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The Wire's David Simon takes on Post-Katrina New Orleans in Treme - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 15th 2010 1:29PM
David Simon, Wendell Pierce, and Eric Overmyer promoting Treme at the Winter 2010 TCAsIf there was anyone working in TV today who could create an accurate, in-depth portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans, it's David Simon. Many people call Simon's previous HBO series, The Wire, one of the greatest dramas of all time, and they do it for a reason: it has rich characterizations, well-examined stories, and it gives viewers a real feel for the underbelly of Baltimore.

So, with Treme, debuting on HBO in April, Simon tries to examine the lives of ten people who are trying to pull things together three months after Hurricane Katrina flooded out New Orleans.

"New Orleans, to me, represents a place where it's a triumph of American urban culture," said Simon. It's what - it's the best that an American city can be and also the worst in a lot of ways, as I said before, but it has created a culture that has gone around the world."

Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk on The Wire, is on board as musician Antoine Batiste, who tries to reconnect with his family while struggling to make a living in the devastated city. At the time he was offered the part, he was also in line to take the role in Men of a Certain Age that ended up going to Andre Braugher.

But the New Orleans native knew he had to take this role, and he thinks Simon's depiction of NOLA is the most accurate he's seen on TV in a while.

"You know, a lot of times, you see, you know, bad TV movies about New Orleans and it's Mardi Gras every day, and everybody is dressed up, and outside the window, you see a parade going by<" said Pierce. "I knew that David and Eric (Overmyer) had a unique ability to find the specificity in a culture and depict it in a way that was authentic. And so that's happening, and that's evident, and I'm happy about that. New Orleanians are very protective about their culture, and I think they would be happy about the specificity in the show."

Yes, there's lots of good and bad aspects of New Orleans that the show can depict, but strangely enough, in the months after Katrina, the more unseemly aspects of the city -- the rampant crime, especially -- wasn't there.

"The truth was the crime didn't come back for several months, until the spring of '06," said Simon. "Crime dropped
dramatically in New Orleans. So at the point at which certain initiatives show up, to the extent that they affect the lives of our characters, of our 10 major characters, we wanted to deal with them." As time goes on, they'll deal with the education problems, the crime problems, etc. But for now, it's about a community trying to rebuild.

Oh, and they shot the show in the city. Even close to five years after the flood, there are still areas that haven't recovered. "It's a little embarrassing that, you know, it doesn't take that much art direction to make it look like three months after (Katrina)," said Pierce.

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Paul Harris

I do hope they get it right, and continue to rely on locals who were on the front lines for advice, as well as using for extras.

Furthermore this show may turn out to be therapeutic for many of us.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"


January 16 2010 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if he'll dig in deeper and find out the truth about Katrina, that it was a terrorist attack. That's the story from Katrina worth telling. http://hurricanekatrinakaif.com

January 16 2010 at 7:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I recently re-activated my HBO subscription in anticipation of April's debut (it's a bit early, yes, but I didn't want to forget). This show is going to be so awesome. Thanks for the update, Joel.

January 15 2010 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David's comment
Joel Keller

They screened the pilot to the critics the night before the panel, and I enjoyed it a lot. It really matched the easygoing pace of NOLA, as well as showing all of the city's good and bad points.

January 15 2010 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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