A love letter to one of America’s cultural cornerstones, Treme is one of David Simon’s most optimistic works – and a terrific pilot, to boot.
As far as sitcoms go, Newsradio is a diamond in the rough. Despite a not-so-unique workplace setting, the show successfully combines wit and physical comedy, without ever feeling dull or predictable. It has the kind of quick, self-sustaining energy that we love about sitcoms, and it all began with the pilot episode.
Treme finished its four season run this week with “… To Miss New Orleans”, an appropriately reflective and celebratory hour. Unlike last year’s potential series finale, “Tipitina”, this episode focuses on each character’s journey not to a specific place, but forward in their life. Surprisingly, and happily, this episode leaves each character in a good place. Not everyone winds up in New Orleans, but they’ve all made positive motion in their lives and are surrounded by people who understand and support them. Davis has a responsible job he’s good at, but still finds time to still write a new Godzilla vs. MLK single. Antoine may still be fooling around on Mardi Gras, but he’s involved in his sons lives for the first time in the entire series. Terry and Annie leave town, but Terry gets to be with his children and Annie continues to blossom as an artist. Everyone gets a win in some way or another this week and this fond, perhaps overly sunny farewell is more than most viewers will have hoped for.
Treme is a bit of an odd one this week, with “This City” delivering affecting, heart-breaking news to several of its characters while simultaneously featuring quite a bit of what a non-fan might call filler. That’s a bit too hard of a knock for this reviewer, so let’s just call the episode problematically-paced. We open with Albert, who finds out his cancer is back after he’s been in remission for all of one episode. It’s a strange narrative choice. Why the quick turnaround? In “Tipitina”, the fantastic season three finale, he’s sick and starting chemo. In last week’s season four premiere, he’s in remission, and this week, he’s not only relapsed, he’s decided against continuing his treatment. The constraints of only having five episodes for the final season are clearly showing here and one can’t help wondering why the writers chose to pick up where they did with Albert. It’s a bit frustrating- Treme has always been a show to take its time and savor the details of the small moments that lead to the big ones rather than skipping ahead to the dramatic payoffs.
Treme returns this week in glorious fashion, kicking of its final mini-season with “Yes We Can Can”. With more shows being produced with each passing year and a current frustrating sameness to much of this fall’s programming, it’s wonderful to get to spend even a few more weeks in this unique world. From the characters to the music to the cinematography, this is a show that feels like no other and just hearing the theme song makes any fan of the show feel instantly at ease, welcomed back to the colorful, inspiring, and occasionally harsh world of Treme.