New Orleans has high hopes for Treme because the city has been ill-served by television and movies. One episode of the 1988 incarnation of the Mission: Impossible television series centered on the Underground Railroad going through New Orleans—a real, literal underground railroad in tunnels carved under a city that in reality rests on a mud patty. There have also been countless crimes against geography—in John Woo’s Hard Target, a character runs over the Algiers levee and into the middle of Decatur Street—and accents, most famously by Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy. K-Ville was dismissed by locals almost immediately when it introduced us to a tradition we never knew we had: the gumbo party.
But the interest in Treme is more than just the desire to see our reality reflected on big and small screens. Tourism has been down since Katrina, and business leaders think the show will become an ad for the city. Those who want to see the truth about post-Katrina flooding come to light hope Treme will help spread the word, and a community desperate for jobs and an influx of money into the city looks to Treme to stimulate the economy. Almost every group has some stake in Treme’s success, something the production knows very well. “It makes me a little nervous, but I’ve also been a little moved by that hope that we’ll get it right,” Overmyer says.
Read more of Alex Rawls’ article on Treme in this month’s OffBeat magazine. The lengths the Treme folks are willing to go to to make sure local musicians get the credit and the royalties they deserve is commendable.