Just as Season Three begins comes the announcement that there will be a Season Four, but that there might be fewer episodes, enough to close the story but not a full ten-or-more.
General critical response to Treme has always been good (Metacritic’s collating system places all three seasons in the “Universal acclaim” section), so perhaps I’m just sensitive, but I feel like the show doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Maybe I should just avoid Grantland. Last year, I complained about “The Frustrating Unlikeability of Treme” by Alex Pappademas on that site (the title says it all). I was surprised by that take; as I wrote at the time, “for me, it is likable above all else”. Now, Grantland hands the job of evaluating Treme to Andy Greenwald, who resorts to a little finagling in his second sentence, where he refers to “the rumbling second line of critics and naysayers who have high-stepped forward to wrinkle their brows and shake their heads at the inherent unlovableness” of the show. He links to one of that seemingly massive group of critics … click on the link, and you end up back at Pappademas’ piece from last season. Which explains why Metacritic sees a general consensus that Treme is very good, while Grantland now has two pieces disagreeing with that sentiment while trying to claim a huge rumble.
Which isn’t to say that Treme should be free of critical analysis. Jonathan Alexander, in a piece for the LA Review of Books that was reprinted on Salon, writes a detailed analysis that brings in Spike Lee’s terrific documentaries, When the Levees Broke and If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, adds a dollop of Walter Benjamin, discusses his personal reaction to the story as someone who grew up in the area, and argues that the real subject of Treme is aesthetics (“while ‘The Wire’ plays as aestheticized documentary, ‘Treme’ plays like a documentary about aesthetics”). Alexander seems to apologize at one point, saying “I don’t hate ‘Treme’”, but there’s nothing to apologize for. While Grantland attempt to create a negative meme around the notion of unlikeability, Alexander actually pays close attention to what happens on the series, and places it in a larger cultural context.
Meanwhile, I’m just a fanboy. I couldn’t disagree more with Grantland about the likability of Treme; I find it quite joyous on a regular basis. That it manages to convey that joy in the midst of a portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities lifts Treme to a level most shows never reach. Add the ever-present music and all the great food, and the endless list of great actors giving wonderful performances in well-written parts, and you’ll understand why I find Treme just as good now as I did at the end of last season, when I gave the show an A.