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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Monday
Apr192010

« In Which It’s New Orleans, Dude, The Cops Never Come »

Treme K'Em Say Uhh!

by MOLLY LAMBERT

Treme

creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer

More and more I find that plot doesn't matter tremendously to me. Sure I like a good narrative but there's nothing I hate more than a bad one that ruins the flow of a show or movie by shoehorning in set pieces and characters and twists I don't care about that are deemed necessary to moving the plot along. In that sense, Treme is refreshing. Especially after the overplotted mess that was this last season of Big Love

Sure it's corny and the music is corny and Bourbon Street itself is the corniest place ever, but sometimes the corniest things are also the funnest. I bet Mardi Gras is fun as fuck! And all that said, it doesn't touch the corniness of How To Make It In America or Bored To Death, both of which expend tons of energy in a useless quest to seem cool.

Have you ever spent a few months to a year waiting for something to happen? And maybe nothing does but a bunch of bullshit filled up the time anyway? That's what Treme is about. The thing it most reminds me of is Robert Altman's Nashville, which also has a thousand characters and takes a similarly leisurely pace with them. 

I spent a summer in New Orleans once as a kid with my family when my mom worked on an Eric Roberts vampire movie. It is basically impossible not to fall completely in love with New Orleans. It's totally cool and weird and spooky and charming and the people are great and it's the birthplace and home of Weezy F. Baby.

Oyster po'boys and beignets and basically all the food in New Orleans is fucking delicious and zydeco always reminds me fondly of norteño. Maybe I just have a higher tolerance for accordions than most people. I do love both Nils Lofgren and Weird Al.

Treme tries to make up to Louisiana all the damage True Blood has done. Nobody's accent made me shudder the way everybody on True Blood's does, although Steve Zahn's WWOZ DJ character produces completely accurate douchechills every time he opens his mouth, especially when he tries to talk about music and authenticity.

Elvis Costello needs to retire from doing cameos, right now. Talk about spending your street cred. That guy spent the last of that shit when he married Diana Krall

All the performances are great, but Khandi Alexander as Ladonna Batiste-Williams is my favorite. John Goodman is great as always, playing a character based on Ashley Morris. Wendell Pierce basically just plays Bunk as a trombone player. Just when you think nothing's ever going to happen, somebody gets the shit beat out of them.

Steve Zahn is the most accurate representation ever of a poseur. Sometimes one accessory or physical attribute will just define a character completely, and for Steve Zahn's character, it is a fucking disgusting little soul patch. Of all the stoner goofs this hardworking character actor goof has ever goofed, this is surely the jazziest. 

My favorite morning drivetime DJs Trent and Hatch on WFMU discussed whether it was possible to portray jazz musicians in a way that is "cool" ever. One of the biggest hazards of depicting cool subcultures is that you will make them totally uncool with your reverent depiction. This is why so many writers have fallen into the trap of writing terrible novels about rock bands, and why I'm Not There is the worst movie of all time.

“It’s easy to get it terribly wrong, and terribly hard to get it right. This won’t be ‘The Wire’ with a better soundtrack. It’s a completely different animal.” David Simon

It's not The Wire. it's a lateral step. It's not the difference between Deadwood and John From Cincinnati. The soundtrack is so far worse than The Wire's, even with the constant focus on music. As a music snob's music snob I'll just say that many of the soundtrack picks so far struck me as too obvious and more indicative of David Simon's Prius's iPod than anything else although both shows share a music supervisor.

So yes, Treme is the second best show about the American South that has aired on HBO in the last year. The best obviously being Eastbound & Down. Treme already got picked up for a second season. Honestly I don't care if anything ever happens plotwise. Sometimes you just want to chill and eavesdrop on some well acted characters in an interesting place. I would like to be a Mardi Gras Indian Chief. That is all. 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is on twitter and tumblr.

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"Love and Hate" - Blitzen Trapper (mp3)

"Heaven and Earth" - Blitzen Trapper (mp3)

"Dragon's Song" - Blitzen Trapper (mp3)

MISSIN U ALWAYS OMAR LITTLE


Reader Comments (12)

Yeah, at first I wondered why Steve Zahn was listening to a 4-year-old Mystikal song, then I realized he's not really supposed to be cool.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentere

That, and the fact the the show takes place four and a half years ago.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA

That second-to-last photo needs to accompany every David Simon profile from now on.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkeith

I don't think I've ever been prouder of a post title then I am of this "Treme K'Em Say Uhh!"

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

and here's Davis Rogan, the real dude that Steve Zahn's character is based off of:

http://mollylambert.tumblr.com/post/534672870/davis-rogan-the-real-guy-steve-zahns-character

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

I watched most of the pilot til the bootleg streaming thing cut me off at the 78 minute mark. The part where Steve Zahn starts playing Professor Longhair on the piano and then stops to kind of twirl and light a joint really did make me cringe. He might as well of followed it with showing us his tits from a parade float and then suddenly turned into Aaron Neville. His character is a buffet of cliche of exactly the type of nerd trash that one imagines finds themselves in New Orleans, a deposed programming director of a college station who has lingered on for a half dozen years. And because of that douche-chill inducing awfulness, it makes him the realist thing on the show to me.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDr. J Hopz

treme k'em say uhh. totally classic

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermj

Loved the piece but the <I>I'm Not There</I> link(s) lead to a login page; hoped to actually read something.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatos W.K.

sorry bout that Matos, some of older stuff that got moved over from the wordpress archives is in weird flux. fixing them as we find them, I'll post the new (old) link shortly:

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

YOU are Davis McAlary

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertruth

totally true that I am DJ Steve Zahn except I would NEVER grow a soul patch, even if I could.

here's the link to Andrew Zornoza's excellent I'm Not There review:

http://thisrecording.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/in-which-heath-ledger-and-cate-blanchett-and-richard-gere-are-interchangeable-but-why-didnt-heath-play-the-gay-cowboy-in-this-one/

April 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterMolly

Thanks!

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatos W.K.

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