One of the enduring themes of David Simon’s award-winning series The Wire is the idea of the quiet apocalypse and of a society that is drifting into terminal decline not because of war or disease or alien invasion but because of stupidity, selfishness and the fundamental short-sighted perversity of human nature. After an uneven attempt at tackling the War in Iraq with Generation Kill (2008), Treme sees Simon teaming up with fellow Wire alumnus Eric Overmyer to take another look at America’s inevitable end. However, unlike The Wire, there is nothing quiet about Treme’s apocalypse as the end of this particular world was caused by Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the New Orleans levees that flooded the city leaving thousands of New Orleans residents, dead, disenfranchised and scattered to the four corners of a nation that simply did not care about the destruction of one of its most historical and culturally vibrant cities. Treme is about the on-going attempts by the residents of New Orleans to rebuild their lives and their city. Treme is a story about community and returning home but, as you might expect from a series helmed by David Simon, the picture of community it paints is far from idyllic.
If I had to compare Treme to any other TV series of recent times, my choice would be to compare it to David Milch’s gritty western drama Deadwood in that both series are character-based dramas and both series are ultimately about the evolution of the community that these characters are a part of. However, while Milch’s series allowed the characters to dictate the action by effectively having them to walk out their door and interact with whoever happened to be walking past, Simon’s series is far more traditionally structured. Treme is built around a series of more or less discrete emotional communities composed of characters who interact chiefly with each other.