Across the Wire to Treme

moving on after the flood.

Wendell Pierce as Antoine Batiste on Treme.

On of the most fascinating things about David Simon’s already-fascinating new television series, Treme, is watching the actors from the widely-heralded show The Wire transition into their new roles. Or, a better way of saying this might be that I feel myself as a viewer making the transition from their old roles to their new ones.

Most directors and actors would try to make a clean break, to begin again with radically new personae. However, one brilliant decision made by Simon, along with Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, seems to have been to retain a number of the mannerisms of their much-beloved Wire characters, Detectives “Bunk” Moreland and Lester Freamon, at the start of the series and then slowly, almost imperceptibly, bring us into their new characters. At first, I thought I was watching “Bunk” and “Lester” in some strange spin-off. But soon, scene by scene, the old characters began to dissolve into these new, intriguing figures of the struggling trombonist and the Mardi Gras Injun chief returned to rebuild his crew.

This technique of starting where we left off and then slowly but surely making the characters new has made for an effective bridge from The Wire to Treme. For Simon and his actors had to know that their audience would be measuring the new series up against the old one. By giving us familiarity at first, the show succeeds, to my mind, in saying goodbye to The Wire and introducing a completely original set of characters, a different overarching dramatic sensibility for the series, and a new perspective that will yield insights about post-Katrina New Orleans.

Using a bit of the familiar to take us to a new place, Simon, Pierce, and Peters allow us to watch Treme on its own terms rather than as a watered-down remake of The Wire.

Final note: There’s a nice conversation about the show over at the American Prospect website.

Image: HBO.

1 thought on “Across the Wire to Treme

  1. Thanks! I really liked the Pierce and Peters characters on The Wire, so it’s good to know Simon’s bridging the efforts in a pleasing fashion. Just curious: I’ve been wondering about Treme. Are you watching it real time via HBO, or on DVD? – TL

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