spring awakening


Nadir Hassan April 24, 2010

David Simon may have created what was arguably the greatest TV series of all time with ‘The Wire’, but even that isn’t enough to excuse his pomposity. When congratulated on producing a show that was Shakespearean in its thematic scope, Simon would get miffed and, without a trace of irony, explain that ‘The Wire’ was far more ambitious than that.

His goal, he said, was to take the Greek tragedy further than it had ever gone before. Simon’s new series, ‘Treme’, is neither Shakespearean nor Homeric. If anything, his primary influence seems to be the desire to create the Great American TV Show. Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, ‘Treme’ follows a group of musicians as they set up about rebuilding their lives. To reduce ‘Treme’ to yet another show about hope triumphing over adversity would do Simon a great disservice.

Just as ‘The Wire’ was far more than a cops and robbers show, ‘Treme’ wants to slowly unweave the cultural and linguistic tapestry of New Orleans. The cast, stuffed as it is with ‘The Wire’ alumni like Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters with the notable additions of John Goodman and Steve Zahn, is top-notch. Pierce, as a trombonist rebuilding his career, stands out in this fine ensemble cast. Over the course of five seasons, ‘The Wire’ took apart the institutional failures that made Baltimore a city of stagnation.

‘Treme’ assumes the same level of incompetence is present in the New Orleans government but this time Simon is more concerned with how people can create art even in the most trying of times. Where David Simon holds the collective to be far more important than the individual, ‘Breaking Bad’ creator Vince Gilligan focuses like a laser on character, in particular that of Walter White, chemistry teacher and metaamphetamine dealer. As the third season of ‘Breaking Bad’ gets underway this spring, White’s drug dealing has caused a plane crash, his secret life is on the verge of being exposed and his partner is seeking New Agey rehab.

In an era of great television performances – Jon Hamm in ‘Mad Men’, Hugh Laurie in ‘House’ and James Gandolfini in ‘The Sopranos’ – Bryan Cranston has produced the finest piece of acting in a long time. In previous seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’, Cranston had to show the ingenuity required to live a double life. Now he will have to produce the pain of that life being revealed. Meanwhile, the kids of New Directions at William McKinley High School in ‘Glee’ universe expect their lives to change dramatically after winning the sectionals. Not so I’m afraid; they’re still losers in the hallways and losers in love.

]After a near four-month hiatus, the choir returns to gear up for the regionals which means they’ll be pelting out tunes about heartbreak and more heartbreak (remind yourselves how awful high school was and you’ll be less annoyed at some of the hammy performances). Expect to have seen some awesomeness with the Power of Madonna episode and a stellar guest appearance list.

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