DAVID BIANCULLI

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HBO's "Treme": Tasty, Musical, Defiantly Different, Just Like New Orleans
April 9, 2010  | By David Bianculli
 
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The newest HBO drama from David Simon and company, Treme, is a quality cousin to his previous classic examination of a specific urban landscape and populace,The Wire. But where The Wire was set in Baltimore and exuded an air of grim hopelessness, Treme, set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, exudes something else entirely: defiant, indestructible hope...

Treme, which launches Sunday night at 10 ET, begins three months after Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast. Like David Milch's Deadwood, another stellar series based in part on actual events, Treme plans to track what actually happened in New Orleans and elsewhere, in the months (and, if the series is renewed, years) that followed, as experienced by its squadron of fictional, feisty characters.

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The cast of Treme, assembled by Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer, is a quality TV lover's dream. It's almost like a One Degree of Separation game, linking each actor to a previous beloved TV series. Look! There's John Goodman from Roseanne! Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters from The Wire! Kim Dickens from Deadwood! Melissa Leo from Homicide: Life on the Street! Khandi Alexander from The Corner! Steve Zahn from... well, okay, so not EVERY player has a jaw-dropping TV legacy.

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But everyone IS a delight. I especially love, in the first three episodes, Dickens, who plays never-say-quit restaurant owner Janette, and Zahn, who plays her less dependable deejay boyfriend. And, among many others, Pierce, as Antoine, the trombone player who has problems with money, and women, and everything that doesn't involve music. Or food: This is a series that should come with its own TV dinners.

Oh, and the music. It's not only central to Treme -- it's vital. While the local slang and vocabulary can be tricky to parse, the music is universal and instantly accessible. The joy, the yearning, the creativity, the individuality -- it's all there. And it's all delightful.

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In an early scene, when Antoine joins a parade line tardily and blows his first notes to trumpet his arrival (or, literally, to trombone it), the music lurches into a higher, giddier gear. At the same time, so does Treme.

The premier episode is directed by Agnieszka Holland, and written by Simon and Overmyer. Subsequent episodes will be directed by Ernest Dickerson, Simon Cellan Jones and others, and written by, among others, George Pelecanos and the late David Mills, who died suddenly last week on the set of Treme.

Make room on your must-see list for one more hour of television. Treme already has earned its spot there. The only down side is that it's directly opposite another must-see show, AMC's Breaking Bad. Plan your viewing, and recording, accordingly.

[To read or hear my review of Treme on this past Monday's Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR, and to hear Terry's interviews with David Simon and Eric Overmyer, click HERE and HERE.]

 

2 Comments

 

Becca Johnson said:


Excellent recommendations. And if I may add two more, "Zeitoun" and "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina".

Comment posted on April 9, 2010 11:12 PM


Mac said:

While never cheap,the HBO DVD set can't be far behind. Ahh, HBO DVD boxsets. With our local Hollywood Video stores biting the dust, I have scored three seasons of "The Wire" and the John Adams miniseries for prices that are insane. First season of Deadwood is on my list for next week.
All of these great credentials and Dr. John, too. Also, I can't wait to see how a wider audience reacts to trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. "A Federal F-Up of epic proportions"-sounds like a good tag line for the DVD, or a political ad.
Hey, this is a rare "Fresh Air" that features David, Terry & Dave (Davies) together: one reviewing, one interviewing and one hosting. And this isn't an archive episode.

[Hey, that's true -- and yeah, that's cool. And great deals at your video store. Wish I lived nearby, but then we'd be wrestling for the same stuff. -- David B.]

Comment posted on April 10, 2010 1:09 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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