American Artists Writers and Writing



Just a note in passing, David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s new HBO series,
Treme, about post-Katrina New Orleans, began Sunday night.

I found it quite amazing. Gorgeous. Not quite like anything you’ve ever seen.

If you’re expecting The Wire, redux….Don’t. This is a wholly different creation. The story unfolds slowly, with novelistic rhythm. As has been noted by others, it centers around, not crime or politics, but music. (Let’s just say that if you are made nervous by the repeated desire to leap up and dance around in front of your TV screen, this may not be the series for you.)

The moment when Treme locked completely into place for me personally was when Mardis Gras Indian Chief Albert Lambreaux (played by Clarke Peters from The Wire) materialized alone on a darkened street dancing with ferocious yet supremely dignified intensity wearing his stupendously yellow feathered chief’s regalia, which he had, a few scenes earlier, found perfectly unmarred amid the rubble of the ruined bar he is trying to rescue.

Mary McNamera said in the LA Times that Simon isn’t doing Dickens this time, he’s doing opera. Okay, that’s as reasonable a description as any.

In any case, he’s doing art.

Don’t believe me. Just see for yourself.


  • Here’s the Times-Picayune guide to episodes, with background notes, cultural references, people and places explained:

    I’ve watched the first episode twice – intend to watch it at least one more time before the next one is aired. It looks like it’s going to be a great series – certainly set the characters and plot points in place. I hope it’s not “opera” – I think it’s still novelistic and frankly nobody except Simon and his inner circle know what he’s doing yet. No one could have predicted where the Wire would go based on the first episode. Probably not even Simon. I’m hoping for a good run of this show – it would need at least three seasons to fulfill the promise of the first episode.

    Damn it was beautiful. And fun (I caught a passing reference to “live at Donna’s”, the corner bar/club on Rampart and St. Ann where my wife and I experienced the best jam of our lives on a Monday night. And of course Kermit Ruffins – the show is full of little treats that will make you homesick for NOLA even if you’ve only visited the crazy place.) Not to be missed.

  • I have to say, I read that Mary McNamara piece and I don’t get the need to state Treme is “not a television show…” It’s exactly that – a “television show.” Couldn’t have ever been a film, couldn’t have ever been a stage play, couldn’t have ever been an “opera.” And “novelistic” as it may be, it’s not really all that much like a novel being scrawled by some guy hovering alone in his room with a pen or even Word. There’s a lot more sound, fury and, of course, collaboration to produce something like this. It’s exactly a television show. This is what television shows look like now – something that could never have been done before in any other medium. Not even by Wagner, if that’s who rings your bell.

  • Reg, when I put up the post I so thought of you and hoped you’d watched it. (Twice. I should have known.)

    About the Mary McNamara piece, I agree: This IS television and that’s much of the miracle of it. I know Mary and I guess I just saw her burbling enthusiasm, and that was okay with me. For some reason her review is being quoted a lot.

    As for opera, since my last opera experience was in Eastlake juvenile hall with the poetry-writing kid inmates, the reference didn’t strike me in as dissonant a manner as it might have. (Don’t know about the Wagnerian thang though.)

    Can hardly wait for the episode with Dr. Mac Rebennack.

    And thanks for the TP links. I’ll go read them now.

    I was so, so beautiful. Took my breath away.

  • The one thing that seemed a bit weird (other than two other things, one being the “manic-ness” of the silly DJ character who makes The Wire’s McNulty seem low-key and two being the contrived element of the Brit journalist interviewing “Professor Goodman”) was Louis Prima’s Buono Sera, although it was actually a wonderful moment of music/montage. I just couldn’t quite figure out why they used Prima. Turns out, of course, that he’s a Treme native. Did not know that.

  • As a big fan of the Wire, I found that Treme had a very similar tone. I really enjoyed Treme and I’m hoping that, like the Wire, the intensity will slowly build. Treme is not a cop show, of course, but I think like the Wire it will be built on really great characters. Let’s just hope a few of them are really bad, in a really great way, like Omar and Stringer Bell.

  • Now here we have a perfect example of why this blog so often descends into crap. An exciting posting about a superb show, an informative exchange, and then… troll feces. Stick to your guns, Celeste: just delete the irrelevant immature trolling. I don’t know why you can’t just stay consistent and keep your blog enjoyable and informative. Delete junk. Easy.

  • Man, am I ever ready for a Dr. John fix. I missed the debut due to Breaking Bad and The Pacific, but this looks like a lively, interesting show.

