Opinion Brief

'Treme': TV's instant classic?

Critics are fawning over David Simon's new series about New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. What makes it so great?

After only one episode, Treme — a new HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans — was renewed for a second season. The show was created by David Simon, whose drama The Wire regularly tops critics' lists of the best TV shows of all time. But if the tone of early reviews — the second episode aired over the weekend — are any indication, Treme could someday be vying with The Wire for that title. Here's a sampling of what critics love about Simon's new show:

It's unique:  Treme is unlike "any fiction series I've ever seen made for TV, HBO included," marvels James Poniewozik in Time. Fans of The Wire will not find much common ground here. "Sprawling," with a "loose, sometimes leisurely narrative style," it's more like a "fictionalized documentary" than a drama series. But that makes it "transcendent and hypnotizing in a way few TV series are."

It keeps on getting better: Expectations were high after the first episode of  Treme, says The Montreal Gazette. But if anything, it gets even better in the second episode. The "characters are more sharply focused" and the "series' grander themes more clear." While it may not suit those who like their TV to be an escape, it is "entertainment with a heart and soul and a conscience."

(Video: Take an inside look at "Treme")

It has great music: "For jazz fans, Treme is momentous," says Rachael Brown in The Atlantic. The ever-present music is both "scenic expression" and "narrative element." And unlike other filmmakers, Simon "gives music ample time to play itself out," says Julian Sancton in Vanity Fair, for example when he films a montage to the entirety of Louis Prima's Buona Sera. Even in Ken Burns' 10 hour-documentary about jazz, "only one song plays all the way through." This show did it in the first episode.

It captures New Orleans in its post-Katrina moment: Treme tells us little about New Orleans that we don't know already, says Karen Dalton Beninato in NewOrleans.com. "But finally someone is repeating our litany to the world." The plot lines seemed ripped "straight from our daily life — waiting for an insurance settlement that never comes through, waterlines, searching through a moldy home." My overwhelming feeling was relief. "Thank god someone is listening."

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