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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 26 February 2011
I read a review here and I must retort. This is a series about New Orleans getting its dignity back after being abandoned by its own government during a disaster, the effects of which are still being felt today. The characters portrayed are entirely believable, warts and all. That also goes for the accents and vernacular which did stump me a few times but thats part of my love of this series. Its not easily accessible. Its not pretty people doing funky things. Its ordinary people doing what ordinary people do in New Orleans. Sometimes this involves jazz, sometimes it doesnt. The music is a background to the unfolding stories. Music matters to New Orleans. The revelations of unkept government promises, discrimination against the poor black residents and the heavy handed police force made for uncomfortable viewing, as it should. There is a lot of talking and sometimes the subject matter sent me scurrying to the internet, e.g. to find out why people were dressing up in feathers and using native American names. But thats what I like to do. I loved this series but its not for everybody.
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on 22 February 2013
I am always wary of fulsome praise - in 30 years of writing reviews I have managed to avoid using words like 'great' and 'best'. That said, my house rule does occasionally come under pressure and with Treme I am in serious danger of shattering that rule. Unsure what to expect - the first episode is packed with interesting characters, excellent dialogue, almost too much to take in at one sitting - but as the series progresses, the characters grow, the dialogue is unerring, and the overall mood gripping. These people are struggling to preserve themselves and the city of New Orleans with courage and dignity and not a little good humour. And then there is the music. Bookended by an excellent theme, there is virtually non-stop music, contemporary R&B, traditional jazz, soul, gospel, contemporary jazz, a little pop and folk and classical, all blended brilliantly into the fabric of the tales being told. As for these life stories being unveiled, all are finely wrought and intelligently developed. So, excellent scripts, storylines, casting, acting, directing, performing. Not a weak link, never a weak moment.
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on 27 February 2011
The writing is superb, the acting is note perfect. If you like slow burning intelligent dramas like Mad Men and The Wire then you're in for a treat. It's not patronizing spoon-fed drama and will often have you playing catch up but that's what brains are for. It's beautifully shot and the script keeps that modern Dickensian feel that David Simon established in his earlier works like The Corner, The Wire etc. The dignity bestowed upon the characters, the denizens of the city and New Orleans is heart-warming and the occasionally maligned soundtrack adds so much atmosphere that you could almost believe you were there whilst you watch it.
Jazz aficionados will lap up the live performances;those who aren't may well find it irksome but, if you have warmed to the characters as I did, you will come to accept it as part of the character of the piece as a whole.
Whilst ratings were modest - to say the least - the quality of the finished product has allowed for it to be renewed for a second season. I hope, as with Mad Men, that positive word of mouth brings this drama to a wider audience.
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on 23 December 2011
I was a bit worried when I watched the first two episodes but the series grew on me as I carried on watching. I had the same reaction with the The Wire but I've watched that twice now and enjoyed it even more on the second watching. I think this will be the same. Watch the first time for the story, and the second time for the settings and the subtleties. The music is great. Looking forward to the next series.
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For those looking for David Simon to follow up the Wire with a similar crime related series Treme will come as a real disappointment; those alternatively looking for one of the best American dramas in recent years from the superb HBO stable then the "eagle has landed". The series is essentially a love letter to the shattered city of New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. It certainly is an indictment of the Bush administrations gross mishandling of aftermath and like Dave Edger's recent book Zeitoun there are times when "Treme" makes you literally fume at the debacle that followed infused by racism. In particular the spectacle of a largely poor black community "left behind" and an incredibly nervous and paranoid Police force.

But if your singular interest is examining the wake of the unmitigated disaster, which is Katrina, then Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke" should be your port of call. "Treme's" landscapes are far wider and it aims to capture the essence of New Orleans by tapping into traditions of jazz music, culture, carnival & Mardi Gras, language, cuisine and particularly the sheer bloody minded resilience of its residents. Like all David Simon scripts it builds slowly but surely until the characters hold your attention in a vice like grip. "Treme" is the district epicentre of New Orleans jazz and around that culture are woven human stories of resettling in the destroyed city, people seeking lost relatives dispersed across the USA or eking out a living as the city attempts to recover. Music is at the heart of the series and Treme is not afraid to stop the story and introduce a jam session or a carnival band. Thus you have highlights such as a great version of "My Indian Red" led by the great Dr John; the fabulous Kermit Ruffins playing "Skokiaan" in another episode and a soundtrack jam packed with great music. Throughout we also have the appearance of stellar musicians like Steve and Justin Townes Earle, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. In sense who are we to argue with HBO claim that Treme sees "one of the best organic uses of music in a series".

