Thursday, December 19, 2013

The "show about New Orleans for New Orleanians" that isn't actually for New Orleanians

Some of you, for whatever reason, may still actually think about the show Treme from time to time.  It's almost over now.  This means people will be slightly more likely to talk about it for a while.

Here's a short post by Brian Moore which touches on the, by now, familiar criticisms of the show; its slow pacing, its lack of a compelling narrative arc, its overwrought NOLAier-than-thou scenesterism. But this passage, I think, contains the most important point.

The final line of defense is it’s a show about New Orleans, for New Orleanians. There are all sorts of problems with that – since when is parochialism a virtue? – but based on the anecdotal evidence I see on New Orleans social media, it’s my guess Treme‘s not as popular in The Big Easy as some assume it to be. Stack it up against a Saints game and its local ratings would plummet to zero. Around 29 million households in the United States pay for HBO; with disposable income being limited in New Orleans and with all the complaints about a local “digital divide,” here’s doubting many of them are clustered in Orleans Parish. If the show is Simon’s gift to the city, then there’s a certain lack of gratitude.
Treme is not a show "for New Orleanians." It is a show for a very specific upper middle class slice of premium cable subscribers who harbor a romanticized fetish for non-threateningly exotic American vacation spots. 

Anyway Moore's post sparked a long-ish Twitter discussion the other day which caused me to go back and dig up my review of the pilot.  When I posted that a bunch of pissed off people told me to "trust the storyteller" and give the genius time to unravel his narrative or whatever.  But looking back, there's nothing in that post that isn't still true today. 

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