    Also heard today that HBO will be playing all 5 seasons of the Wire. Maybe time I watched, hmmm?

  • Are disagreements allowed? Treme:
    PC in the usual HBO way

  • Winny, not everyone loves it. I read a very luke warm review on NPR. I’ll see if I can re-find it. (I looked. Can’t figure out where it is.)

    At the beginning I was worried I’d find it too slow. But then it kicked in for me in a big way and I’m entranced.

    But that’s the joy of creative work. It’s cause for discussion.

    And to be sure, not every single moment is blindingly brilliant, even for those who were blown away by the whole.

    My one insight was that if that particular kind of music doesn’t really engage you, bigtime, you may be left a bit cold by Treme. I don’t know if that applies to you or not.

  • “I missed the debut due to Breaking Bad and The Pacific”

    Thanks to the magic of DVR, I caught them all (along with “Damages” which my wife hooked me on and for which I would never forgive her if I wasn’t madly in love.) The Pacific is particulary worthy of one’s time. Tonight – “Elmore Leonard’s Justified” (it is based on a Leonard character, but I added Elmore’s name to the title. Another guilty pleasure with Tim Olyphant from Deadwood. I’m getting lost in the TeeVee ozone. Newton Minow is rolling over in his grave, because my TeeVee has become far more “vast” but it’s hardly a “wasteland” except for cable news, the shopping channels and most everything else. Still there’s more good TeeVee than I can watch. I’m also hung up on Southland, although that may just be a Regina King thing.)

    Let me just say as a certfied, non-rehabed mini-series TeeVee junkie, “Treme” is the shit. Treme brings it. Treme will kick your ass. Might even be this “art” of which Celeste speaks, but don’t look now because “art” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be once the word has been dropped. But seriously folks !!! If you don’t see another TeeVee show this year, and I’m looking at YOU American Idol, Rupaul’s Drag Race and The View (From The Fog Of Menopause), watch fucking Treme. Just Fucking Do It ! I’m not kidding.

  • “My one insight was that if that particular kind of music doesn’t really engage you, bigtime, you may be left a bit cold by Treme.”

    And you should also probably be set afloat on an iceberg. (I-M-H-O !!!)

  • Winny Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    PC in the usual HBO way


    Uh, Eastbound and Down, about a total redneck retired pro baseball player who’s about as racist and sexist as any character ever on television? Research is your friend, Winny.

  • “Let’s not pile on…”

    Except that we forgot to mention HBO’s “Cathouse”, the PC show to end all PC shows. Okay. Are we done ? I’m done. Rob ?

  • reg, I don’t let the right wingers here tell me what to do. So there’s no reason I should let you, either. I was responding to someone’s comment, not “piling on”. Worry about your own affairs.

  • and of course, after you tell me to not “pile on”, you go right ahead and pile on. lol. Sure Fire and ATQ, go ahead and insult reg. Now I understand where you guys are coming from.

  • But seriously folks !!! If you don’t see another TeeVee show this year, and I’m looking at YOU American Idol, Rupaul’s Drag Race and The View (From The Fog Of Menopause), watch fucking Treme. Just Fucking Do It ! I’m not kidding.

    What reg said.

    BTW, I decided a season or so ago to back away from Damages although it’s well done. But I’m definitely down with Justified as a guilty pleasure, and I’m also hooked on Southland. I like the way it makes use of the city of LA.

    Did you mention 24? Sadly, I’ve watched every single episode (sooner or later) every freaking season. Even the really creepily jumped-the-shark, torture-the-brother season.

    And I like Glee.

    But Treme’s a whole different deal.

  • “and of course, after you tell me to not ‘pile on’, you go right ahead and pile on. lol.” Because I’m a laugh a minute, dripping with irony. See, I’ve got you “lol-ing.” Plus, you get bonus points for my having to look up that show Eastbound and Down, which I definitely want to check out. It is, indeed, all good. (Except I was not kidding about the iceberg.)

    “BTW, I decided a season or so ago to back away from Damages although it’s well done.”

    I think Damages might be more insidious than 24. This season it’s got Martin Short and Lily Tomlin playing two of the worst people in the world. And that’s after turning Ted Danson to the Dark Side. Nasty little piece of work, Damages. Can’t wait for the next episode.

  • “If you’re expecting The Wire, redux….Don’t”


    Isn’t that Omar Little in the far right shadows, playing the trumpet?

