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Series debut: Treme, Sunday April 11 on HBO Canada

In television on 04/10/2010 at 1:21 am

Update Wednesday, April 14: HBO just renewed Treme for a second season. So all the more reason to hang in there past the first couple of episodes, which many are finding a bit slow.

Here’s a trailer, followed by a longer version, 14-minutes, that includes behind-the-scenes, featuring many of the main characters. Make the time for the longer one.

Series name
Treme

Debuts
Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO Canada (repeating quite a few times)

Regularly airs
Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO Canada

Premise
It’s three months after Katrina in New Orleans, set mostly in the historic Treme neighbourhood. The lens is trained on a handful of individuals as they make music, make do, try to clean up, get back, dig out, find their missing and hang in there until the city “that lives in the imagination” gets its legs under it yet again. Did I mention the music?

Primary cast and crew
Wendell Pierce (The Wire) is Antoine Batiste, musician, philanderer, mooch, proud individual.
Khandi Alexander (ER, News Radio, CSI Miami) is Antoine’s ex,  LaDonna Batiste-Williams. She’s remarried, but she still has a pang now and again. Runs a bar.
Clarke Peters (The Wire) is Albert Lambreaux, musician, contractor and a Mardi Gras chief. No way I could explain what that means any better than a scene near the end of Episode 1. And that’s no spoiler.
Rob Brown (The Express, Stop-Loss) is Delmond Lambreaux, a musician like his chief father, but he’s left for New York and fame.
Steve Zahn (Strange Wilderness, Employee of the Month) is Davis McAlary, he’s a musician but more of a fan. I believe it’s part of the design that he is often annoying as hell and not the best deejay you’ll ever hear.
Kim Dickens (Friday Night Lights, Lost, Deadwood) is Janette Desautel, a chef holding on to her resto by a hair. And don’t ask her about her house.
Melissa Leo (Don McKay, Frozen River, Homicide: Life on the Street) is Toni Bernette, lawyer to the underdog and wife to the loudmothed Creighton Bernette.
John Goodman (Roseanne, West Wing) is Creighton Bernette, professor and kinda novelist, rager against the injustice of the “man-made catastrophe” that flooded and emptied his city, defender of New Orleans pride to all the media who dare to call him up.
David Simon (Homicide: Life on the Street, The Corner, The Wire, Generation Kill) and Eric Overmyer (The Wire, Homicide, Life on the Street, Law & Order) are creator-producers.

Buzz buzz
Every TV writer, blogger, watcher has written about Treme. Some of them have visited the set in New Orleans. Still more have interviewed creators David (The Wire) Simon and Eric Overmyer. Don’t read all those others. Read only this excellent Simon profile in the New York Times magazine. It covers Simon’s work on The Wire and Treme, including an excellent fly-on-the-wall segment that gives a peek at what it’s like to be in the room when Simon and Overmyer and making the magic.

And here’s a behind-the-scenes video to go along with it, Anatomy of a Scene. In it, Simon and Overmyer talk, DVD-extras style, over a scene and discuss Pierce’s character and working with old school musicians.

Wanna know about Treme, the real one? Check this out.

But what do I know anyway? After having seen the the first three episodes, I say …
It has a slow start, but how could it be otherwise? Things are just starting to get moving again in New Orleans. You meet all the main characters, you get hooked by the music, you witness a little outrage, see a butt cheek and hear about Daymo. He’s missing. Make a note. It’s also too dark (visually, not thematically), but in a city where many places still have no light or no money for lights, how could it be otherwise? And there’s a payoff for straining to watch Clarke Peters’ chief clear a spot in his moldy old practice space. A brilliant yellow payoff that is electrifying, both visually and narratively, that draws a framework on which the series might hang: A crumbled, moldy, deserted city, a hasbeen old man, both transformed in a minute, but just for a minute at a time. Simon has described his hope for the series as capturing what New Orleans did and still does: create moments. There are a handful over the first few hours/weeks. The one headscratcher? Scenes of violence are not a Simon trademark, but he is not shy to use them (see: The Wire). Quick flashes of violence mark two episodes in the first few hours and one, in particular, is more puzzling than disturbing. I’ll trust that it flows somewhere eventually. And it’s nice to have a series and a TV maker in whom I feel I can put my trust. Let it come.

Other reviews
Pretty much everyone loves it, including the New York Times, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the San Francisco Chronicle and Time Magazine, to name a few.

Official website
Lots of behind-the-scenes videos and a very nice tribute to longtime Simon collaborator, writer David Mills, who died of an aneurysm recently, but no cast list and, especially puzzling and disappointing, no music list. The first episode alone had a half dozen songs. Louis Prima’s Buona Sera I could handle on my own, but I Feel Like Funkin It Up and later cuts I sure would have appreciated some notes on. Maybe to come? More later on music. Happy and relieved to report that HBO came through with Treme music playlist.

— Denise Duguay

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