Today, Treme, the brilliant series created by David Simon which tells the daily life ofhe musicians trying to rebuild their lives in New Orleans post Katrina celebrates its tenth anniversary. The opportunity to immerse yourself in the ultra-realistic and impactful universe of Simon, genius of writing to whom we also owe one of the masterpieces of television history: The Wire. This former journalist turned writer then scriptwriter, creator and producer of series is at the origin of some of the biggest nuggets programmed by HBO from the early 2000s to date and all his series, from The Corner to The Plot Against America, currently being broadcast, are now available in France on OCS.
The Corner (2000)
At the end of the 1980s, after twelve years of good and loyal service in writing the Baltimore Sun, David Simon decides to take a leave without pay to write his first book. In January 1988, he joined the Baltimore criminal brigade, which he joined as an observer for a year. He listens, takes endless notes, following the daily investigations and the life of the brigade. In total immersion, he learns the tricks of the trade and attends scenes of anthologies. He pulls out a book, Homicide: One Year on the Killing Streets ((Baltimore in French), which will inspire the Homicide series created by Paul Attanasio and co-written by Simon in 1993.
Then with Ed Burns, a former cop – who served as his source when he wrote to Baltimore Sun – become a schoolteacher, he embarks on a three-year investigation into a community in the western districts of Baltimore dominated by the drug market. They draw from it a work entitled The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. In 2000, Simon joined forces with David Mills to create the mini-series in six episodes The Corner, which marks the beginning of a long collaboration with HBO.
The series thus finds its source directly in the book of Simon and Burns, telling the daily life of the inhabitants of La Fayette Street in Baltimore, an underprivileged district consumed by the drug which one sells there in broad daylight and in violence. Staged with a style close to documentary, it reflects reality without concession, without compromise. With the intelligent writing and humanity that would later characterize the entire television universe created by Simon, she met with great critical success and won three Emmy Awards.
The Wire (2002-2008)
After the transformed essay by The Corner, David Simon finds Ed Burns and the two men get down to writing a new, more ambitious series. The Wire, Bugged in French, is nothing less than a masterpiece: for five seasons, this social mural draws up the depth of Baltimore and his sufferings. Simon and Burns explore the different instances and their workings, taking a sharp look at each layer of society, through the crossed experiences of a plethora of magnificently written characters. For this, they obviously draw on their experience on the ground and show the inability of politicians and institutions to carry out their lost fight against drugs in advance.
Each season tackles a new institutional facet of the city, drugs being the common thread: the police, the docks (the port being the nerve center of the city and a traffic hub), politics, school and finally media. “I’m not very good at imagining things”confided David Simon a few years ago. “For The Wire, when we conformed to real facts, there was cheating, because we were in the drama, but even there, our rule was: it happened, it could undoubtedly have happened or there are rumors that it happened but we can’t quite prove it. If it couldn’t have happened, we didn’t want it in the episode. This rigor made it possible to model a different series. It has become more than just entertainment.”
The result is masterful, The Wire is acclaimed worldwide, by critics, by the public, including former President Barack Obama, has repeatedly said that it was his favorite series. The writing is impeccable and takes its time, the staging is impactful, the characters extremely endearing, often funny, nothing is ever Manichean or too dark, the actors are remarkable, but – and that’s all to their credit – Simon and Burns refuse the facility: the spectator is plunged in the streets of Baltimore without other explanation than the history which takes place and it is forced to take itself by the hand.
“If we start to explain everything, we ruin everything. It hardly looks like life anymore“, David Simon rightly observed in an interview with AlloCiné in 2012. “When we enter a room, we do not immediately explain the story of everyone present, we do not capture all the dynamics of the moment in a linear fashion. We enter the middle of something and we begin to collect some information and finally things start to clear up. (…) I realized that there was something in there that could put us in a weak position, that it could confuse people, but that pushes them people to get involved and I found lots of intelligent spectators. “
Generation Kill (2008)
In the wake of The Wire, David Simon collaborates again with Ed Burns and the two men start with Evan Wright to write Generation Kill. The mini-series, which consists of seven episodes, is adapted from Wright’s essay, a reporter embarked with a battalion of the Marine Corps in 2003 to cover the Iraq War.
The series begins at Kuwait, in a base american where the 1st reconnaissance battalion of Marines spends its final hours before the invasion beginsIraq. This is where a journalist from the magazine arrives Rolling Stone, played by Lee Tergesen and inspired by Evan Wright himself, who must follow the battalion in immersion, in the heart of the war. These young soldiers are the first on the spot and must then deal with the lack of equipment, incompetent command and an opaque strategy.
