New Orleans as a setting is a tough place for outsiders. Between the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, generations of racial tension and the hyper-exclusive music scene, the world of New Orleans could be very intimidating to viewers. But if there was one man who could help usher audiences into this unfamiliar landscape, it was David Simon. After taking viewers through the gritty Baltimore crime scene for 5 years on The Wire, Simon returned to TV with HBO’s Treme. Following the lives of dozens of people in the Treme district of post-Katrina New Orleans, the show introduces viewers to all different walks of life and the things that connect them. Less explosive and more of a slow burn,Treme is still another Simon triumph. Continue reading for my full review.
Treme follows the interconnected lives of numerous families throughout the city. There’s Antoine the trombonist who’s ex-wife and kids moved away after the hurricane, Creighton and Toni, the white collar couple actively involved in the city’s bureaucracy, Janette the chef and her “casual” boyfriend Davis the DJ, and Albert and Delmond the father and son who return to repair their destroyed home. And that’s just the main characters. Each family has their own expansive network that allows the viewer to get a deeper sense of life in the city.
Beyond the many narrative connections between the characters is the uniting factor of music. Davis is a DJ entrenched in the music scene, Antoine is always hunting for his next gig, there’s a constant jazz soundtrack and cameos from local legends like Kermit Ruffins. Even Janette the chef demands to listen to a jazz soundtrack when she cooks. The music is just another way the audience feels connected to the culture of the city.
While the show’s writers do a tremendous job of balancing so many different characters and storylines, the phenomenal cast is really what elevates the show. The series boasts a wide range of talented actors like Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Rob Brown and Steve Zahn. HBO shows always have top notch casts drawn from film and this one is no different. Each actor makes the role their own. For instance, while Zahn’s character is still plenty immature, he exhibits a level of seriousness previously unseen by the actor. I hardly even recognized Leo in her role as a fierce but matriarchal lawyer. And even though Goodman is one of the most recognizable actors working today, he still manages to provide a unique Cajun spin.
While filming on the Emmy nominated pilot was once delayed, and it didn’t get greenlit right away, Treme premiered to strong critical reviews and was renewed for a second season just days after the series premiere. The 80 minute pilot serves as an epic prologue for the series and nine episodes follow.
Special features include a behind the scenes look at the music of the show (highly recommended), a making of featurette and five commentaries tracks with cast and crew. There’s also a behind the scenes look at the real Treme area and really cool music commentaries. Here, music experts from the radio discuss in-depth the songs from the show.
Treme is presented with Dolby sound in the four disc set. If you’re willing to commit a few hours of your time, Treme is definitely worth it.