In a comfortably intimate, in-depth article posted early this morning at Nola.com to coincide with tonight’s season première of Anthony Bourdain’s traveling-and-eating show No Reservations, Times-Picayune reporter Dave Walker reports that Bourdain has essentially taken over writing the restaurant thread of Treme in its second season. The running plotline features Kim Dickens as a chef struggling to keep her tiny but renowned restaurant going in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; like all Treme’s plotlines (and like those of The Wire, David Simon’s previous series) Dickens’ thread links to a number of other stories, but is essentially autonomous enough to have its own writer.
And for season two, Bourdain—whom Simon had consulted for some details in season one—has become that writer. In the article, Simon claims he initially contained Bourdain to discuss the show as “a lame excuse to have lunch with him,” but was impressed enough with Bourdain’s work that he eventually offered the Kitchen Confidential author a chance to write an episode in its entirety. Bourdain passed, saying he couldn’t write about jazz musicians in New Orleans with any authority, but he was excited by the chance to write what he does knew about for Simon:
“I’ve said many times, and believe it absolutely, that ‘The Wire’ was the single greatest achievement of the television medium,” said Bourdain, of Simon’s previous HBO series. “So when suddenly I get a phone call from David Simon inviting me to lunch and asking me if I’d be interested in working on the show, it really was like being a lifelong Yankees fan and having Joe DiMaggio call up and say, ‘How about we throw the ball around in the back yard.’ It was really that out of the blue, that seismic of an event for me.”
The article goes on to provide details about Treme’s second season, which launches April 24—including a sequence Bourdain wrote featuring his “arch-enemy,” restaurant critic Alan Richman, who agreed to play himself on the show. Like the first-season restaurant scene featuring cameos by Tom Colicchio, Wylie Dufresne, and Eric Ripert playing themselves, it sounds like a stunty but fun blurring of the lines between fiction and reality—which Simon is already blurring a bit by bringing Bourdain on board. Maybe Simon’s next show can be about his staff writers creating a TV show, playing themselves as the writers of the TV show they’re writing about the TV show they’re writing.