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April 20, 2014

Taking Back the 'Treme' Love

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jul 6th 2010 2:00AM
I think of myself as a writer who happens to specialize in TV, but I wouldn't say that I'm a TV critic. The way I wound up writing about TV is somewhat circuitous and accidental, but make no mistake, I do love my topic. But when people talk about TV critics, I don't tend to include myself in that group, which is why I have to apologize for something. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about 'Treme', the HBO show from David Simon of 'The Wire' and I went on and on about how awesome it is. I based this off the three episodes that had aired at the time.

I have to take it back. Guys, I don't like 'Treme'. If I'm honest with myself, I didn't really like the first three episodes that much either. I wanted to like it so much that I let that blind me to what I was actually watching. To whit, a slow, lumbering story that seems to purposefully turn away from the dramatic elements of its location and time in favor of navel gazing and long musical interludes. Even now, having decided to rip 'Treme' a new one in this column, I am reluctant to come out and say what I really think, but here goes: 'Treme' is boring.

I think this happens to critics sometimes -- of TV, movies, books, what-have-you -- where the pedigree of the people involved in a given project makes you assume greatness even when there's no evidence of it. I remember being the lone voice of dissent when Aaron Sorkin's 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' debuted. My colleagues all thought it was going to be the next 'West Wing', but I kept pointing over at '30 Rock' -- which debuted the same season -- and saying "but this show is better. And it's funny." It's not that I had some insight my fellow writers lacked, I just didn't have a love-on for Sorkin like everyone else. I'd been girl-crushing on Tina Fey instead.

Of course it happens to us as viewers, too. My best girl friend started up with 'Fringe' when it debuted, purely out of love for J.J. Abrams. Surely the man who brought her so many hours of pleasure in the form of 'Alias' and 'Lost' knew what he was doing. Visiting her one evening, she suggested we watch an episode she had PVR'ed. She cringed through the entire thing, apologizing to me for making me watch such "garbage". She explained that she knew it stunk, but she kept hoping it would get better.

I've been doing that myself with the summer series 'The Good Guys'. I watched the pilot out of professional interest, and keep stumbling back on it. I want to like it since I have a fondness for Colin Hanks (it was his performance in 'Orange County'), but the show is riddled with problems. Trashing 'The Good Guys' or 'Fringe' is no big deal, though. It's not like they win awards or get written up in The New York Times or anything.

And since I've come this far, I may as well admit a few more blasphemies. I didn't like 'The Sopranos', 'The West Wing', 'Sports Night', 'Big Love' or 'Angel.' I hated David Cross on 'Arrested Development'. As much as I loved the show, a little piece of my heart was held in reserve because of Tobias Funke. But these are not things I brag about, you understand, they're more like dirty little secrets. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent young woman, and I'm pretty sure that if I don't like 'The Sopranos' it must be because I don't get it. And if I don't get it, I must be stupid. Such is the force of the critical praise that been lobbed in the show's direction -- the show can't be wrong, it must be me.

Which is why I felt the need to apologize about my 'Treme' thumbs up. Adding to the collective oohs and ahhs over the show, I may have inadvertently made someone out there feel dumb for not liking it, which is not only not nice, it's not my job. I'm just a writer, not a TV critic.

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segsig

I wanted to give you a smidge of credit for not jumping on the "The Good Guys" bandwagon, but you missed the fact that there was a bandwagon! Wow, that show had every critic going gaga...the number of times it was written about glowingly on tvsquad alone was ridiculous.
So, no credit for that and poor judgement/taste for not liking Treme and Studio 60 (nevermind AD and WW).

July 06 2010 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan

You lost all credibility the moment you said "I didn't like The Sopranos"...plus, you didn't like The West Wing or Sports Night or Studio 60, which are all brilliant shows with detailed plots and characters with depth, like Treme. Sounds like you simply cannot handle a program that requires you to think.

Maybe you should stick to Oprah, The Bachelor and the rest of that mindless crap that pollutes television these days and leave the reviewing of intelligent television to those who can actually sit through an hour of a show.

If someone said "this reviewer has the same reviews for The Sopranos, Studio 60, Treme and The West Wing...they are all bad" is there a single reviewer in the business who wouldn't just fall over laughing? You're like the Armond White of TV Critics!

July 06 2010 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan's comment
malren

Funny, I also disliked The Sopranos post Season 3, Studio 60, The West Wing, Sports Night and Treme. And yet I also hate 99% of most reality shows and haven't ever watched an episode of Oprah.

Funny how that works.

Long, plodding, poorly-written or "trying too hard" never works for me. West Wing tried too way, WAY hard. Sopranos went off the rails when they paid Chase to extend it past his original vision. Treme is both poorly paced AND sometimes very poorly written.

You want a slow burn that works really, really well? Try Justified. It feels like an action show even though 95% of the time they're just standing there talking, and talking slowly at that.

As for Fringe? Hey Stephanie? You may want to tell your friend to try again, because I swear I felt the same way but I *did* stick with it and it got really, really good.

July 06 2010 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stevie

Fringe is so much better than Alias or Lost it's not even funny.
That said, kudos to you for acknowledging the "I wanted to like it so much that I let that blind me to what I was actually watching" phenomenon. it happens to all of us, but only the best of us ever admit to it.

July 06 2010 at 11:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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