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The 50 Best TV Dramas of All Time

39. Treme

Network: HBO
Air Dates: April 11, 2010 – present
Stars: Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, David Morse, Lucia Micarelli, Michiel Huisman, Clarke Peters, Jon Seda, Steve Zahn

David Simon's examination of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina isn't The Wire. If that bothers you, you should go watch The Wire some more. Because Treme doesn't have the automatically exciting guns 'n' drugs element Simon's Baltimore panorama so deftly incorporated, viewers have too often processed the show as boring. However, the two shows are doing similar work in that they're both committed to painting a full picture of a city—but the similarities end there, just as the similarities between B-more and the Big Easy can only be pushed so far.

Over the course of three seasons (and with a fourth and final miraculously on the way), the show has never underestimated the audience's intelligence, which is refreshing in a world of predictable melodramas and soapy reality shows. Treme's pace and lengthy performance set pieces ask the viewers to attend to the action in a different way than we're used to. There's a difference between boring and slow. Slow demands the kind of concentration that makes for a more satisfyingly immersive experience.

And honestly, if you don't like the music, which runs the gamut from jazz to bounce, that's not the show's problem. The performances are integral to the show. It's like complaining about a musical because you don't buy characters spontaneously bursting into song. It's part of the form.

It's true the show can become didactic (this was a problem with some of the clunky moments near the end of season two involving fishing in the gulf), but politics have always been part of Simon's project. Yes, The Wire struck a better balance, but with Treme, you get something rare for TV: characters that aren't larger than life criminals or politicians. Most of these characters are just people. —RS

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