  • reg, Eastbound and Down is a riot, and would make Winny’s head explode if she watched it thinking HBO is politically correct.

  • The people here who think HBO isn’t rigidly and dogmatically PC obviously don’t watch it much. Yes, HBO has some non-PC characters here and there (usually to ridicule), and yes, they program terrific stuff like the Sopranos, where the intent clearly has nothing to do with politics. But when they do venture in politics and social issues, and they do that a lot, they ALWAYS do so in a one-sided, ham-fisted, laughably PC and lefty way. Examples? Too many to count, but start with these:

    –Their original movie about the Bush/Gore Florida recount. Dem characters were honorable, idealistic, noble in battle, gracious in defeat. Republicans were thugs, buffoons, cheats. ENORMOUS liberties were taken with the facts and the narrative, always in a way that trashed one side in a spectacularly false way. Guess which side.

    –Bill Maher’s increasingly screechy and unfunny HBO show. He used to have guests from both sides battling it out. Now it’s just a relentlessly pro-Obama amen corner, and Maher has morphed into the male Rachel Maddow.

    –The documentary unit that Sheila runs for HBO, out of their NY office I believe. EVERY SINGLE THING THEY PRODUCE is a left wing wet dream–never any balance within the doc itself, or balance in the filmmakers they let make these docs. Hightlight was probably the documentary they made about blowhard Morris Dees, which interviewed Dees on camera at length, and which was produced by….wait for it….Morris Dees. (Interesting journalistic theory at work there, no Celeste?)

    –Remember when HBO decided to tackle the underbelly of D.C. with the spectacularly unwatchable scripted show about lobbyists called “K Street”? It was just a platform for George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh to trop out every lefty talking point in the book.

    These are just the examples that occur to me off the top of my head at 1 a.m. They are not isolated examples but typical ones, and there are DOZENS more, and you will look in vain on HBO for any, and I mean ANY SHOWS EVER–whether documentaries, dramas, comedy series, comedy stand-up specials, etc.–that feature a point of view that isn’t solidly left wing and decidedly, laughably, pathetically PC.

  • “you will look in vain on HBO for any, and I mean ANY SHOWS EVER”

    Exceot that’s obviously not true – not even as CAPS nor as even a close reading of your rant allows between the CRACKS.

    HBO has presented great war dramas like Band of Brothers and now Pacific, among other things. (Oh, wait, Tom Hanks is a liberal and he produced these so…uh…something or other!) And of course Generation Kill was in no sense “PC” or “leftwing.” And aside from the fact that the doc unit produces such decidedly un-PC stuff like the truly aforementioned crappy “Cathouse” and other determinedly sensationalist almost “anti-PC” stuff, they’ve also done some of the finest sports docs like the recent Bird and Magic, and other docs on issues like child abuse or rescuing Jewish kids during the Holocaust that do not in any sense have a “left-wing” slant.

    The only reasonable conclusion is that your skew on HBO is laughably, pathetically inaccurate – everyone gets their own opinion, but not their own set of facts.

    For such a long rant, it was remarkably short on substance and wildly exaggerated. But, yes, Sheila Nevins is no doubt a “New York” liberal. And David Simon’s probably pretty “leftwing” based on what he’s seen and experienced on the ground as a crime reporter in Baltimore. I guess my only question – since your description doesn’t match the known world – is if HBO leans observably left in SOME of its content, when will an enterprising group of “conservatives” give us television dramas or documentaries as compelling as what these folks produce…as viable commercial commodities in a highly competitive marketplace ?

    Again – entitled to your own opinions, but not an “alternate reality” set of facts. (This is, by the way, a big problem on the right these days. It exploded in the insanity that was on display during the HCR debates and, apparently, persists among the demagogues and charlatans who “conservatives” tend to privilege in contemporary public discourse.)

  • Also – if you want to extend the dreaded “PC” mantle to “Treme”, some example of something from that first episode would be in order so we don’t have to argue on the margins a bunch of other ad hominem stuff that is obviously based on pre-conceived and wildly inaccurate notion regarding “everything” HBO does. Just saying…could have saved a lot of off-topic nonsense about nothing. I can see, for starters, why anything set in post-Katrina New Orleans would make gullible folks who were invested in the Bush administration’s “competence” uncomfortable. Of course, even John Goodman’s rant didn’t devolve into conspiracy theories or simple jibes at Bush – he pointed the finger at systemic neglect of potential problems. How, exactly, is that “PC” or “liberal” ??? If it is, that’s not an indictment of liberals but of a right that thrives on denial.