With Generation Kill, David Simon proves once again how committed he is to reporting reality with the greatest possible acuity. He surrounds himself with a new team of brilliant actors: Alexander Skarsgård, James Ransone and Lee Tergesen at the head. The absence of music, meanwhile, reinforces the documentary aspect of the show, which gives a a very somber vision of an ill-prepared war. Again, Simon is a hit. Long awaited after The Wire, it does not disappoint and the series, yet far from having the same public notoriety as its big sister, leaves the 61st Emmy Awards with three statuettes.
David Simon does not like to work alone and it is with the writer Eric Overmyer, scriptwriter on Homicide and on season 4 of The Wire, that he creates Treme. After Baltimore, he took up residence in New Orleans – the show also takes its name from a district of the city, Tremé also sometimes called Faubourg Tremé.
The s seriesIt takes place in New Orleans suffering three months after the devastating passage of Hurricane Katrina. Jazz musicians, members of the same group, as well as the inhabitants of the city, try to rebuild their lives there. Among them, Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce, The Bunk of The Wire), talented trombonist and Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters, also seen in The Wire), a great chief of the White Feather Nation, does everything to preserve traditions of the South and give Mardi Gras its letters of nobility.
The challenge for Simon is to paint a portrait of New Orleans, far beyond the music scene and Treme tackles political corruption as well as the controversy over public housing, the clashes between the police and the Indians Mardi Gras, the difficulties of the judicial and educational systems or the struggle to regain the tourism industry after the passage of Katrina. The characters are often inspired by real residents of the city and the series calls upon musicians from the New Orleans music and culinary scene. Like Wendell Pierce, many actors are also from Louisiana.
With Treme, Simon rediscovers the ultra-realistic tone, a flock of characters and all of humanity who made the success of The Wire, and again shows that he is capable of capturing, as a person, the soul of a city of its inhabitants. The series, which is more confidential than The Wire, will still win criticism and HBO will allow it to last four seasons.
Show Me A Hero (2015)
The new product of David Simon’s uncompromising urban work will be a mini-series: Show Me A Hero, political and social fresco in six episodes co-written with the journalist William F. Zorzi and rdirected by Paul Haggis. Ban expert on the book of the same name written by Lisa Belkin, she sets out to tell the true story of politician Nick Wasicsko.
In the late 1980s, Wasicsko, a former police officer who became the youngest mayor of the city of Yonkers in New York State and camped by Oscar Isaac, was forced by the justice system to build social housing in a predominantly neighborhood. inhabited by whites. As he tries to enforce this decision as best he can, his efforts will have the consequences of tearing the city, divided on the issue, and paralyzing the entire city council. Carried away in this conflict that exceeds him, Wasicsko sees all dreams and his ideals go up in smoke and his political future seriously endangered.
David Simon finds here the themes which are dear to him, mixing the personal stories of his characters with the institutional history over which they have no control and for many, Show Me A Hero is a new masterpiece of storytelling , intelligent, moving and driven by the performances of high-profile actors.
The Deuce (2017-2019)
With writer and screenwriter George Pelecanos, David Simon then created The Deuce, a three-season series whose main theme was the rise and growth of the porn industry from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, mainly in the area of Forty-Deuce, located in the heart of Manhattan, which then hosted a multitude of porn cinemas.
At the forefront of this cultural revolution, two twin brothers who own bars serving as cover for the local mafiosi, Vincent and Frankie Martino, played by James Franco, and Candy, prostitute in search of freedom, courageous visionary attentive to the evolutions of her time, embodied by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The Martino brothers also really existed and it was Vincent who made David Simon and George Pelecanos want to start writing The Deuce.
“This story will not be treated in a complacent or puritanical way”, warned David Simon at the launch of the series. “We’re just talking about a product and the people who created it, sold it, benefited from it and suffered it.” The contract is fulfilled and The Deuce, with its polished photograph and its wide range of characters from different cultures interpreted by actors of choice, hits the bull’s eye.
The Plot Against America (2020)
Twelve years after The Wire ended, David Simon and Ed Burns team up again to The Plot Against America. Created and written by the duo, still for the HBO channel, the mini-series in six episodes is adapted from the novel by Philip Roth The plot against America, an uchronia in which the writer imagines an alternative history of America where the aviator Charles Lindbergh, xenophobic and populist national hero, would have been elected president of the United States in 1940, plunging the country into fascism.
The series follows these political upheavals from June 1940 to November 1942 through the fate of a Jewish family from New Jersey: Herman and Bess Levin (Morgan Spector and Zoe Kazan, wonderful), their two children Philp and Sandy and their close entourage. Terror rises gradually, to the rhythm of the concerns of the Levin family, which materialize dangerously as anti-Semitism rises. Beyond the interpretation of the actors, who are all absolutely wonderful, Zoe Kazan and Morgan Spector at the head, Simon and Burns show, once again, an immense talent for writing. And Simon to confirm that he is still one of the sacred monsters of American television in the 21st century.
The Plot Against America, like all of the above-mentioned David Simon series, is available on OCS: