If you haven't been watching "Treme," you should start. Get in at ground zero where it's all starting so you don't later have to play catch-up across multiple seasons. With the show, creator David Simon is positioning himself to measure up to, and possibly even surpass, the exceedingly excellent work of storytelling that was HBO's "The Wire."
The fourth episode aired last night, and in it we saw beleaguered trombone player Antoine Batiste struggling with troubles that began last week, after an accidental run-in with the New Orleans police department. Wendell Pierce, who plays Batiste, is a veteran of Simon's "The Wire"-- he played the crass, frequently drunk homicide detective Bunk Moreland. In an interview with MTV, Pierce said that he's looking forward to putting to rest some of the preconceptions outsiders have about the city he calls home.
"You're definitely going to see how we experience festivals, the big events," he said. "I think more importantly, we're going to dispel the idea of what these events are and the way they've been portrayed. You're going to see it through the lives of the characters and you're going to see it in the way that people celebrate it and actually interact in it."
The first thing that comes to most people's minds when New Orleans comes up is Mardi Gras. "Hollywood hasn't been helpful with that; if I see another movie where everyone has Cajun accents and some guy in a jester hat is dancing behind a window, I'll go crazy," Pierce said. "People come here and... then they're pleasantly surprised to see how Mardi Gras is a family affair. ... [It's] not just 'Girls Gone Wild.' It's also the biggest block party in the world, where people get to meet their neighbors and celebrate with their neighbors... on an annual basis."
There's a big difference in that first year after Katrina. The hurricane was in August 2005 and the festival kicked off in February 2006. Not nearly enough time in terms of how the recovery proceeded. "We're going to keep the chronology," Pierce explained. "There's the significance of that first Mardi Gras and what that meant for people: where there was light and where there wasn't, the debate of whether we should have it or not. So there's something that was very unique to the time and place of when it's happening. Of course, with David Simon, nothing is incidental. There's always complexity to it."
Now that "Treme" has been renewed for a second season, there is also the question of what fans can expect moving forward. "The Wire" followed a very specific through each individual season and across the five all together. "Treme" is structured a bit differently.
"I don't know if he has the book in mind like he had for 'The Wire,'" Pierce admitted. "I know that we will follow the recovery of New Orleans exactly in the chronology of what's happened, and he will mine that. That week, that was the beginning of the disaster. It helps that we're a few years ahead [so] we as New Orleanians can reflect on where we've been to understand where we are now."
"This [season] is three months after. When we come back [for the second season] I don't know how much further it will be," he continued. "It would be great to go to five years and come to this moment of renaissance that's happening right now. At least get to... the Saints winning the Super Bowl."
Maybe even develop a subplot in which a noted filmmaker comes to the city to shoot his new TV series for a noted cable TV channel? "That would be cool." Pierce chuckled. "And Antoine Batiste is asked to consult on it and play on it."