  • Was the name “Bush” even mentioned ? I doubt it, because that’s such old news and Simon is smarter than attacking the obvious. And are references to police corruption in New Orleans, of all places, “PC” ? Really have no idea what was “PC” in that show.

    Educate me.

  • Winny, you said HBO was politically correct. Familiarize yourself with the definition of political correctness, reexamine some of HBO’s programming, then get back to me.

  • My examples (above) of HBO’s persistent political bias left out some recent and obvious ones: It’s bum-kissing “documentary” on the Obama campaign; Leni Reifenstahl would have been impressed; Robert Wuhl’s America-bashing “history lesson” to an audience of college kids (HBO even did a sequel to this….I guess it beats Arli$$); and yes, the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg re-framing on the war in the Pacific, which has produced so much ire among WWII vets who don’t share the Malibu world view. What’s funny about all this is that HBO and other Hwd types are always congratulating themselves for their “courage” in tackling political issues in their docu + entertainment slates–Silkwood, Erin Brokovitch, Recount, Angels in America, etc. etc.–but real courage would be tackling some of these topics from the right, or fuck it, even the center. The self-congratulatory cowards.

  • Okay – Leni Reifenstahl would have been impressed. I see.

    I wasn’t aware that Robert Leckie and E.B. Sledge on whose narratives the Pacific is based resided in Malibu. But you’re the expert.

    Still waiting for something that would justify all of this inchoate fury against the HBO “template” being relevant to the first episode of Treme.

    I guess Josef Goebbels would be impressed. I’m not.

    But thanks for sharing the view from the rightwing bubble. It’s always “interesting.”

  • “real courage would be tackling some of these topics from the right, or fuck it, even the center. The self-congratulatory cowards”

    Don’t expect talented people to do the work that the right apparently can’t or won’t do for itself.

    “Self-congratulatory cowards” – my assessment of that is “resentment-driven loser.”

    Total fucking waste of my time.

  • Winny, what’s up with the political correctness? You said HBO is politically correct. Again, do you even know what political correctness is? Do you just like applying that term to make your point sound more intellectual? I notice in your most recent comment, you avoid using the term. Did you look it up? Do you now know how ridiculous you sounded by calling HBO politically correct?

  • HBO may have very well invented politically INcorrect television. I remember a dark comedy in the ’80s about pro football called “1st and 10”. Never mind OJ Simpson playing the head coach, this show was disturbing, dealing with player drug use, steroids, just every dark thing you can think of that goes on behind closed doors with pro football players, and did so in a surreal, Sopranos-like manner. A politically correct show about pro football would have helped promote the game, with heroic stories and “very special” episodes. Every episode of 1st and 10 was a very special, twisted episode. I’m bringing up this show because it’s one of the earlier original HBO programs I know of, considering my age. I’m sure there were plenty before that. I think the Real Sex series goes back to the ’80s. Wouldn’t a politically correct program about sex talk about putting on condoms and the threat of AIDS, with Dr. Ruth being about as risque as it would get? This show had segments dealing with the personal lives of prostitutes, etc. Not exactly something you’d see on the major networks’ nightly news programs. Then in more recent years, while Bill Maher was fired from ABC for being precisely politically incorrect, bringing up an unpopular truism in regards to the mental state of someone who flies an airplane into a building, HBO picks him up, giving him an open mike to be politically incorrect, and with no language restrictions. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone call HBO politically incorrect before. And it’s probably because it’s perhaps the first politically incorrect television station in the U.S., and it would therefore defy common sense.

  • I think, Rob, that for some folks Bill Maher is passe and Glenn Beck has taken up the “politically incorrect” mantle because he has the courage to call President Obama out for “hating white culture” and having a plan to destroy America that correlates to Hitler and Stalin. “Conservatives” and white men are the new victims of societal injustice. Bringing a gun to a Tea Bag rally is the new “black.” Wanting the Obama administration to fail in it’s efforts to bring us back from the brink of financial collapse is the new “patriotism.” FOX News is the new “politically incorrect” and…uh…Sarah Palin “isn’t a quitter.” It’s an alternate reality. Takes a lot of guts to be both that stupid and that self-congratulatory.

