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Don't Have The Beat, Part 2

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Then there's a more realistic problem--- none of the characters on this series had the depth than even the third-string characters did on The Wire. This is a harder pill to swallow, because all of the actors on the show are top-notch, but none of them have been given anything resembling a personality. And because of this, their successes and failures don't resonate the way that did on Simon's other series. When Desautel's restaurant failed in Season 1 and she had to leave New Orleans for New York, we felt bad. When she seemed to be gaining traction there we rooted for her... but then her character returned to New Orleans to open another restaurant with different backing. Now maybe it's because I don't understand the art of being a sous chef, but I never found this kind of drama compelling. When her character that was given grief with the restaurant owners about her cuisine, it just seemed like Simon was showing how nothing changes, but he showed that far more effectively on The Wire.
Perhaps that is the more prevalent problem with the series--- it suffers from what might be called Simon fatigue. It would probably have been asking to much for him to do a show a little lighter in tone, but both of his previous series were often raucously funny despite the sadness of the situation. There is no such sense of relief here. There are laughs, but they seem more like forced ones, particularly when it involves Davis, the musician who seems to every episode, find more and more ways to fail at music, until he finally gets some success--- by quitting, and then becoming a Youtube success with his 'f-you' number. In the final season, even that success seems unable to last. But we never feel invested in this, because Simon's and his fellow writers never seemed to be able to give us any reason to feel invested in this--- Davis seems no more real than any of the other characters we've seen in lots of other movies and series. He just seems like a cliché--- which is something almost unheard of in a David Simon series.
Now, maybe you're thinking that just because you know nothing about jazz and music in New Orleans, I've got a built in prejudice against this. Well, I knew nothing about the Baltimore shipyards or their primary school system, and they managed to make those storylines sing on The Wire. Maybe it's because, even though many writers from that show here, Ed Burns or Tom Fontana aren't, and they managed to make the most regional conflicts seem universal. New Orleans is a city with a racial make up not that different from Baltimore, but it seems simultaneously foreign and too American., compared to the worlds we've previously visited. The justice system seems to be even worse than the one in Baltimore, but that point was made early on. Simon doesn't have to keep hammering it home, episode after episode. The characters in Treme seem to suffer even more than the ones in The Wire, but it never seems to have the same resonance, because we don't feel as connected.
Treme has its heart in the right place, but it's always felt like the equivalent of castor oil--- you know it's good for you, but it's hard to take. Maybe that's why so many of the same critics who loved his earlier work never could get behind this series the way they could the others. Maybe that's the same reason I'm not going to miss it as much as I will Homicide or The Wire. It's got a great beat, and the people can dance to it--- I'm just not sure why.


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