For years now, David Simon and Eric Overmeyer have been dramatizing the story of New Orleans in "Treme." There is a tension in stories of recovery like this one: How do you tell the story of New Orleans in a way that isn't voyeuristic or cliched? But the beauty of the recovery story, Simon and Overmeyer say, is the way that the past and future mix before your eyes. The HBO series begins its third season this Sunday, and the show is evolving in its portrayal of post-Katrina New Orleans.
"It's an American city, but it's also unlike any other American city," says Overmeyer, citing the now infamous corruption in the city as one of its most defining characteristics. "Up until the storm, for sure, corruption was sort of laughed at," he says. "One of the good things that's come out of the storm is that it's not funny any more." However, both stress that this isn't to say the city's problems have been solved. "It doesn't go away merely because everyone becomes aware," Simon says, "But as Eric says, it became less charming."
Overmeyer and Simon wanted to strive for authenticity in their depiction of New Orleans, and the way its very distinct history and culture affects the city's identity. "It's a combination of great pride and a great chip on your shoulder all at the same time," says David Simon of the 'New Orleanian' sensibility.
Part of this identity, says David Simon, is a feeling that no one is coming to the rescue in New Orleans; if the city is to be saved, it will be because they save themselves. "After the storm, after the near death of the city, those people were basically on their own. And they learned that, over a period of months and years." The only weapons they were left with were community and culture, and these are the forces that have started to bring New Orleans back.