'Treme' Season Two Premiere: More Bourdain, Less Editorializing

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The second season of David Simon's Treme premiered on HBO last night with a retooled theme song, a high-profile new writer joining the staff, and an increased focus on supporting characters like Lt. Colson, the weary police officer played by David Morse. But for fans of Simon's Baltimore crooks-and-cops milestone The Wire, there's still hopes that his his look at post-Katrina New Orleans will get, you know, entertaining. Here are the reactions to last night's debut

The good

  • Last night's opening didn't offer much in the way of action, but that was alright with Hit Fix's Alan Sepinwall. He notes a leisurely pace to start seasons is common "for both a David Simon show in general and this show in particular." Early episodes are "all about catching up with where everyone is seven months later, and getting to know the new guys, and laying some of the groundwork for what this year will be about."
  • At The A.V. Club, Keith Phipps was impressed with the level of realism new staff writer Anthony Bourdain injected into scene of the displaced Janette (played by Kim Dickens, pictured) struggling to make it in a celebrity's chef's New York kitchen. Bourdain clearly knows the terrain, and Janette's exile was "realize[d] much more fully" than other plot threads involving characters making new lives in other cities.
  • Television Without Pity's Mindy Monez agreed with Phipps that Bourdain's hiring should punch up the show's depiction of the food scene in New Orleans and beyond. "That hilariously evil chef Janette is working for is more entertaining than the entire cumulative first season," says Monez. "Could Janette actually be... entertaining this season? It finally seems possible."

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The bad

  • The premiere was at its weakest, writes Salon's Matt Zoller Seitz, when Simon indulged in "relentless New Orleans boosterism" and wallowed in "atmospheric and historical details [that] often feel too much like evidence that the writing staff did its research and is hell-bent on proving it." In particular, Simon also fed his weakness for allowing characters to "segue into editorial page rants," sacrificing their voices for a sanctimonious, bulldozing, I-will-brook-no-argument tone... poised somewhere between a crusading newspaper editorial and a David Simon talk show riff" in a YouTube video by Sofia Bernette (India Enegga), the daughter of a college professor played by John Goodman. The character "sounded just like her dad when it should have sounded like a teenage girl trying to sound just like her dad, a slender but crucial distinction," writes Seitz. Seitz also offered a dissenting opinion on Janette's plot arc, particularly her monologue on the frustrations of working for a celebrity chef. It felt like "media insider score settling" from Bourdain "and the Letter to the Editor phrasing makes it worse."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.