Chatting up the first season of ‘Treme’

As “Treme” concluded its first season last night, my Variety colleague Jon Weisman and I were chatting about the how the show evolved from its pilot, where it goes from here and if comparisons to “The Wire” are fair.

Stu: So how would you evaluate the season?Treme01
Jon:  It was a big success for me. Not in a lifechanging way, but I was thoroughly entertained. I know there have been some complaints about plot and pacing, but I just found the world and almost all of its characters so enjoyable that I pretty much savored every minute. And there were some real highpoints, such as Melissa Leo’s final scenes. As long as Sonny and Annie don’t ever end up together, I’m cool. 
Stu: With “The Wire” as my favorite show of all time, my expectations were exceedingly high. And Simon and Overmyer mostly met them, but I can fully understand the sometimes lack of specific character arcs that bothered a few viewers. Like New Orleans itself, some characters didn’t seem to have much of a focus and were content just living in the day.
Davis really bothered me early on, but he sort of grew on me, but on the opposite end, would’ve like to see more of Antoine try to make something of himself in some manner. Wendell Pierce is such a great actor, almost feels he’s a bit wasted.Treme15
Jon: The way I see it, every character had an arc. Creighton, Davis, Sonny, Annie, Janette, LaDonna, Albert … they all are in very different places from where they started the show. I’m not seeing a lot of contentment when I think of anyone in that group. Davis, the happiest of the bunch, is still churning a ton inside, and in the end is forced back into a job he doesn’t want. Toni had the tangible arc of trying to solve Daymo’s disapperance, and by the end the emotional one of learning that the pursuit of Truth feels a lot different when it becomes your own personal tragedy. Even Antoine (Wendell Pierce) went from stiffing cab drivers to trying (not always with success) to become a more responsible person, while also reconnecting with LaDonna. Now, these arcs were played out at a certain pace — not every episode yielded a dramatic moment for every character — but I can’t think of another main character that didn’t have a real journey. And to me, that’s what made the flashback to the arrival of the hurricane have even more of an impact.
I liked that Simon didn’t need to rely on cliffhangers to make things interesting. Even Creighton’s suicide, which would have been a cliffhanger on most TV shows — on “Treme,” you pretty much knew you were seeing an end, and that the next episode would bring the mourning.
Davis grew on me too. He’d be too much for me to handle in real life, but I do feel he matured some, and there’s something sweet about him and Annie, even if they’re not meant to be a couple in the long run, either.  I’m betting Antoine gets some meatier stuff in season two.  
Stu: This is only a minor complaint, but a handful of characters don’t seem to have much ambition, and that bothers me a bit. Annie is someone I want to really like — she seems smart, cute and talented — but it seems she can’t envision much of a life for herself off the streets, and her confidence seems to wane. And when she gives Sonny the time of day after he’s caught sleeping with someone else, I want her to run, not walk, away from the situation. Makes sense that she ends up on Davis’s doorstep.Treme33
Also, I think LaDonna will come back in a big way next season, hopefully putting the grief behind her. Seems like there’s lots of problems in her personal life that hasn’t been explored yet. If she’s willing to sleep with Antoine on Mardi Gras day, while her husband seems to be supportive of all she’s doing, her problems probably run deep.
I guess Creighton’s suicide is explanation why John Goodman was never listed as a series regular. While most or all suicides are a huge overreaction to a situation, his depression was so deep he couldn’t bear to be around daughter Sophie and wife Toni, despite their immense affection for him. The overflowing Mississippi literally swallowed him up when the levees broke.
Jon: I think Annie’s young – I think she has ambition and a vision, but it’s her lack of self-confidence that sometimes hinders her. She’s already learned, after some fits and starts, to get away from the bad guy, and hopefully for her sake she’ll become more assertive. I agree with you about LaDonna – now that she’s resolved the Daymo situation, her life has lots of interesting potential. Sonny is certainly unlikable at this point, but I have to disagree a bit with our colleague Brian Lowry at BLTV: I’m really eager for season two. And just think if the show stays on long enough for Simon to take on British Petroleum …

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