Introduction: Lost in (outer) space
Anybody remember Star Trek: Voyager? The 1995 edition of the Star Trek franchise was based on an idea that begged for a treatment much different from where any Star Trek had gone before but, though the program survived seven seasons, it can only be considered a colossal failure of creative nerve.
The concept was simple. Rather than yet another Starship only days or weeks away from a galactic garage, Voyager was a vessel hurled (never mind how) so far into space its crew found itself facing the prospect of a 75 year journey home.
Obviously, Voyager was going to be a study in the physical and psychological travails of a small group of people utterly isolated and aboard a vessel falling slowly into disrepair, gradual stripping away the veneer of 24th century civilization to reveal the essential characters of the men and women wearing the fraying Starfleet uniforms.
Or not. In fact, just like its episodic predecessors, but without the justification of having a Starbase just past the next star system, Voyager followed a simplistic Adventure of the Week formula. Thus, each week, scars both physical and psychological were magicked away and all was re-set to factory specifications for the next episode.
The format has its merits and has produced some excellent drama of a certain (essentially childish) kind. Even at best, it is of limited depth and certainly takes no advantage of the time available to tell a really long story.
Enter Treme, a program set in the heart of New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now just finished its second season, I dare to suggest we are witness not just to one of television's rare masterpieces, but to the birth of a new art-form — the long-format drama.
So let's talk about David Simon and Eric Overmyer's Treme. Let's talk about a drama that avoids cliches and tropes and easy laughs. Let's talk about what is, as one blogger put it, "a dramatic TV series that is about a city's history and culture."