New David Simon Drama Will Depict Life in Post-Katrina New Orleans

BY Arts Desk  May 6, 2009 at 6:12 PM EST

Fans of the groundbreaking TV drama “The Wire” can expect a new David Simon series about life in urban America next year. HBO has reportedly picked up “Treme,” a new series about musicians in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

“Treme” is the name of the neighborhood in New Orleans that many of the city’s musicians call home and the setting for the new series. But in typical Simon fashion, the program is said to go beyond the neighborhood to tackle a spectrum of themes (political corruption, public housing and the criminal justice system) relevant to the greater drama of how the city and its people deal with rebuilding after the storm.

“We’re not really going to do ‘The Wire’ again,” Simon told Art Beat. “This is a very delicate story, I hope, about people coming back and trying to reconstitute their lives when their city has nearly been destroyed.”

Simon, a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun, came to Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon to testify at a hearing about the future of journalism before the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Simon ended his newspaper career in 1995 before he “left for the fleshpots of Hollywood,” as he said in his statement today.

“High-end journalism is dying in America,” he said. He called for a new economic model, and disparaged news aggregating Web sites and the mindset that one could and should get news for free. “I’m tired of hearing myself on this subject,” he said, explaining he had already had his say on the subject, the last season of “The Wire” being devoted to the downfall of traditional newspaper journalism. Simon was on a panel with Steve Coll, former managing editor of the Washington Post; Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post; and Alberto Ibarguen, CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provides funding to the NewsHour.

Drawing upon his many years of reporting, Simon’s television narratives are known for their sharp, journalistic realism and almost Dickensian plot complexity. His portrayal of life in Baltimore in “The Wire” was a critical success for HBO.

For “Treme,” Simon again partners with writer Eric Overmyer, a part-time News Orleans resident who worked on “The Wire” and NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Other local writers and reporters are collaborating on the show as well, according to the Times-Picayune.

Fans of the show can expect to see familiar faces in the cast. The Times-Picayune reports that two former “Wire” actors have signed on: Clarke Peters (Detective Lester Freamon) and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce (Detective Bunk Moreland). Another notable cast member is Melissa Leo, who was nominated this year for an Academy Award for “Frozen River.”

The pilot for “Treme” was shot in March and April in New Orleans. Episodes will likely air in spring or summer 2010, according to the newspaper. Reports vary on the number of episodes.

[Click here to watch a NewsHour profile of “The Wire” in its final season]