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Treme – Strike up the jazz band

Are we really expected to take to this new HBO offering? Yes ... just as easily as ordering up a beignet.

What does David Simon (The Wire) expect us to do with Treme (pronounced treh-MAY), anyway?

Are we supposed to plant ourselves comfortably on our couches and easy chairs and get with the program right from the get go? Does he really expect us to take in the urban decay of New Orleans just as it’s presented, never mind the fact most of us don’t even know the place … let alone having eaten dirty rice before?

One thing is for certain:  The opening episode of this ambitious series is a creole feast.  Antoine Batiste and Albert Lambreaux (Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, respectively, both veterans of The Wire) are offered as characters we’re supposed to get involved with right away.  Antoine is a fast-talking, laid back father and musician (and a pretty good musician at that); Albert a wizened, determined patriarch who longs to be home again in his old neighborhood, kids in tow.  Seeing Antoine talking up his friends and associates in varying degrees, you have to wonder where his story will lead.  And Albert, he’s got kids who are in two different states of mind — neither of of them on par with their father.  His tale will be just as intriguing.

We’re given pain-in-the-ass radio DJ Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) who is as comical as a know-it-all as he is annoying in his opportunistic out-for-himself attitude.  The world owes this slacker a favor and he’ll make it known to everyone who crosses his path that’s the way it’s going to be.

There’s a really interesting dynamic in the husband and wife duo of Toni and Creighton Bernette (Melissa Leo, Homicide: Life On The Street and John Goodman, O Brother, Where Art Thou, et al).  She’s an attorney making waves on the hurricane ravaged streets; he is an authority on how the government is continuing to undermine everything left since Hurricane Katrina hit The Big Easy.

In everything, there is New Orleans itself, riddled with decay and water lines six feet up on living room walls and debris and poverty.  Tying everything together is the music … neatly intertwining one segment into the next, from a downtown gig Antoine plays at contentedly to the mournfulness of the ending funeral sequence he snags as a gig.

And there’s plenty more.  Antione’s barkeep ex-wife, on a mission to find her brother lost during Katrina.  McAlary’s sometime girlfriend, struggling in the aftermath of Katrina’s devastation to keep some class in her little neck of the woods in the form of an eatery.  Not to mention some of the celebrity artists that make appearances in this episode: Elvis Costello and local jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.  (Certainly, more recognizables will be showing their faces as the series progresses.

So … really?  This is what David Simon expects us to get into?

You better believe it, Bobo.  Right down the the ominous sounding helicopters you never see hovering about the neighborhoods.  If you long to get to the home of Mardi Gras and munch a beignet while sipping a Café au lait, Sunday nights for the next nine weeks will be the place you need to visit.  (Jot down the lingo you don’t understand while you’re at it … half the fun will be figuring out what it is these characters are talking about.)

Let Treme‘s characters take you deep into the humidity and sound of the streets, decayed though they may be….

Photo Credit: HBO

Categories: | Episode Reviews | General | TV Shows |

8 Responses to “Treme – Strike up the jazz band”

April 13, 2010 at 10:53 AM

easily one of the best first episodes of a series that i’ve seen in awhile: skilled actors who convey so much from their body language; entertaining, evocative music; a plot with both urgency and moral weight; and some damn fine filming.

April 13, 2010 at 12:01 PM

I am in absolute agreement with you, Ganesh. I’m anxious to see where these characters go.

When a series can do that from the start, that’s an excellent sign ….

April 13, 2010 at 12:02 PM

I gave it a shot, as I would anything that came from David Simon (the great cast of actors was just icing on the cake), but I just couldn’t connect. The Wire threw us right in the middle of things from the get-go, but I always felt as if there was an anchor to hold on to. Here I just felt adrift. Maybe we’re meant to, sort of in-keeping with the citizens of Treme, but it didn’t grab me enough to make me check it out again. I hope it does well though – there’s nothing particularly bad about it, it just wasn’t for me.

April 13, 2010 at 12:26 PM

Aryeh:

It definitely helps if you are familiar with New Orleans and the surroundings. I happen to be, having worked there for an 8 week stretch … having visited many times … and having relatives and friends there.

I can see how it would be difficult for some to connect. I believe over the course of the next few episodes, it will bind those loose ends some folks may be having.

Me? I’m vested in that little frak-wad McAlary already …..

April 14, 2010 at 10:07 AM

I loved how seamless the white people were acting with the black. I loved the whole mardi gras experience. I loved that this time people didn’t get shot.

I mean it sounds weird but when I saw the show, after “The Wire” and “Generation Kill” in my mind, I waited and waited for the first body being thrown from left to right in spasms, violently gushing blood everywhere.

I think that’s the only difference here, boys, and I like it. Finally it’s NOT the violence that makes people tune in. Again it’s a story about things being pushed under the rug and this time it’s not about the obvious crimes but the strange behavior of people when it comes to benefiting themselves without directly killing people, it’s about extremes that happened and the aftermath of it and how people deal with these things. For sure I’ll be back even if it’s just because the dialogue is well written and the actors are at the top of their game.

I mean look at that. “Just well written” – “Justified” is more off than this show. Not extremely, but a little bit. To me, “Treme” was kinda perfect and I too asked myself “Where is this going”.

But I didn’t do it in the “Is this guy really thinking he can hook me with this story” but rather like looking out the window, watching a real intruiging scenery and just staying to see what’s going to happen.

I mean the Pilot was 90 Minutes long and I didn’t feel bored once. I didn’t understand many things because of the accents of these people so I guess I’ll have to watch it again but it’s nowhere close to boring me or making me wonder why I “wasted” time watching this.

Makes me wonder how I’d feel about “The Pacific” if it didn’t have that much gore.

April 14, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Dude – ya needed to mention that Albert was a Mardi Gras Indian…significant..here’s some stuff on the history of the Mardi Gras Indians….http://www.mardigrasdigest.com/Sec_mgind/history.htm

April 14, 2010 at 3:42 PM

accents?? what accents? we aint got no stinkin accents…lmao

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