Emmy voters, I urge you all — don’t forget “Treme.”
I know it’s early. Everyone’s talking about who will win Oscars, and the TV academy doesn’t start voting for months, but by then you’ll have put it out of your minds. You probably weren’t watching while it aired, so catch up on it now. Beat the rush.
I say “don’t forget,” but I really mean “finally acknowledge the existence of” HBO’s New Orleans-set drama. After a pair of nominations in its first season (for directing and songwriting), it dropped off the radar of Emmy voters entirely. That’s understandable. You’re not the only ones who forgot it was on the air. It never had the ratings, and even a generous network would have been well within its rights to cancel it after one or two seasons, but HBO gave it four to round out its story — well, three and a half, since its final season was just a shortened five episodes.
Five episodes is just shy of the six required for consideration as a drama series, so it looks like HBO is expecting to push this as a miniseries, the same way Showtime did successfully last year with the final abbreviated season of “The Big C.” That means, Emmy voters, you don’t have to worry about finding room for it among “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” and the overwhelming mass of other current dramas. So, no more excuses. You’ll have plenty of room in the movie/miniseries categories. Enough, anyway, to accommodate this underrated gem.
You’ve recognized David Simon‘s projects before in longform categories. While he barely made a dent in the drama series categories with “The Wire” and “Treme,” his “Generation Kill” miniseries earned 11 nominations in 2009, winning three in technical categories, and “The Corner” won Best Miniseries, Writing, and Directing back in 2000.
Maybe you’re worried about committing to a long, dense bummer of a show about poor people in post-Katrina Louisiana. To that I’d say you’re describing the wrong series. While it’s political and often sad — and yes, a few tax brackets beneath TV’s Drapers, Pritchetts, and Crawleys — it’s also boisterous and musical, and not as pessimistic as “The Wire” was. It’s like “Nashville” for the New Orleans jazz and blues scene (the Robert Altman “Nashville,” not the Connie Britton “Nashville“).
But the average Emmy voter is probably like Liz Lemon, who complained in “30 Rock‘s” penultimate episode, “DVR’s at 98 percent, but I’m just never in the mood to watch ‘Treme.'” I urge you to be like Liz Lemon from slightly later in that episode when she marveled, “‘Treme’ gets good if you stick with it.”
Or don’t. I’ve watched the show, so I’ll just tell you who to nominate, starting with Clarke Peters as cancer-stricken Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux and Wendell Pierce as Antoine Batiste, who matured over the course of the series from rudderless musician to dedicated music teacher. Both actors were also excellent on “The Wire,” so consider a nomination for each of them a two-for-one deal.
Khandi Alexander is outstanding as bar-owner LaDonna; Alexander is usually outstanding, but despite previous roles in “The Corner” and “ER” she’s never been nominated for an Emmy. Correct that.
Beyond the worthy writers and directors, the use of diverse musical styles, often intermingling with dialogue and crowd scenes, merits consideration in sound categories. The complex layering of storylines, which flow into and out of each other with perfect pacing, should put the show on the shortlist for picture editing.
Casting director Alexa Fogel has worked multiple times with Simon and helped make stars out of Idris Elba, Amy Ryan, and Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire”), as well as Alexander Skarsgard (“Generation Kill”). She should be swimming in Emmys, but to date she has won just two: for “NYPD Blue” in 1994 and 1995.
You can take my word for it — please do — but I hope you at least watch “Treme.” The last season is only five hours long, just one hour more than “The Big C: Hereafter,” which you finally embraced on its death bed after mostly snubbing it in the comedy races. To further put it in perspective, that’s the equivalent of a couple of weeks of “The Daily Show,” a handful of “Saturday Night Lives,” and far fewer hours than you spent watching “Two and a Half Men” or “Boston Legal.”