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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2011
Were you one of those Wire addicts who couldn't resist watching just one more episode, staying up into the early hours?

If you're expecting Treme to take over your life in the same way, then think again. I've just finished the first series and believe me, it was hard work at times. There were actually evenings when we were searching for something, anything, else to view, just to give us a break from Treme's snail-pace plot development and all-too-frequent and all-too-long jazz improvisations and band rehearsals.

That's not to say that there isn't a lot to like in Treme. The acting is top-notch, the cast is packed with your old friends from Simon's previous ground-breaking shows (The Wire, The Corner and Homicide - Life on the Streets) and scriptwriters include novelist George Pelecanos (another Wire stalwart), Eric Overmyer (ditto) and James Yoshimura (from Homicide) as well as Simon himself. There are guest appearances as well, notably Elvis Costello and Steve Earle (barely recognisable, looking like a cross between Ben Gunn and a yak). The cinematography is faultless, not surprising with Ivan Strasburg at the helm, and the musicianship is superb (even if, like me, you soon discover that there's actually quite a lot of New Orleans music that is not exactly to your taste).

So what's gone wrong? Well, the storylines, or lack of them, are the main problem. As the characters try to rebuild their lives after Katrina, they fret about getting their roofs fixed or paying their bills, argue about which bands to play with or try to cope with writer's block. All very realistic, but not the stuff of good TV. Even the most dramatic thread - the search for LaDonna's missing brother - is slow and mostly uneventful, and its only in the final two episodes that the other main story-arc (that of ranting writer Creighton) reaches any kind of denouement, and produces (in me, at least), one's first real emotional connection with any of the characters, who for much of the series are either annoying, unsympathetic or simply uninteresting.

And weirdly, considering that the whole raison d'etre of the series is the revitalising of a city struck by a cataclysm, you don't really get the sense that New Orleans is on its uppers. The first episode begins just three months after the hurricane, and there's a fair bit of debris around. But in subsequent episodes there's little evidence of devastation; the streets are mostly clean, potholes mended (when Davis gets a flat from one of them, I could hardly see it!) the apartments (even those of the down-at-heel buskers) have spotless paintwork, and the cemeteries show little sign of the disarray and ruin that took more than a year to clear. And some New Orleans residents have complained that the waterlines, the omnipresent mark left by the floods, are almost nowhere to be seen in Treme, save in the opening credit sequence.

Only once in the series does the true enormity of Katrina come across, and that is when LaDonna searches amongst the bodybags in the makeshift morgue of a freezer container truck, hoping not to find her lost sibling. She steps outside, and the camera pulls back to reveal truck after truck after truck, mute testimony to the huge death toll suffered by the city.

Apparently Simon thinks Treme is the best thing he's done, and the critical response in the US has been mostly favourable. But it hasn't won any awards, as yet, and I think that at the time of writing it's worth noting that this is only the 15th Amazon review of Series 1 to be posted. The second season has just finished its run in the States, so it won't be too long before the box set is available over here. I'm not going to be counting down the days to its release, though.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2013
In the commentaries to the first season of Treme you get to hear the creator-writers talk about their intentions (somewhat defensively) and leading actors and friendly fellow-travellers big-it-up as we've come to expect with these box set extras. Honestly, as a humble fan of these Homicide/Wire production creatives, by the end of this first series my attitude to the back-slapping stuff they say is ambivalent. It's evidently gone on to be a popular success in the U.S., but I have to say that despite obvious merits, this doesn't scream hit series to me. Comparisons to The Wire may be odious, but that obviously was a hit from the get-go, whereas frankly, I wouldn't have been surprised if this show had died before a second season. I'm glad it didn't all the same.

The point of the show is that it's supposed to be a loving but honest portrait of the unique cultural capital that is New Orleans and the "ordinary" people there embodying human spirit in the face of adversity (it says in the packaging blurb). However, the cultural life depicted is skewed very definitely towards the roots-music tradition the city is famous for and the working class communities historically responsible. Hence the district name in the title. Demographics aside, this narrowish slant is really because the writing is that of nerdy music fans (who happen to also be top TV writers) falling over themselves to demonstrate just how down they are with The Source. Consequently the real star of the show is the funky, funky music of New Orleans --not the multiple dramatic narratives threading through the episodes. These story-lines are patchy in their ability to sustain interest over the first season, so the accumulative effect by the end is a somewhat modest emotional impact. At least, I found it so. The local flavour is fantastic (beautifully caught) but the screen drama, not so much.

The writers claim to be interested in providing an antidote to the the artificially-pumped narrative drives typical of American T.V. Fine. Excellent. But where, here, are the riveting tales of genuinely 'naturalistic' characters (regular folks) to be the alternative to the hyped ones of cop shows? It seems that to be naturalistically character-driven here means that 'story' in this show coasts along in a fairly pedestrian manner. When not lolling on the writer's laurels, the scripts lean heavily on a talented cast of actors' ability to breathe depth into very modestly-drawn characters (and some stereotypes are frankly a bit annoying) leading lives of variable intrinsic screen-interest.