  • Political correctness slices both ways, no doubt. I’m a liberal and I’m willing do admit that. But conservatives only have one definition of political correctness, it’s synonymous with liberalism, as far as they’re concerned, and that’s not what the word means. Political correctness is the standards set by the political leaders of the day. Bill Maher being fired from ABC was nothing short of political incorrectness, hence the name of the show he made his comments on. Politically correct in the post 9/11 climate was to, as Bush press secretary Ari Flescher put it, “be careful what you say”, about America, and about Bush. That IS political correctness. Sure, one could call it patriotism, too, but it’s still political correctness. Blind nationalism is just as politically correct as t.v. hosts bashing the establishment during a Democratic administration.

  • Boys–

    Why so much bile aimed at me? I’m aiming none at you (despite a number of provocations). Chill, fellas. Take a walk, pet a dog, listen to some Vivaldi.

    Can we have a civil debate? HBO is the single most profitable, and one of the most visible, divisions of TimeWarner, a publicly traded company, and yet it concerns me as a T-W shareholder, and an HBO viewer, and a working TV writer, that this canble net has nevertheless been hijacked to serve largely as the Ministry of Information for the loony left. Feel free to disagree, but is it really necessary to label me a loser who can’t find work? I am blessed to work steadily in this industry, no sour grapes here, just a sour feeling about HBO’s course.

  • Winny, why don’t you familiarize yourself with the definition of political correctness, instead of whining about people calling you on your misuse of the term?

  • Mr. Thomas:

    I am using the term correctly. “Political correctness”–let’s say on a college campus, where it routinely crops up–includes the notion of a dominant political orthodoxy whose adherents will, for example, deny tenure to scholars whose work diverges from that POV. If you were familiar with HBO’s development slate–currently and extending back to the days of Chris Albrecht–you would realize (but surely not admit) that “political correctness” is the best explanation, and possibly the only explanation, for the annointing of certain projects and the scuttling of others. I should add that I had no dogs in any of those fights; I have never pitched to HBO, never written a pilot there, never wanted to. So when I say HBO is “politically correct,” you are free to disagree with me, but it’s stunning that you persist in accusing me of misusing the term; I am using the term to accuse HBO management of making programming decisions based on their personal preference for loony left documentaries and entertainment programs, and their shunning of material that does not fit that template.

    As for my “whining” about criticism, not true there either, Mr. Thomas. Fair-minded readers know that I was complaining about your tone. You have anger-management issues. You do not understand the difference between spirited debate and gratuitous personal attacks. It’s sad. I hope for your sake that you get past this.

  • Oh, I see, you have your own definition of political correctness that you made up, which probably explains why it took you several responses to even attempt to explain your misuse of the term.

  • Fair minded readers, like you, Sure Fire, Answering the Question, and the fair minded and fair named “WTF”, meaning, “What the Fuck”. Yeh.

  • “Can we have a civil debate? … it concerns me as a T-W shareholder, and an HBO viewer, and a working TV writer, that this canble net has nevertheless been hijacked to serve largely as the Ministry of Information for the loony left. ”

    Apparently not. And you ask why so much “bile” is directed at you ? Get an f-ing clue…you’re broadcasting from the “loony right” IMHO. Enough of this crap.

  • Oh, yeah…a “civil debate” would have focused on examples of the point you’re struggling to make that were drawn from the subject at hand, Treme. Not idiot shit like about Leni Reifenshahl or the Ministry of Information for the Loony left. You went off on a crank rant and now you’re whining because no one takes your sour grapes seriously. Yeah…chill and walk the dog. Great idea. Because this was a total waste of time.

  • Being a T-W subscriber I can’t wait to switch because they just can’t fix my On Demand. It goes out all the time. Today, for the first time, they said it was because of the area I lived in, yeah right. Last time they said it was problems with their server, need to get their lies straight. Back to Direct and the football package. I’m sure you’ll keep making money without me Reg.

    A working t.v. writer, nice. Any chance you make all the right wingers look like idiots? What show or shows, are they PC?

  • “I’m sure you’ll keep making money without me Reg.”

    Huh ? I’ve got no idea what this means.( Not the first time.) Gratuitous bullshit that doesn’t make one whit of sense. And of course, the “TV writer” in this thread is an angry right-winger tossing out stuff that can’t be backed up. Weird comment.

  • Yeah, only two Nazi comparisons…I guess we get credit for sticking with Nazis involved in the media, as opposed to the camps.

  • If HBO has a liberal bias, why not support bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, Winny? HBO would have to be more conservative, yet Fox News and the AM radio would have to be more liberal. Deal?

  • I can’t believe you deleted my comment after what Reg wrote Celeste, that’s you playing favorites and it’s fucking b.s

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