[Dave Weatherall/unsplash]

“Treme”: When Television Matters

00:00 May 04, 2012
By: Debbie Lindsey

It doesn’t get more real than this city. We are down and dirty with realism, we are ate-up with realism, live and die by it. Even the pretensions that do exist are slathered in garlic butter and dressed in funk. Our music produces the same inner tremors that gyrate the hips of folks from every ward, from Zoo- To-Do to Zulu. We second line to the damn grocery store. There is a common thread of black and gold that binds us all. We do things different here.

We are keeping it real, the real deal, except when we get surreal. We extol excess and exuberance with flair. We eat passionately, with a roll-up-the-sleeves determination; yet wring our hands with an air of helplessness at our City’s crime and illiteracy.

Much is beautiful and too much is dark. For better or worst we are uniquely weirder than dirt and proud as punch to live here. We don’t just howl at the moon, we toast to it, then sacrifice crawfish and feast in its glow. How do you capture the essence of New Orleans? Well, glad you asked.

I am an unapologetic “Treme” geek, a cheerleader, fan, loyalist, champion. Welcome to my pledge drive, my campaign. I want to raise awareness, appreciation and ultimately the viewership of “Treme”. Just as our esteemed radio station WWOZ is the “guardian of the groove”, “Treme” is a paladin of New Orleans’ real. David Simon, Eric Overmyer, and their people are keeping it real and bringing New Orleans to the world. One of our neighborhoods, rich in African- American history, music and New Orleans’ tradition, was chosen as the namesake for HBO’s “Treme”, but the show blankets the entire city with its story telling and characters.

“Treme” is a music driven, food infused, politically astute slice of New Orleans life beginning three months after Katrina, then moving through our world here with accuracy, accountability and action. While this is not a documentary, it is truthful and not always flattering, but it is one of the best depictions of life here after the Flood. It is not a Katrina story but rather stories of our culture, people, inner workings (from City Hall to the NOPD; Gallier Hall to Tipitina’s), and yes—the reality that we are still stained by the flood waters. The “Treme” team keeps it real without loosing the entertainment, the escape, that makes good story telling.

Every day visitors walk into my shop with that “In love with New Orleans” glaze over their eyes and a reluctance to fly home. They are infatuated with our unique culture and want to linger. So, I suggest “Treme” to them. It helps take the edge off their jones for New Orleans once they are back home— and keeps them hooked on our City and willing to return.

Pointing to my visual aid, a makeshift poster of an HBO magazine promo for “Treme” taped to my desk, I earnestly try to recruit fans, and energize existing ones. I can not stress enough the importance of viewership (this does not include pirating). You see, we are down to the wire (pardon the pun Mr. Simon). Amazing as this HBO production is, ratings are not so stellar. But as with many subscription television series the audience and the profits often follow later through such avenues as DVD sales and rentals. The life of a show depends upon viewership, which translates into MONEY and money is the grease that drives and supports the creative energy of “Treme”.

This why pirating and burning CDs and DVDs of music, books, movies and television are so destructive to the production and life span of such creations. It’s “nothing personal” to most people and therefore easy to overlook that you are robbing an artist of their deserved recommence. Would you want your tip stolen from the table you just served for an hour? Your paycheck withheld? A shoplifter can undermine the viability of a business. And “Treme” needs to remain viable if it going to continue to represent our City to he world.

Season Three is wrapping up and should air this fall. If we want HBO to okay a Fourth Season for “Treme” then show them the money. View it. If you don’t have HBO you can NetFlix or purchase Season One and Season Two. Keep it local and buy “Treme” and its soundtrack CD at Louisiana Music Factory, Jazz Festival, or any homegrown shop.

“Treme” supports our native talent by providing a vital showcase for our musicians. Two of the show’s writers, Tom Piazza and Lolis Eric Elie, are New Orleanians. A tremendous number of characters are played by locals from bit parts to starring positions (Wendell Pierce, Phyllis Montana, and John Goodman). The show is also heavily peppered with locals standing in as themselves (Oliver Thomas, Kermit Ruffins to name a few). “Treme” showcases our restaurants and bars, our traditions and musicians… our City. It is the kind of advertising you just can’t buy. Well…actually you can—by simply enjoying this celebration of New Orleans.

“Getting a bit carried away are we? It’s just a TV show for god’s sake.” Not quite— it’s more than that. I may not have any stock in “Treme” but I have stock in the City I call home. And I appreciate when the top guns of story writing, acting, directing and production finally “get it right” about our town and convey to folks from around the world why they need to come here and support this outpost of uniqueness. This television production is increasing the value of our New Orleans’ stock. They are investing in us. So make this profitable for them. Spread the word and support so “Treme” can continue keeping it real.

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