start to get back on its feet after Katrina whilst spending evenings in the Maple Leaf or the Spotted Cat after over-eating the most glorious food your country has to offer.
The real highlight was seeing how busy parts of the City have become even during the summer months, the start of an economic renaissance that is helping some of the poorer neighborhoods, and accidentally knocking a table of drinks on some obscene investment types after drinking far too much in Mr Mayfield’s playhouse. Meeting Mr Pierce after imbibing far too much at the Maple Leaf on a Tuesday night, dancing with Mardi Gras indians and every single moment in that wonderful City. I could go on.
So thank you for providing a deeper context to my meanderings, helping me to understand more about the city.
I now know what it means to miss New Orleans. I will certainly be back though. Though I may be barred from the Playhouse.
Just want to say thanks to you, New Orleans and to everyone who helped make Treme what it was. I shall miss it.
I want to thank you for all your efforts at capturing the circumference of the city of New Orleans. That’s something few artistic creations have attempted, let alone pulled off. I think Katrina reinforced the fierce ambivalence so many of us feel about this city: the peak joys and the peak sorrows. Someone once told me that New Orleans lives on the archetypal edge, where the experience of living is most intense, the air electric with the spirit of Carnival or Saints games, but the suffering of life hits just as intensely. You captured that, as well as so many of the unique eccentricities of the place. As such, you helped us all mourn what was lost in Katrina and celebrate the gifts this city gave us in return. Thank you for being the vehicle of that healing. We needed it.
Congratulations on receiving the WGA’s Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement. Well deserved IMO.
As someone who lived in New Orleans for a bit in 2007 and hasn’t missed a Mardi Gras since, you owe me nothing for Treme.
You do however owe me a drink for taunting me with a throw from Washington and St. Charles down to 3rd in 2011 when you rode with Orpheus. That still stings.
It was not personal. After three vodkas and half a joint, nothing after we made the turn at Napolean could have been personal.
What I love about Treme is the diverse and deep humanity of its characters. New Orleans has always attracted me because of the arcane underpinnings of its history. I’ve been there several times, a few for Mardi Gras before the Storm and once for a wedding on the brink of Ike. If it weren’t for Treme I wouldn’t have found the New Orleans I was looking for. Those other times I was confined to the touristy activities of the folks I was with, so all I could do was catch glimpses of the real thing. You gave me the rest of what I was seeking, so I thank you.
I also thank you for helping me discover Lucia Micarelli.
Oh, and I agree with commenter Chris: The final pothole scene was perfect!
As a displaced Louisianan, a sincere thank you. To see the culture of our great state presented to the masses in such a truthful manner is such a wonderful gift for you to share. Again, thank you!
Mr. Simon: Nicely done (as they say in Baltimore.) And thank you for yet another great series.
[…] David Simon: Any story that claims to be about everything is, in the end, about nothing – […]
I think TREME is my favorite of your shows so far, because (while certainly bleak to the point of despair at times) at its heart, it is so hopeful. If THE WIRE was a diagnosis of society’s ills, TREME presents a potential solution, or at least a lifeline: look to the culture. The food you make and eat, the music that you play and dance to, the art you make, the cultural rituals you perform. These things aren’t valued much in American society (unless they make money), but in the end — when the levees break, when the system fails, when help isn’t coming — they’re really all we’ve got: the things that uplift the human spirit and forge that precious and delicate thing we call community.
So hats off to TREME, to everyone who had a hand in making it, and to the beautiful survivors of New Orleans who inspired it and continue to inspire us every day.
And to Davis, Janette, Antoine, LaDonna, Toni, Annie T., Sonny, Delmond, Albert and all the rest: you’ll be missed. We’re all dancing a second line for you. When our people pass, we pull out that brass…
I can’t imagine all the work required to conceive and produce a show like Treme. Not my favorite, probably because I’m an outsider to New Orleans and its culture, but I tip my cap at the effort and commitment.
p.s. I think a spinoff on Hidalgo’s character would work, commercially.
I don’t know about a spin-off — I think the story is nicely packaged up as it is — but I’ve been a fan of Jon Seda’s since the SELENA/HOMICIDE days and I’d watch him in anything. He did a great job at taking a character who could easily come off as a ruthless mustache-twirling carpetbagger, and making him likeable and even sympathetic at times.
Of course I could rhapsodize all day about the brilliant and subtle performances in TREME. What a fantastic cast. One character I’m sorry didn’t get a longer arc was LP Everett. I thought it was pretty fun for notorious (alleged) blogosphere-hater, Mr. Simon, to give some props to the “new journalism”. I don’t think I’ve seen Chris Coy in much before, and I dig his quiet intensity; I’ll be keeping an eye out for him.
David, Thanks for posting your Treme signoff. Thanks for the show. I will miss it more than I expected to. Love the final image. All best, Martha
The Wire is probably the most famous example of binge watching a television show that has become so popular in the era of on demand, dvd box sets, and netflix . I think this can also be a double edged sword when it comes to a show that has as much going on as Treme does. People want to dip their toes in, but are going to wait until they can hammer through the entire series all at once to start watching. I think this show will live on longer than the few years it ran live as quality always wins out in history. I.E Freaks and Geeks is still helping careers 14 years after it was cancelled.
I know you told Alan Sepinwall that Superbowl 44 was never in the cards—however, I appreciate the nod in the closing montage. I’ve daydreamed that somewhere, tucked away in a production folder, there’s a discarded outtake of Terry Colson in a beige-boring Indiana living room, nervously picking at a Superbowl party salsa stain on his jeans, then hilariously losing his goddamned mind at Tracy Porter’s interception while his family—and new accountant addition—clutch their Manning jerseys in disbelief.
Thanks for making these characters so vivid and memorable.
Serious question here – and no cynicism or snarkiness intended. After The Wire ended, you seemed to take every available opportunity on the lecture circuit to explain the show’s subtext to those of us who don’t expertly know Greek tragedy, Paths of Glory, or even basic human storytelling. Will you promote Treme’s afterlife comparably?
I actually began explaining The Wire’s themes early in its run. I was selling. I had to. I had to bring critics and viewers aboard or risk not being able to complete the work, because we were vulnerable to cancellation. Same with Treme. But at this point, I’ve taken it about as far as I can so there’s no gain in arguing for the piece. And in the aftermath of the Wire, I don’t think I was interested in arguing for the merits of the piece. I was interested, in th aftermath of The Wire, of arguing some of the politics of the piece. Hence, this blog. Maybe at same point distant from the end of Treme, it’ll full unintrusive to discuss the show’s themes similarly. Right now, I just want the piece to stand on its own and breathe some. Very proud of Treme.
I echo the praise and thanks above. I wrote the other day and expressed my gratitude and admiration for this wonderful work of drama, pathos, and art.
After reading this, II want to know where to find that gumbo and Po Boy. God and circumstances willing, I will be in the Crescent City a few weeks. Or is that a closely guarded tribal secret also?
I will share my best of list for anyone who hasn’t made the pilgramage yet. Perhaps the best new drinks I’ve had in a long while are the Bourbon Milk Punch and the French 77 made with champagne and grand marnier. The best shrimp po boy that I had was at Mother’s. The best muffaletta that I had was at Mena’s in the quarter where there is very good basic food at great prices. I didn’t make it to Verti Marte or the Parkway. On this next trip, I need to try the Parkway and Dizzy’s and eat something by Susan Spicer and Leah Chase. I also need to try Willie Mae’s chicken.
I didn’t find a seafood gumbo that changed my life, although K Paul’s came pretty close. Their Cajun canoe made of eggplant is a must do for me. If you didn’t get to try it, you are missing something special,.
Eggplant Pirogue (Cajun Canoe) Seasoned, Battered, Deep-Fried and Filled with Fresh Louisiana Shrimp, Crawfish Tails, Bay Scallops and Oysters in a Garlic, Parsley, Seafood Stock and Butter Emulsion. Served with Rice and Veggies
And I need to have some more of Kermit’s red beans and rice with wings that he serves at his Speakeasy and hear that one of a kind tone of his on that horn. Last year, he was playing the Charlie Brown song “Christmas Time is Here” as an instrumental. I’ve seen a lot of great live music, but that was above the clouds.
Thanks for getting me to New Orleans. The city stands alone and there is no other place like it.
A heartfelt “thank you” for the series, Mr. Simon.
I’ll never truly grasp the amount of artistry it took you and your team to meld historical events, weaving actual people with story characters, around a contemporary commentary specific (and authentic) to New Orleans but one that speaks to what we’ve become as a society in this over-commoditized society. You did this all the while exposing (and documenting as a record-of-fact) New Orleans music scene(s) to a broader audience for generations to come. The logistics of timing the guest appearances and recordings around various touring schedules just floors me. From the start, I wondered who would get left out of the cameos and by the finale, I could only name a half dozen prominent musicians that hadn’t been featured.
Most of all, thank you for treating me, the audience, as an adult. You didn’t take shortcuts or pull at plot devices to stroke my comfort zone. You respected my intelligence enough to put something so articulate and nuanced out there to resonate well after watching the episode.
Despite the frustrations of the “here-and-now” ratings analysis or the thick fickleness of the general audience, what you’ve created through the complete work of ‘Treme’ will stand as a testament. This easily tops the legacy and impact of ‘The Wire’.
