Alston, Joshua, Newsweek
Byline: Joshua Alston
If god is indeed in the details, then David Simon will someday make a most promising candidate for beatification. Simon has already come as close to living sainthood as a keyboard can get you. With The Wire, he created a dystopian simulacrum of Baltimore so sprawling and ambitious that it's often (and justifiably) called the best television show ever made. His affinity for obsessively researched detail and his authenticity-uber-alles ethos stem from his abiding love of journalism--before TV, he was a reporter at The Baltimore Sun--which is all about respecting people's stories enough to get them right. Treme, Simon's latest drama, is proof that you can get everything just right, and still not get it quite right.
Treme fits neatly into the Simonian tradition. This time, his microcosm of choice is post-Katrina New Orleans, which has become the civics nerd's favorite fishbowl since all the water drained out of it. The themes are familiar: urban decay, the failure of elected officials to serve their constituencies, the complex truths behind societal ills, all of which incorporate some kind of African-American suffering. Treme isn't a bayou facsimile of The Wire--it's not as overtly political, for one--but it is another lengthy, heavily footnoted love letter to an American city. The actors are just the supporting cast. New Orleans is the main character, and capturing its authentic essence is Treme's chief ambition.
Authenticity has become the linchpin of Simon's work. …