There’s no new video online yet, but last night’s “My Darlin’ New Orleans” fundraiser hosted by HBO’s Treme showed a scene from the upcoming season. The story has moved forward to the fall 2007, and the scene shown came from that October when the police arrested Glen David Andrews and Rebirth Brass Band’s Derrick Tabb for playing an impromptu second line in remembrance of Kerwin James, who had just passed away. The scene shown Saturday night at Generations Hall depicted that incident, adding Wendell Pierce’s Antoine Batiste to the story. The scene starts with Batiste arguing with yet another cab driver – “New Orleans is crescent-shaped like a triangle,” he explains. He gets out of the cab and joins members of Rebirth Brass Band and other musicians in an Andrews-led version of “I’ll Fly Away” before the police arrive to stop the music. When told they can’t play their instruments due to noise complaints, the crowd sings instead, which leads to Andrews and Tabb’s arrest. Batiste stays to jaw with the police as they call for the crowd to disperse. He explains what the second line was about – “respect” – then gives the cops the finger as he walks away. A few blocks later, the cops roll up on him, alone on the sidewalk. “Respect,” one says, as they slap the cuffs on him.
The sequence shows what the show does best. It immersed viewers in a unique cultural practice without explanation but without leaving the viewer behind, either. It makes the emotional logic of the practice clear without giving anybody a paragraph of explanatory dialogue, and it deftly signals that the scene is dramatized by adding their fictional character to the mix. The story was also handled respectfully by resisting the possibility of moving Batiste closer to the heart of the moment. He’s not arrested with Tabb and Andrews as if he was one of the people who led the moment; he’s collateral damage that takes place later.
“My Darlin’ New Orleans” was a benefit for The Roots of Music – whose marching band performed Saturday night – Sweet Home New Orleans, and the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation. Creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer were on hand, as were Clarke Peters, David Morse, Lucia Micarelli, Lance Nichols and Michiel Huisman (that I saw). Huisman joined Meschiya Lake and her Little Big Horns onstage, playing guitar and singing with her, making me wonder if the moment might be a preview of a musical story line next season.
Season three’s debut has been backed up to the fall, but the program for the gala reinforces a sentiment David Simon expressed in an interview last year:
It’s our hope that this, the third annual My Darlin’ New Orleans fundraiser, will not be the culminating event in this campaign. We’ve all put down chips on a fourth season of Treme, which would allow for a corresponding fourth event on behalf of hte city’s cultural non-profits. So here’s hoping that HBO finds favor enough with the coming season that the television drama can complete its story arc.
The delayed airing of season three likely would delay the production of season four. Unless HBO committed to a fourth season before season three aired, Treme would have to break from its fall-to-spring, non-hurricane season shooting schedule, or it would have to wait until the fall of 2013 to shoot the final season. Such a gap once would have seemed unlikely, but AMC’s Mad Men just returned after a 17-month hiatus, and there was a year-long wait between the end of season four and the start of season five on The Wire.