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Walker to New Orleans: Interview With Treme Critic

From The Huffington Post...

Dave Walker, the New Orleans Times-Picayune television critic, has been following HBO's Treme for two seasons, documenting the show's cultural references with his weekly Explainer and interviewing the cast including scene stealer Elizabeth Ashley and musician Steve Earle.
Walker was kind enough to pull me into reviewing this season by announcing my plan to watch
Treme in bars all over town, having moved home without HBO, and lets me blame him when a bar is too hot or the crowd is chatty. This week was an enjoyable viewing at Buffa's Bar & Restaurant.
Here's my Interview with Treme's Explainer:
Treme has been building momentum all season, and last week's episode ended with a literal bang. How hard is it not to let spoilers slip when you're writing the Explainer?

DW: Not hard. I'm an asocial mope, so there's no chance I'd blab screener secrets in the lunchroom or wherever. I'm very careful about it online and in the paper, though. I even try to not link to anything too spoilery about the real people Treme has incorporated in the story. For example, I don't think you would've known what happened to Dinerral Shavers from anything I wrote during the season until it happened. It's mostly true even after episodes air. You wouldn't have known what happened to Creighton Bernette by reading that episode's explainer, because so many people are time-shifting the episodes, and it was a devastating moment that I didn't want to wreck. Same for Harley, until I wrecked it with a Wednesday Steve Earle interview. Twitter did its job with that one, anyway. Some semi-spoilerage is unavoidable, as in the case of Oliver Thomas, and local online commenters don't have the same mission, but that's OK.
The production has been very generous with access to sets and actors and writers and everybody, really, and the fair trade for that is not spoiling anything. Also, I've been wary of learning too much in advance because I want to experience and enjoy the episodes like a regular viewer as much as possible. Most people here don't want to know too much about what's going to happen, I've found, for the same reason. As you know, the show is experienced communally in New Orleans, and that has become one of its pleasures.
It is fun to view communally. My favorite breakout character last season was Elizabeth Ashley's Aunt Mimi. At the risk of offending all the other characters, who do you consider the breakout star of this season?
DW: Wendell Pierce as soul vocalist Antoine Batiste has been a big, pleasant surprise. Cornell Williams, a killer New Orleans bassist, has been wonderful in all of his acting scenes. I think Lucia Micarelli, who hadn't acted before Treme, has had a great season as Annie.
Excellent choices. What do you hear from other national critics about Treme, and what it makes them feel about New Orleans.
DW: Kind of like The Wire for a lot of its run on HBO, I don't think there are a lot of critics following it. Treme got no acting nominations from the Television Critics Association Awards again this year. The TCA didn't recognize The Wire until it was over.
The reviews of the first-season DVD release were overall more favorable than the first-season HBO-run reviews. I think that's because, like
The Wire, the complexities and sublimities of the show reveal themselves better if you can watch several episodes back-to-back. I've read critics who praise the show for its structural originality, the acting, the music. I've read critics who don't like it for one or all of those things, too. There's nothing else to compare Treme to -- big cast, layered stories, real setting, fictional characters interacting with real people, the torrent of unexplained details, and the longest scenes are music performances, which you never see on TV. Also no vampires or robots or dragons. It's pretty comparatively weird. It just doesn't work for some critics, which is fine. Like lots of viewers not from here, my critic friends who were already curious about New Orleans seem more so because of Treme.
True, some New Orleans venues and bands are getting a Treme bump and there's bound to be a True Blood ratings bump for its premiere. Annie's mentor Harley is going to be a big loss to absorb, based on comments and conversation all this week. Remember when I wrote my first review and you told me it was a Dylan song?
DW: I don't remember that. Did I? Bad on me for the spoiler if I did. Really? I loved the Harley character and I'm sorry he's gone.
I miss him too -- and just kidding; the Dylan thing happened to Harley and Annie. With David Simon and Eric Overmyer's the Wire and Treme on the high end of scripted television fare, what's your guilty viewing pleasure? Any Real Housewives benders we should know about?
DW: Weekend afternoon dozing in front of golf on TV. ESPN's Pardon The Interruption. I feel guilty about those two because they're just about the only things I watch regularly that I never write about. I seldom watch reality-TV unless there's a local angle, so that cuts out a lot of potential guilty pleasure, though I will confess that Extreme Couponing on TLC has become a recent compulsion.
So there you have it. No Real Housewives benders and a shout out to Wendell Pierce's soul vocals. Watch for Walker's column on next week's finale, and a whole new season of Treme coverage in 2012.

Follow Karen Dalton-Beninato on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kbeninato