2 Sentence Review: Treme and/or The Wire

April 25, 2010

Trying to explain (or, for that matter, even succinctly summarize) the myriad reasons why The Wire—one of the most, if not simply THE Most, critically lauded and acclaimed TV series in the history of, well, TV—is so damned richly deserving of every, single last comma and syllable ever committed to said veritable mountain of acclaim is, to put it mildly, a fool’s errand; so, fuck it … why even bother, right?

Instead (by way of circumstantial evidence, but also in the vein—pun intended, on every level—of “the first one’s free”), I will direct the attention of any indulgent reader(s?) who, having waded through the morass of the sentence/paragraph above, stuck it out and made the jump down to this sentence/paragraph to David Simon‘s latest effort (if, indeed, it is not at least a partial oxymoron—an “oxyhalfwit,” if you will—to characterize something so seemingly, impossibly effortless as an “effort”): Treme, which is also on HBO (that, in itself, almost always a good sign); which, much like The Wire, brilliantly evinces Simon’s exceptional and unique genius for capturing, caging, and displaying  (like some kind of post-modern, dripping-irony-like-a-Borgia-dagger-dripping-poison P.T. Barnum) for all to marvel at—in equal parts horror, disbelief, and delight—perfect, gemlike-in-their-cut-clarity-and-above-all-hardness, Honest-to-Gosh American stories (and, lest anyone, in that same context, reflexively invoke the thought of, say, Ken Burns, let me be clear: FUCK Ken Burns! That’s right, Ken; you heard me, you fuckingdocumentarian!); and which, conclusively (in my view), proves beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, Mr. Simon’s incomparable genius, regardless of the particular context in which that genius happens to be applied—whether, say, granting us glimpses of Simon’s uniquely vivid and vicious vision of cops ‘n’ crooks gettin’ got on the broken-crack-vial-littered streets of Ball Mer/Bawl-Mer/Ball-di-more (as in Homicide: Life on the Street or The Wire) or of the “legal speed”–popping, heads-fucked-by-too-many-cartoons-and-FPS-vidja-games-and-of-course-Apocalypse-Now-playing-24/7-in-their-heads-’n'-hearts U.S. First Recon Marines in Iraq (as in Generation: Kill) or of the Bizarro World, Hell-on-Earth-with-a-soundtrack-rightly-outa-Heaven version of “Ki sa se bon en Nouvu Olean, mon cher!” that is life, post-Katrina, in New Orleans—and, thus, CASE CLOSED!*

* And, just in case you, dear reader(s??), somehow forgot what it was that we were trying to prove here, in the first place: it is simply that David Simon is a genius among geniuses—the Mozart of serialized television, if you will—and you need to be watching, if you haven’t already watched, The Wire, Treme, and any other damned thing Mr. Simon decides to throw our way … got it now? Good. Enjoy!

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7 Responses to “ 2 Sentence Review: Treme and/or The Wire ”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by nonpretentious, Melissa Sachs. Melissa Sachs said: RT @nonpretentious: Read it: 2 Sentence Review: Treme on HBO http://bit.ly/2SR-Treme You may even know the author *cough cough* @j_lavalley [...]

  2. McNulty on April 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    That’s quite a sentence. Why did you have to bring Ken Burns into it though? (His jazz doc did suck though).

  3. Madison on April 25, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Ok, I’m convinced…I’ll give Treme a shot.

  4. MikeG on April 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Having the benefit of the first three episodes of Treme, the public, like many of the mainstream critics, can (and should) now be able to take a fair look at Treme. I think the allusion to Ken Burns is fair: Treme is historical fiction, the Wire never was. Thus, Treme won’t have anything resembling Hamsterdam (my favorite part of The Wire) nor is Treme going to be able to pick and choose its targets with as much ease as The Wire…for example, singling out the Media and the Hannibal Lecter syndrome a la Season 5. But, come on, that isn’t going to constrain the writing team from making some of the most important points about post-Katrina NOLA. Simon/Overmyer/Miller(RIP) really are the best of the best, I have high hopes…as long as they stick to the drama…the first three episodes certainly have moments where they hit you over the head with the message…By the way–where the hell is Ed Burns?

    And yeah, fuck Ken Burns. Indian killing hit an all-time high during the Civil War, as the Union army expanded West. Did Mr. Burns deal with it at all? Of course not. Or what about the numerous speeches condoning slavery which Lincoln made? What about the massive strikes which hit the northern industrial centers–they were mentioned, but, the underlying causes were disregarded. The Civil War was a poor-man’s war, directed by Capitalist interests on both sides. And Ken Burns made damn sure to pass over the class conflict at every opportunity.

  5. McNulty on April 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    @MikeG, your comment reminds me of this: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2003/04/22fellowship.html

    I can’t believe how much these Hollywood fascists gloss over the inherent class struggle in everything.

  6. J.C. LaValley on April 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I, too, have wondered about the lack (thus far) of any involvement on the part of Ed Burns in Treme. If anybody reading has any info on this (i.e., “Where’s Ed Burns??”), please don’t hesitate to chime in!

    And BTW, many thanks to everyone above for all the great comments!


  7. J.C. LaValley on June 4, 2010 at 1:46 am

    I know it’s been a while since the dialog above has been active, and in particular since the question regarding Ed Burns’s notable — and VERY noticeable (to long-time fans of the work of Simon & Burns, anyway) — absence from this show. Nonetheless, with the benefit of having seen several more episodes of Treme, I now have a hypothesis (barely…) on this issue.

    It’s simply this: In other Simon-Burns projects featuring the police (i.e., “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire”), the individual cops and detectives were always portrayed unflinchingly and — most DEFINITELY — “warts and all”! (Can anybody say “McNulty”??) BUT, in my view, at bottom (sometimes even at ROCK bottom…) those cops and detectives were always portrayed, above all, honestly … and with a truly amazing, incredibly rare (if not unique, in television) depth, texture, and richness of character. In other words, in those earlier shows, even at their “worst” moments, the police seemed — more than anything — exceedingly, often painfully … human.

    In Treme, on the other hand, we’ve seen, for the most part (albeit with some absolutely, scene-stealingly wonderful exceptions, such as David Morse’s brilliant if all-too-brief appearance as NOPD Lt. Terry Colson in s1e5, “Shame, Shame, Shame”), only the most loosely drawn sketches (caricatures, even, in most instances) of cops as mere thugs: brutal, corrupt, and ultimately, in all of these regards, standing starkly in contrast to the seemingly inexhaustible cadre of oh-so-richly and compellingly — if, often, pitifully, reprehensibly, or even, occasionally, downright repugnantly — drawn cop-characters from Simon’s earlier shows.

    And maybe … just MAYBE … Ed Burns (himself, notably, a former Baltimore police detective) wanted no part of a “cop show” like that (NOT that Treme should — or even could, really, based on what we’ve seen thus far — be mistaken for a mere “cop show”). Or, maybe he was just busy doing something else.

    In any case, I’d be remiss if I failed to point out that everything I have posited above, in this comment, is nothing more than my own from-the-hip speculations and impressions. I have undertaken, literally, neither jot nor tittle of research on this issue, and it is quite possible, if not in fact more likely than not, that I am waaaay off on some or all of my sketchy “thesis” and its underlying and/or corollary suppositions. So, if anyone has any contrary or confirmatory or even related information to explain or suggest why Ed Burns has not been involved in Treme, I would welcome its inclusion/presentation in this discussion space.

    Cheers & Namaste!

    All the best,

    Joe L.

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