We go into a new series like Treme with a set of expectations. In this case, most of these expectations come from The Wire, David Simon, and the incredibly high bar that was set by the best show in television history, as some have called it. How can any show match that precedent? On Twitter, Alan Sepinwall has already advised against viewing it as “The Wire 2, the Squeakuel,” so how do we frame our anticipation of the premiere?
I suppose pointing out potential problems could be a way to inoculate against disappointment. I don’t expect to be disappointed; I fully expect that this will be one of the best shows in television history. But it’s like trying to follow Shaun White on the half pipe. So what could the concerns be?
Female characters: Victoria R.399 expressed this so well on the HBO Talk boards, I’ll credit her and just copy it here.
I am a huge fan of The Wire, and expect no less from Treme, but here is one negative expectation I have based on what I saw in The Wire and what I've read in Treme's preview articles: a show lacking in female stories. Sure, The Wire had female characters, but their stories were never central to the show, nor was there any exploration in The Wire of women's place in that world. Even the fourth season about the Baltimore school system, which is undoubtedly made up of mostly women, revolved around two male characters. The schoolchildren profiled were all boys. There was no discussion, really, of what happened to the wives and girlfriends of the men who went to prison. Women came and went in The Wire and always, with the exception of Snoop and Detective Greggs--two women who largely subsumed their gender to participate in this apparently all-male world--seemed to be acted upon, rather than agents themselves. The cast described in Treme seems to be similarly lacking in fully developed female characters. I'll be the first to applaud David Simon's accomplishments, but until he includes women's stories, he has not presented a full--or accurate--portrait of a world. He has only shown us half of it.Oh, inDEED.
New Orleans itself: It’s so notoriously hard to get New Orleans right. It’s such a mix of, well everything, it’s both exciting and truly odd. Simon said in the HBO video that “even the nuances have nuances.” Twitterer @HollyGhere said that there’s a problem if characters say “New Orleeenz,” and to be successful they’ll have to keep it real and “Naturally N’awlins.” The creators have anticipated that argument, and mention behind-the-scenes that they mean to build the show “from the inside out.” The trailer has a nice moment hat-tipping the question of authenticity when Sonny asks a do-gooder tourist, “Had you even HEARD of the 9th Ward before the storm?”
The Wire sparked its own controversy relating to authenticity, primarily over the issue of a primarily white production and writing team taking on the issues of the African-American experience. (See the Slate TV Club debate and the comments in the Fray for an example.)
These are two things in particular I’ll be watching for in the series. But it’ll be like an Olympic judge looking to see if there’s any reason to deduct points. I’m confident it’ll be that good. You?