I am a massive David Simon fan. His two books, HOMICIDE and THE CORNER, are absolute perfect non-fiction. THE CORNER was also an amazing mini-series and I am completely obsessed with THE WIRE. I also think GENERATION KILL was amazing and demonstrated David Simon’s and Ed Burns’ amazing ear for language and its many nuances, whether it’s the language of the street, police, drug dealers, classroom, politics or The Marines.
It is too early to compare THE WIRE to TREME as THE WIRE is a complete series and TREME is really still in it’s infancy. But TREME is an evolution of THE WIRE and the absolute total genius of that show is advanced in TREME. The element that I think separates the two shows from all other television drama is David Simon’s unbridled love and passion for the two cities which are the central characters of both shows. I remember reading criticisms of David Simon that THE WIRE portrayed Baltimore in a negative light (Baltimore’s former Mayor and Governor of Maryland among them). Yes, THE WIRE shows the city of Baltimore warts and all but it is not an attack on the city and it’s people. It is an attack on institutionalism. There is an underlying love of the city that permeates throughout all of the five seasons of the show. I was lucky enough to visit Washington DC for a book conference 4 years ago and was determined to visit Baltimore purely because THE WIRE had instilled in me a passion for this city I had otherwise never heard of.
TREME is the same. Once again a glorious city’s existence is threatened. Not by drugs or crime, not by a hurricane or flooding but by systemic institutionalism. Spike Lee’s two documentaries on Katrina, WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE and IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE, were compelling and informative about the disaster that occurred in New Orleans and the aftermath but David Simon’s TREME made me realize the true importance of the city in people’s lives, no matter how much of a struggle those lives are. Just as he did with Baltimore and THE WIRE.
TREME is again a television series that challenges it’s viewers but I would rather watch a TV show that challenges me than one that spoon feeds me every plot point and tells me when I should laugh. It is also a perfect dichotomy; it is an indictment on all the things that are wrong with 21st century, western civilization and it is a celebration of urban life and the human spirit in the 21st century. A very hard and ambitious thing to pull off and what is more amazing is that David Simon has done it twice.
Season 1 of TREME is out now on DVD http://www.pagesandpages.com.au/product_info.php?cPath=2819_2864&products_id=56283