Ordinariness or naturalism isn't necessarily self-evident in the characters either. A central example is that of the radio disc jockey ( a white-boy-lost-in-blues sort of type) who seems to be there for comic relief and who is by turns an annoying and amusing guide for the outside viewer/tourist to the local music culture. Burdened by exposition duties as he is, Steve Zahn who plays him does a remarkable job keeping him just about tolerable. Quite a feat given how artificially 'fictional' this character seems (regardless of how much larger than life the real man he's based upon is reputed to be). In the process he and another central character, a likeable, womanising musician played by Wendell Pierce are constantly moving through the music scene and playing opposite real life musicians and locals guesting on the show. It's an on-going encounter handled quite well but this is a mixed blessing, because no matter carefully directed the amateur screen performances are, you are always aware that the pros are carrying the scenes (having to compensate for the natural tendency of the real guys to come across as likeable) in order to keep the drama 'real'. It always happens and goes on a lot. The gain in 'authenticity' of including local personalities to the scenario results in distraction from dramatic verisimilitude on screen.

And the interweaving story arcs sometimes go up scenic side-routes ending nowhere in particular (I guess that's life) --or are simply fairly uninteresting. Such as the deteriorating relationship of a busker couple for example. God, what a dull, predictable 'street' romance. Ordinary, certainly --but compelling? One core arc I found baffling in its unbelievability: that of the character played by John Goodman who is a writer/university lecturer who representing the literary, cultural middle class elite and who functions as a self-appointed spokesman/champion for his town. The writers use him to express the city's polemic about being the victim of national neglect prior to and particularly post-Katrina. The writers mysteriously don't pursue this theme much but as the season progresses this character's arc takes a very dramatic turn (which I won't spoil for anyone yet to see the show) which I found unbelievable in it's extremity. What's this supposed to be about --post-traumatic distress disorder of some sort? It's not convincing. Since the ever-reliable Goodman's performance was fine (his onscreen marriage shared with the excellent Mellisa Leo is really well-realised), I thought the writing must have been at fault.

Throughout, I never felt 'story' in each episode was so soundly crafted as to be reliably self-supporting as had been the case on The Wire.

Not that there aren't some incredibly effective moments. The story line concerning return of The Chiefs was riveting and provided the most memorable images of the series for me. The cinematography and editing on this show is top-notch, delivering beautifully fluid sequences again and again. The stuff concerning the colourful street performances such as those of the Mardi Gras Chiefs is memorably achieved.

But above all, this show is about the music. The vitality of it's depiction throughout the season is as vibrant as any fan could hope for. They recorded everything live on set so the effect is fresh and utterly authentic. Things like the staging of the Second Line (the series marveously begins and ends with this) is better than I've ever seen. Wonderful. But if you're not fussed about such things you may find this show a bit so-so. New Orleans as Party Central could get a bit repetitive and tiresome because without the music to hold you, you will find yourself vicariously guesting at an awful lot of parties. Does that sound that enough to grab and hold you?

I am a fan of the vision New Orleans depicted in Treme but I confess to getting a bit fed-up with the endlessly posturing Party Central laughing in the face of Katrina guff at times. I don't know how that theme can be sustained over three seasons. I found series one too much of a good thing; not enough of something else. So a very harsh three stars for an OK gumbo I imagine will improve with seasoning. Or something.
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on 25 September 2012
Treme is a TV-show which follows different New Orleans residents in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
The show is different from any other show on TV. The show gives a critical insight in how government handled the victims of hurricane Katrina.
Different characters are being followed and New Orleans music is the connection between all the characters in the show.
The show is kind of slow, not a lot of stuff is going on, but that makes it interesting. It gives you the opportunity to really get to know the characters and how Politics work in case of emergencies like Katrina.
Especially for Europeans it is interesting to learn more about what happened after Katrina and learn about the New Orleans music seen.
I was very pleasantly suprised about the quality of this show. I highly recommend this show!
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on 6 October 2014
At first: I am jazz fan. From this perspective, it is one of the best series I ever saw.
Why? It is showing, that Music transcends life situations for which there seems to be no way out.
Of course there is some "soap" in the plot. But the series avoids the usual aesthetics of American productions. The script demonstrates the need of a special courage in american society . The courage to show that the American dream can only succeed if the American society is confronting themselves with the enormous insult of racism.
In this context I recommend in addition the documentary "Jazz" Episode 1 "Gumbo" by Ken Burns. In particular, the comments of Wynton Marsalis.
And the music of Terence Blanchard "A Tale of God's Will -A Requiem for Katrina".
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2011
I had been to New Orleans on business several times before Katrina. In the summer sadly and I never enjoyed it very much - too hot, didn't much like the food or the music and the accent/life style was so strange to me. I preferred New York or San Francisco. But I did really enjoy and relish The Wire - some of the best television I have ever seen - so given the team behind Treme I had no choice but to watch it.