I hope you enjoy some well-deserved time off and have a blessed New Year.
Saved the finale to watch last night. Just seemed right to me. Having never been to New Orleans, this show helped me see that Katrina wounded badly but did not kill it off. Often just let the story carry me along when I had little understanding initially. And carry it did.
Sometimes I would go read on the Times Pic about the music and musicians for a specific episode. Sometimes not. Loved that in the finale when Antoiine got to play with Dr. John, Wendell Pierce was not shown “fake playing” with him. Instead he was in awe and as present as could be. Subtle and wonderful. I call that a Simon touch, even if it came from someone else within the production.
Ending felt right. Thank you for being gentle enough trespassers in NOLA to see this project through. Everyone can be proud even as we, the viewers, are proud for you.
Recently I had the pleasure to do a dramatic reading of James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” to a group of students, and near the end the narrator watches his brother play piano with a jazz combo. As I finished Treme last night and read your comments on the storytelling this morning, I can’t help but apply the one to the other:
“Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”
Great. I need to read that. Thx.
Matt, I stole your comment and reposted without your name, although I did say it came from Simon blog about Treme. And James Baldwin does get attribution.
By posting on my FB wall, my young friends of Haitian descent will see in Florida. Creole language often plays a part in their exchanges with one another. One, now thirty-one, was born days after her very young mother to be boarded a boat for Florida. I met the young woman when she was a college student where I worked in Kentucky. Lost touch for a while after she and boyfriend graduated. FB lets me see pictures of them and their growing toddler. Hard to separate out NOLA from Haiti in my mind.
I have a friend who calls good storytelling “freaking out the mundane.” He defines it as providing such an immersive experience that the audience is transported from their mundane lives into a whole new world. TREME did that. I can’t imagine anyone being displeased by the production. It brought dignity and honor to New Orleans when they severely needed it. It allowed us to experience losing a brother in the flood, losing a father to himself, losing a sister to violent crime, then getting her back. It told us what we already knew, by having read or watched it on TV, but it allowed us to experience it through love for the city and its inhabitants. It left of nodding our heads, saying yes. Life was gritty, beautiful and cheap in TREME. You and the other writers lived it and loved it. That was apparent. I know you lost a dear friend /co-creator as well as a cast member in the filming. The sacrifices you and all those involved in the production of TREME made are deserving of some long form journalism in my opinion. A mere thank you does not suffice.
Not only does it suffice, it is not required. We enjoyed this project immensely. We came to work on one of the best gigs in TV for the last four years. Glad you enjoyed it too. Direct gratitude to the city and its creative community for throwing in with us.
Sad about David Mills, yes. But he was working and happy with the project when he died, and that is a whole lot better than a lot of gigs that could have occupied his last months. One day, I will sit down and write something about David and his life. Too close to it now. But one day.
Met some amazing, dedicated, brilliant folks working on the show, and I really enjoyed the scenes I was in, especially when Alan Richman got served.
Don’t know what you intend to do next, but I intend to watch/read/whatever it.
“No story is about everything. And any story that claims to be about everything is, in the end, is about nothing” -Simon
This could easily refer to those fatuous religious texts (e.g., Bible 1 & 2, Koran, et.al.) everyone seems so defferential to. Anyway, good work on Treme.
Thanks for the show, Simon & Co. Aside from its dedication to the good, bad, and ugly of New Orleans itself, I always felt it served the equally worthy purpose of depicting middle-class, working African American family life in a way that is rarely if ever shown on U.S. television (is there another such show currently on the air? i can’t think of one off the top of my head).
Hopefully, those unfortunate few — or not so few — who missed it the first time round will come back to the story in the course of “the long tail.”
And thank you for not fixing Davis’ goddamn pothole! i worried that all my faith in N.O.’s bureaucratic abyss would be destroyed if the final shot was a road crew finally getting around to filling it in.
Thank you so much to you and your team for producing this beautiful piece of culture highlighting such a special and wonderful place an people. When I watched the last episode I was sad because I felt that I was moving away from my town(had already moved there in my heart and mind).. The characters I will miss but I know I might see again, but to have left this wonderful place and that is truly bittersweet. Thank you for doing another awesome show that highlights one of America’s treasures. Now there are 2 shows based in the Crescent City that were too good for tv -yours and Frank’s Place
Thanks for finally explaining what the show was. I always just thought it was the best thing I had ever seen about how to live as a creative person.
I’m going to miss it a lot. I love every one of those characters like I do my best friends.
I think I’ll go put on one of the music CDs and have some gumbo.
Thanks very much for the gift.
No, dude. I’m all about the coupla things it ain’t.
Can’t confirm or deny your take. Don’t need to. Glad you liked it, though. Thanks.