Treme, The Wire creator David Simon’s latest television effort, has followed a similar pattern to his previous show. Now recognised as a true classic, The Wire was watched by few when it originally aired, gaining in popularity when it was released on DVD.
Now the same is happening with Treme, Simon’s study of the residents of a neighborhood of New Orleans after the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina. Natural in style and light on overly-dramatic story-telling, the day-to-day life of the Treme is easy to slip into. Central to the story is the world of New Orleans music (every episode has extended sequences of New Orlean’s legends playing music in various situations and settings) and the Mardi Gras Indians, yet as with Simon’s previous hit, the scope shifts and evolves, revealing the different ways people were affected by the disaster.
Its been announced now that the current third series will be followed by a reduced fourth series, that will wrap things up. Now is the time to start watching – in future years, you can be one of the guys who can say ‘I watched that when it was on TV!’
If I were to read a synopsis of Parenthood, I’m fairly confident I would have little interest in watching such a show. Luckily, the first thing I read was that it was created by Jason Katims, the executive producer of the near-flawless Friday Night Lights (just don’t mention that thing that Landry did…).
That was enough for me, as it should be for you. Having watched three seasons now, I’m confident that Katim’s touch is essentially gold – few show runners seem to have the skills that this man does when it comes to creating and guiding sympathetic and likable characters. There have been few shows where I have been this emotionally involved and, whilst it might be a cliche to say it, it does feel like hanging out with old friends each week.
The trials faced by the Bravermans – an extended and character-filled American family – are varied, ranging from life-changing issues such as mental illness, adoption, religion and divorce through to everyday concerns like becoming school president and hitting a home run in the little league. And if this all sounds like something you have seen before, rest assured that the characterisation and writing are strong enough that it feels like these topics are being tackled for the first time.
Currently in its fourth series, Parenthood has settled into a good rhythm and seems to have a strong enough following to ensure we will see more of the Bravermans over the next few years.
Somehow, the cast I love the best – that holds a place closest to my heart – feature in a 20-minute single camera sitcom. When you first enter into the lives of the Parks and Rec team for Pawnee City Council, it is easy to dismiss Lesley Knope as a cheap knock off of The Office’s Michael Scott. Yet over the years she has evolved into a genuinely warm character who believably earns the respect of those around her.
And those around her take the show to even greater heights. Be it the lovable man-child Tom Haverford (with his never-ending parade of strange money-making ideas), Ron Swanson (an all-American anti-government government worker who loves nothing more than steak and hunting), or Andy and April (one of the oddest and most refreshing couples to grace our screens), there is no shortage of enjoyable characters. And then in series 3 they added Rob Lowe into the mix!
And Parks and Recreation is funny. Possibly the funniest show on TV. If the idea of strong characterisation and laughs isn’t enough for you, I don’t know what it. You should watch Parks and Recreation because, now in its fourth series (where The Office, How I Met Your Mother and other shows started to show a few cracks) it is stronger than ever, and showing no sign of slowing down. I am looking forward to the years we have in the company of Pawnee’s finest yet to come.
I find it hard to believe anyone isn’t watching Louie, yet I thought it prudent to mention it here anyway. Stand-up comedian Louis CK’s self-written, self-directed and self-edited show defies all attempts at catagorisation. Disguised as a single-camera comedy, Louie can be whatever the creator wishes it to be on a week-by-week basis.
This makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. There is no slavish devotion to structure here – Louie takes whatever form CK needs to tell his story (though the story is often minimal). CK’s ideas are central and whilst his alter-ego’s musings on parenthood, relationships, loneliness and life in general are often funny, the humour is derived from the situations and never feels forced.
Occasionally surreal, frequently hearth-breaking and always honest, Louie is unlike anything you have seen before. As CK takes a year off to recuperate from the punishing demands of creating the first three series, you have plenty of time to catch up and be ready for whatever the hell he has in store for us in 2014.