Saturday, April 30, 2011

Treme: The Big Uneasy

Nobody can accuse HBO of not doing its part to shed light on the plight of New Orleans. They got behind Spike Lee and his mammoth documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, and have since financed a follow-up doc from Lee entitled If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise. The former painstakingly covered the days and months in New Orleans after Katrina, while the latter traced the rebuilding of the city, the Saints winning the Superbowl, and the BP oil spill. Now, for most networks, this would have been enough. Some suit, when pitched the idea of an Orleans-based TV series, would've said, "We already devoted hours on the subject to Spike Lee. We did our part." Thankfully, HBO isn't that kind of network. If it were, we wouldn't have the chance to bask in David Simon's and Eric Overmyer's post-Katrina slice-of-life series, Treme.

Treme just kicked off its second season on HBO, and being HBO, there are still opportunities to catch the first episode, "Accentuate the Positive," in case you missed it. The show has now moved its characters fourteen months away from the storm that devastated their city, and instead of things looking up, it sees the storyline going into darker areas than it dared to in its freshman year. Dave Walker, TV critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, has lived in the city since 2000, so he not only knows a thing or two about Treme, but also what life's been like for residents since Katrina, and how the increasing level of violence in the second season isn't a TV gimmick, but a true case of art imitating life. Bullz-Eye spoke at length to Walker, who's got a great deal to say about the show's new season. "It's dark because those were very dark days in the city."

"The headlines got pretty grim in the time that they're depicting," Walker continues. "The recovery just seemed to be dragging. Violent crime had returned to the city, after basically being non-existent for a long time. In a perverse way, it may be better television, because it has events and activity that people are more used to seeing in television drama. We didn't exactly hail those elements as something that would improve narrative inertia at the time we were living through them, but I think for people who are just trying to watch TV, it may be stickier, it may be more compelling, because it's got stuff they see in other shows. I don't know. It's a weird show to handicap for viewers who are watching outside of New Orleans."

Lucia Micarelli, who plays up and coming violinist Annie Tee, talks of the sometimes unsettling nature of the manner in which the show is put together. "Annie's not so far away from me. So much that it's creepy. I was talking to Steve Earle a couple weeks ago, and he was saying how the show is so much art imitates life imitates art. It's really strange." She continues on, almost aghast, with a reminiscence revolving around a scene from an upcoming episode – one which is rooted in a real life tragedy. "A couple months ago we were shooting the funeral of a young musician who had been shot. And they got his actual family to be in that scene, and recreate the funeral, and say their eulogies. I remember when I found that out, I was like 'This is fucked up!'" Her personal feelings aside, Micarelli recalls the sequence as being almost cathartic for the family members involved.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.