Am on Episode 7 of Series One so far and this is truly wonderful film making. As others have said there are some familiar faces from The Wire - but here playing totally different roles - and superbly. And then we also have Melissa Leo - in a wonderful controlled performance - John Goodman - who I think something sad is going to happen to - but, boy, can he rant to effect. Even Steve Zahn - who I found the one truly irritating character is beginning to grow on me.

Some actors were new to me - Khandi Alexander is almost impossible to watch without flinching as she works through her search for her missing brother. The street violinist is wonderful - she is Juilliard trained but this is her first acting role - she is great and we will see more of her I am sure - and many, many more. As with The Wire Treme is rich in depth - even the walk-ons are beautifully cast and played - and catch your eye and ear.

The story Treme tells is one we know - or think we do - we all watched the TV footage of Katrina transfixed - but the portrait of a sick corrupt society careless of its citizens, the political corruption, the brutality of the police force is put before us almost in a documentary way.

I think this is masterful film making - I still don't really like the music but here it is a integral part of the story and I am enjoying it. And I am beginning to love New Orleans.

Do see this - do persevere with it if it doesn't grab you first off. It will draw you into its world. Sorry - this review is personal rather than analytical but that is a mark of Treme's quality.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2011
Yes, this show may appear slow at first and if you don't care for R'n'B and jazz much then you probably won't make it past the first couple of episodes (although, let's face it - if you don't care for that kind of music you probably should just plain avoid this show)
But bear with it - while the various characters and their stories take a couple of episodes to warm up you will soon become hooked. The characters are, on the whole, believable and represent a cross section of the New Orleans population following the storm and how they return to normal life (with some finding it easier than normal). Of course, as in any character based show, there will probably be one character you cannot stand (and it will probably be Sonny) but this doesn't affect the show as a whole - in fact you could say it is a result of the realistic characterisation on the show. Among the protagonists there aren't really 'heroes and villains' (except for the NOPD and the poorly responding Government) each character has their own flaws and it's really up to the viewer how much they sympathise with them.

As well as its first class writing, the show is wonderfully made. The gritty style (now the MO of David Simon) captures the mood of the wounded city, yet it never wanders into complete darkness - we also see the optimism and Dunkirk spirit of the survivors as they make the most of their circumstances and just get on with life. The stories blend well into each other and the overlapping storyline help show the sense of community, yet we are always aware that there is more going on around the city beyond the main cast's issues. The plots rarely resort to the worn-out clichés of TV drama and is so much better for it; the show follows a more realistic path and refuses to result to cheap melodrama.

The music, which is essentially the USP of the show, is first class and often integral to the portrayal of a city built upon musical tradition. The sheer amount of music talent on the show is extraordinary: even among the principle cast we have Steve Zahn and Lucia Micarelli (Davis McAlery and Annie) who are talented musicians, but it's the guest spots that are truly amazing - a range of legendary players such as Allen Tousaint, Irma Thomas, Lloyd Price, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, and a surprise appearance from Elvis Costello all help to show how the music never stops in the big easy (and also provide the series with a stellar soundtrack).

All in all, if you want to see a unique new show that is perfectly put together and well written, and of course with great music, then be sure to give Treme a go - it may be a slow burner but by the end you will be well and truly hooked.
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on 14 June 2012
This show is amazing! Ensemble acting/storytelling at its finest.

There is a common thread of coping with tragedy and overcoming adversity but the individual stories blossom on their own like an improv solo from the music the town invented but they never strain too far from the root melody.

All this happens against a backdrop of colourful music, food, customs and pride in a bruised but not broken New Orleans.

Maybe you have to be a little bit in love with the place & the music for this show to fully grab you but if you take the chance then this show is music for the soul.
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on 6 February 2012
I bought this for my wife, and ended up enjoying it myself. Good show, started slow for me, but after watching the first episode a few times I got into it bigtime. There's a few cringe worthy parts but in a good way, and a abiding sadness, even when its on a emotional upswing. Didn't like the ending that much, but it was well done, I just thought it was going in a different direction.

worth watching, it may not be the best thing on, but its pretty good
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2013
Absolutely hooked on this series and followed on so well by Season 2, Can't wait for season 3 to arrive.
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A friend recommended this series to me and I decided at the price it was worth a risk and I am so glad that I did; every time I watched an episode I came away feeling happy and good despite the often harrowing subject matter. I can only put this down to the wonderful music that is an integral part of the show; if you love New Orlean's jazz then this show is for you.
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