Absorbing “Treme”

It’s way too late on a school night for me to real­ly dig into every­thing I thought about while watch­ing David Simon’s lat­est opus, “Treme,” on HBO. What I have been col­lect­ing, how­ev­er, are oth­er peo­ples’ feel­ings about the show and I am pos­i­tive­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the response.

I’ll start with the obvi­ous. Lots of peo­ple hat­ed the show! For all sorts of rea­sons! Some of them deserved, some not so much! I’m sym­pa­thet­ic; I enjoyed ‘The Wire’ plen­ty, but only after my wife con­vinced me of its bril­liance and even then I har­bored some angst about the cult of David Simon. He’s arro­gant! Read this great post-mortem with the essen­tial Alan Sepin­wall and you’ll see what I mean.

There are more glib, enter­tain­ing respons­es to the show. I loved the Awl’s shout­ing match. It embod­ies my inter­nal dia­logue — yes, dia­logue — on the show almost too per­fect­ly to admit.

I adored David Raposa’s plea to recon­sid­er trou­bled aca­d­e­m­ic Creighton Bur­nette, even if I nev­er espe­cial­ly cared for his char­ac­ter, par­tic­u­lar­ly because, as a recov­er­ing aca­d­e­m­ic who labored in the lan­guage arts, I can under­stand his pas­sion for oth­ers to share his view, to see the city as he does, to expe­ri­ence it in the rich body of work that has been pro­duced in and about New Orleans.

The only con­clu­sion I can safe­ly draw from all of this is that I need to watch the entire series again, as soon as pos­si­ble, prob­a­bly between episodes of “Mad Men” and “Dead­liest Catch” or what­ev­er you watch in the sum­mer months that isn’t Step Broth­ers on on demand.

(It goes with­out say­ing that I’m one of those peo­ple who LUUURRVEES THE MUSICCCCCC. I lis­ten to it often via the Songs from Treme Tum­blr, which I run through trnt­bl here.)

The Future of Television

I work for a tele­vi­sion com­pa­ny. When I start­ed at Com­cast three years ago, I was real­ly in the dark about just how com­pet­i­tive tele­vi­sion and film would become. Sure, lots of peo­ple were beat­ing their chests, root­ing for Hulu like the G.E.-owned prod­uct was some kind of under­dog, but then Com­cast bought that. Aside from Net­flix’s efforts with stream­ing video — some­thing I love watch­ing on my HDTV via my Xbox 360 — there weren’t real­ly any oth­er com­pa­nies real­ly try­ing to make hay online.

How times have changed. Just as Com­cast jumped in the pool with Fan­cast Xfin­i­ty TV, so has every­one else. The basic con­cept was always sim­ple, but how do you get your tele­vi­sion to play nice with the Inter­net? There are pesky rights issues! That seems to be chang­ing, too. Now that com­pa­nies like Google and Apple are involved, you can bet that it’s going to be all out war and con­sumers may come out winners.

But is it too much noise? Let’s talk about music for just a sec­ond. Think back about, oh, two years. Remem­ber when every Tom, Dick, and Har­ry jumped into stream­ing music online. It was a ver­i­ta­ble bonan­za. The ser­vices may have been wonky and were like­ly incom­plete, but users could cob­ble togeth­er a pret­ty exten­sive online music library that as total­ly legit. Flash back to the present: effec­tive this week­end, the num­ber of full length free stream­ing on-demand music ser­vices will be zero.

Maybe it’ll be dif­fer­ent this time and we’ll all be liv­ing in a la carte utopia in just a year or two. It’s great that some of the big tech­nol­o­gy play­ers like Google and Apple are in the mix. You know them for their most prod­ucts, but it’s some­times easy to for­get that both of them have armies of lawyers who are try­ing to gain any toe­hold they can against the big cable providers. Ulti­mate­ly, it push­es every­one in the right direc­tion and we will all reap the benefits.

An Avalanche of Entertainment

It’s easy to under­stand why some peo­ple feel com­plete­ly over­whelmed by the enter­tain­ment options at their dis­pos­al. I do, too! When Net­flix and Xbox 360 paired up to stream Watch Instant­ly titles, I sud­den­ly found myself awash in on-demand options. Is it amaz­ing (and a much bet­ter expe­ri­ence than watch­ing on my com­put­er?) Absolute­ly. Do I feel like like I can’t pri­or­i­tize my enter­tain­ment options? Total­ly! All these options are a bless­ing and a curse to some­one who likes more than his fair share of movies. How do I know where to watch them?

Here’s what I’ve watched recent­ly and where:

  • For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall (Com­cast On Demand)
  • Man on Wire (Net­flix Watch Instant­ly on Xbox 360)
  • The Horse’s Mouth (Com­cast DV‑R)
  • Gomor­rah (actu­al movie theater)
  • Sal­vador (Net­flix DVD)

I’m look­ing for some­one to pull togeth­er all of the enter­tain­ment options I have so I can man­age them from a cen­tral hub. I want to be able to pri­or­i­tize my Net­flix queue by know­ing if some­thing will be avail­able on Turn­er Clas­sic Movies or not. I want to be prompt­ed to record or rent when I search IMDB.com. I know I’m not alone. Who does­n’t want to get the most out of their cable and Net­flix sub­scrip­tions? Isn’t stuff like this at the heart of the seman­tic web?

What’s Don Draper Doing?

It would be an under­state­ment to say I’ve been remiss in writ­ing about Mad Men this sea­son. The show con­tin­ues to bog­gle my mind and last night’s episode, “The Jet Set,” was no excep­tion. So while I’m still scratch­ing my head, let me sug­gest you read Alan Sepin­wal­l’s take over at What’s Alan Watching?

The hobo trope Alan teas­es out is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. The Bob Dylan ref­er­ence may be a lit­tle Young Indi­ana Jones, but we’ll see where it goes.The com­ments are worth check­ing out, too. Sev­er­al read­ers take issue with how “Sopranos‑y” it felt, and I can’t dis­agree. If that show had a weak­ness, it was those indul­gent, clunky flashback/dream sequences.

Some com­menters also feel that this episode was an homage to Felli­ni and Anto­nioni, which is plau­si­ble, but poor­ly exe­cut­ed. Don would’ve been repulsed at a “Sick Soul of the Bour­geoisie” par­ty, yet he felt seemed almost at home, even in the most awk­ward moments.

I’m still curi­ous to see how every­thing pans out in the final two episodes. I cringe at the prospect of this show tak­ing a turn for the bizarre at the last moment.

Save Sunday night for Mad Men

Mad Men is the sort of show that makes me wish more of my friends had cable and weren’t con­stant­ly play­ing catch up with Net­flix. I’ve real­ly liked sea­son two so far, main­ly for cre­ative, con­flict­ual pair­ings and, con­se­quent­ly, the unease that’s per­me­at­ed episodes one and two. As Don’s assailed at work and at home, it’s unclear who he’ll become to sur­vive. I can’t wait for tonight’s show!

(I should add that unlike last sea­son, Helen and I make sure to clear the cal­en­dar to watch Mad Men when it pre­mieres, unlike last sea­son which we watched almost entire­ly on-demand.)