This is going to a short review of Treme’s sixth episode, "Shallow Water, Oh Mama," because nothing much happened.
It has been a trend so far on Treme to bring on a local NOLA writer to do the episode’s teleplay. Last week’s "Shame, Shame, Shame" was written by Lolis Eric Elie who, amidst many other accomplishments, is a food writer and so we see lots of delicious restaurant scenes. This week on "Shallow Water," Tom Piazza shares the writing work with David Simon and Eric Overmyer and is credited with the teleplay. Piazza, like Elie, had no television writing experience. Bringing in local writing talent is adding authenticity, but there might be a problem, Houston.
Is Treme losing narrative pacing in its endeavor for authenticity?
I love the music, the locale, the characterizations (mostly), but I do not love these stories. These are stories of paralysis; for the most part, they are proving to be shallow stories, oh mama, and frankly it doesn’t make for great television. In other words, Treme is becoming more like the "Zzzzz" train to me.
I don’t need Smoke Monsters in all my television shows; I am perfectly happy to spend quiet time with an unhappy Annie and her cafe au lait and beignet in the Cafe du Monde, but it can’t all be like that. Depressed people — “ain’t we all,” commiserates Antoine — should be cared about and cared for, but a general despondency does not make for exciting storytelling. It may be authentic; it may be real, and viewers were warned, don’t come to Treme looking for The Wire. Fair enough, but we should be able to come to Treme expecting compelling television. Now, more than halfway through the first season’s ten episodes, the characters’ immobility is less than compelling.
"Shallow Water, Oh Mama" is a Mardi Gras Indian chant. It briefly appeared at the end of episode two with only Big Chief Albert and George in attendance at practice. This time around, more people show for Albert's practice, and New Orleans seems in early physical restoration: the Musicians' Clinic, Big Chief’s bar, the Bernettes’ lovely front porch, the Carnivale Ball, and the Krewe du Vieux parade, but the characters stall in their individual journeys toward restoration and renewal.
Crey Bernette complains that he has moved from “serious novelist to cartoon” but we haven’t seen any of that. We’ve only seen the cartoon.
Delmond (Rob Brown, above) has been a cipher so far. The character’s story is in tension between the traditional and the progressive, between the world of his father, Big Chief Albert, and the world of New York City jazz, but the actor’s immobile face does not indicate any of this conflict. Or if it does, it may be too deep in the shadows to see. More complaints on this to follow.