The Peabody Awards were announced this week, and among the winners one of my favorite shows. Well, actually a few of my favorite shows were amongst the winners, but there’s only one that I want to talk about in this post: HBO’s Treme. Whenever I talk about the show in my life, I almost always get the same exact response: “What show?” Not only is Treme fairly low rated, but it seems like an enormous percentage of the population has never even heard of the show. I’m hoping that I can change that, at least for a few folks, anyway.
There are plenty of good reasons to watch Treme. Here are just a few:
It won a Peabody: Alright, so it’s probably appropriate that a show many have never heard of won an award that many have probably never heard of. I, however, happen to think the Peabody is one of the more prestigious awards that a show can win. I’ve also been a fan of the award because it seems like the committee is willing to think outside the box and not go to the same old shows every year. The awards have routinely recognized shows that didn’t get a lot of Emmy or Golden Globe attention like Battlestar Galactica, Sherlock, Scrubs, Friday Night Lights, The Wire, and Parks and Recreation (another of this year’s recipients).
David Simon: Treme is the work of David Simon, the mind behind HBO’s The Wire, which was another gritty look at a city. Instead of Baltimore, the focus of this show is post-Katrina New Orleans. The show is a little lighter than The Wire, with emphasis on the music, food, and culture of New Orleans, not the seedier elements and police work that The Wire focused on. Don’t be confused, though, there is danger and tragedy around every corner in Treme.
The music: It seems natural that a show based in New Orleans would be full of music. If I had to guess, I would think that about 15 solid minutes of every episode of Treme is music. Several of the main characters are musicians and the fantastic sounds of the big easy fill every corner of this show. Whether it’s musicians on the street, in the studio, or at a gig in a club, music runs through just about every story and scene in this show. It’s fantastic.
The food: One of the main character’s in Treme, one of the few who is not a musician, is a chef. Being a huge foodie, myself, I have loved following her journey: trying to keep a restaurant afloat in the city after the ravages of the storm, being forced to relocate to New York City and working in some of the best restaurants in the world (all of them real restaurants with the actual chefs making cameos), and finally coming back to New Orleans to make another go of it. It doesn’t hurt that Janette is played by Kim Dickens, a personal favorite.
The authenticity: The food and music speak to this aspect of the show, but they aren’t the whole story. The restaurants shown in New York were all real restaurants and the real chefs played themselves (there have been other cameos by famed New Orleans chefs). The food itself has been a huge focus, with actual dishes from the actual menus featured on the show. Likewise, real life musicians like Dr. John, Shawn Colvin, and Elvis Costello have all played themselves. The feel of the show is hyper-realistic, very similar to The Wire. At times it feels like documentary.
The history: One aspect I love is the stories that the show tells about life in New Orleans, the struggles and problems that almost every person was dealing with in the wake of the unprecedented disaster. Even the Danzinger bridge shootings (which were in the news just this week) are featured on the show, along with some of the smaller more personal issues like people dealing with insurance and trying to rebuild their homes or businesses.
Certainly, the show is not going to be for everyone, but foodies, music lovers, and anyone with an appreciation for a beautifully realized sprawling story about life in the city should check out Treme. Season 3 is scheduled to debut in the fall on HBO.