The characters at the heart of the series are drawn from "Wire" stalwarts like Wendell Pierce who plays the colourful local musician "Antoine Batiste" and Clarke Peters who plays the chief who leads one of the exotic Mardi Gras "Indian" tribes with their mix of African/American/Indian traditions feeding into the glorious city Carnivals. These resume three months after Katrina but with them re-emerge problems of gang violence and crime. The there are a number of other key characters namely John Goodman's angry Professor Creighton Bernette whose epic foul mouthed tirades against George W Bush are oratorical fireworks as he reminds the President "You rebuilt Chicago after the fire you rebuilt San Francisco after the earthquake". Then there is Gonzo DJ Davis Mclary played by Steve Zahn. I have to admit that in the first couple of episodes I disliked this character but stick with Zahn since his anarchic portrait of the passionate Bohemian New Orleans resident "who wants his city back" grows to be one of the series best. Equally the redoubtable Khandi Alexander who plays the tough bar owner LaDonna Batiste-Williams also in a desperate search of her "lost" brother is superb throughout.

"Treme" is unique series superbly directed by Eric Overmyer and one that invest enormous and intricate detail into its warm and diverse set of characters. It is New Orleans Cajun, Creole and whatever other culture writ large with its nuances, colours and language firmly placed at the heart of this show. At the opening point of one of his Internet rants "Creighton Bernette" proclaims "yes we are still here". At this moment you feel the pain and the passion in his words and fundamentally its channelling that same pain and passion for this historic, flawed but vital city into the medium of TV that gives "Treme" its big beating heart.
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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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on 14 May 2016
A good well made series, with an interesting and unique insight into life in Treme, a district of New Orleans,
(Southern US) which tells the story of a collection of residents, after hurricane Katrina, that ruined the city (last decade)...
People have a hard time in this series, and there is a lot of spirit, and quality to the characters,
who are mostly creative types of people, comprising of Chefs, teachers, writers,legal people, and musicians,
one of the themes of the story is that the city is not being repaired and cleaned up after the place was wrecked by a flood,
and the question is, who would do it anyway..? As there doesn't seem to be many tradesmen type people to do the work,
and the government couldn't be bothered to pay anyone, to sort it out... Don't think Britain would be like that (Yet!!)...
All in all, a very good, unique series, with likable characters, but not sure it is for me...
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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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on 18 February 2016
If you like music you'll love this. Evry variety of music. Not just New Orleans jazz! Old favourites.......Ernie K Doe, Irma Thomas, Huey Piano Smith, Jesse Hill, Fats Domino etc. Plus current stars........Toussaint, Jon Cleary, Dr. John, Prof. Longhair, nevillle bros etc
Good story also, re post Katrina chaos. Makes you think.
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on 3 July 2012
Like a lot of people I watched this because of the magic name of David Simon, creator of The Wire.
This isn't a cop series - though The Wire wasn't just a cop series, either - and it's had mixed reviews. Basically, it's the story of a variety of people coming to terms with life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - though it's not just about that, either.
Which gives you a clue to why the reaction has been a bit mixed: despite the vivid setting, the story is harder to pin down.
There are musicians and DJs, lawyers and police, bar and restaurant owners, and some very familiar faces from The Wire, like Wendell Pierce (this time he's a loveable but no-good trombonist) and Clarke Peters (a Mardi Gras Indian, struggling to keep the tradition alive). Less successful is an overacting John Goodman as a loudmouth academic (who we first meet being interviewed by a British journalist straight out of a 1930s Pathe News bulletin) and his liberal-lawyer-with-a-conscience wife, straight off the shelf.
There's a few nods to some sort of structure - there's a search for a missing brother, and the series culminates in the first Mardi Gras parade after the storm - but otherwise the stories just flow, sometimes intertwining when the characters meet, and this gives it all a multi-layered and very authentic feel. Too slow for some, maybe, but after an uncertain start I found it completely absorbing.
It's beautifully filmed, you get a real flavour of the place, though some have complained that it can get a bit like a travelogue: couldn't there have been just one character who hates street parades and gumbo, and prefers an ordinary doughnut to a beignet? But the music, on the street corners as well as in the bars and clubs, is wonderful. Many of the featured performers are real New Orleans musicians, and if you like jazz and blues then you're in for a treat.
I suspect everything Simon will ever put his name to will always be compared to The Wire. This isn't in the same league, but it's still very good. And like all good series, it gets better as you get to know the characters and your perceptions of them change.
A series to get your teeth into, and one well worth investing in. Series two is also available on DVD, and there are two more in the pipeline - great news.
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