Once upon a time, well just two years ago, in my Documentary class we had a guest speaker. At that point, Fall 2009, she was talking about working on a new show for HBO that was set in Post-Katrina New Orleans. The name of that show was “Treme” and I made a note to check for it when it premiered.
Two weekends ago, I became hooked to the show off of just three episodes including the recent season finale. Little did I know I was watching the second season, and had completely missed the first season. I blame the poor advertising, people can’t stop talking about “The Game of Thrones” but when it’s something like “Treme” with a predominantly black cast somehow that slips through the media radar.
No worries though thanks to Netflix. I haven’t finished the entire First season yet (two episodes to go), but from what I’ve seen of both seasons this show is terribly underrated and needs way more attention due to the simple fact it’s one of the most well written, finely acted, and most Real shows on the network. And that network is known for having some of the best material in all of TV land.
The show was created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer who have collaborated on “Homicide: Life In the Streets” and the universally hailed “The Wire” (which got rave reviews each season but never got any real Emmy gold — and yes, the show had a predominantly black cast as well). I never got into “The Wire” because every time I tried it felt like the characters and plot lines were so in depth I couldn’t catch up. I thought the same with “Treme” the first time I watched it, as it follows 13 main characters in the Treme area of New Orleans just three months after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. The show flows so well that after an hour is up you do feel like you know the characters, and the ones you don’t you want to know more about.
The true genius of the show is that it manages to be so many different type of shows in one, without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to please different audiences. It’s a crime solving mystery series with Lawyer Toni Bernette played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo who in the first season was trying to track down the whereabouts of Bartender LaDonna’s (Khandi Alexander) younger brother who had gone missing since the storm. It’s a bit of a kooky show at times with Davis played by Steve Zahn who is a rich kid slumming it in Treme and constantly vying for attention in any way. It plays as a fish out of water tale with Annie and Sonny (Lucia Micarelli and Michiel Huisman) two musicians from other parts of the world who have decided to live in New Orleans and learn about the great city. And it’s a show about struggling musicians, with Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) a charming street-smart trombone player constantly struggling to find work. And that’s not even the half, there’s English professors, struggling chefs, professional Jazz musicians, honest cops and (in the second season apparently) shady land developers.
You’d think with so much on the plate the show would be a disaster. However the writing and the pacing are done so expertly the viewer never feels like it’s too much, because each portion of the persons story reveals itself so nicely. Almost like you are a part of the community and doing a quick catch up with your neighbors.
On top of all of that, the show is really educational as well as entertaining. You learn so much about New Orleans; the traditions, the political system, the Indian tribes, the music and the history among other things. You find out how natives and visitors feel about the city, and even why one would want to leave or come back. And you get to see how the Hurricane affected so many people, some see it as an opportunity for something new in their lives and some whose lives were totally changed because of it.
I could seriously go on and on and on about how great this show is, but just to cut it short you need to watch this show. It’s a great character study without it feeling too serious or too dramatic. The stories and characters flow nicely with each other, and another thing I give major props for is that the actors look like real people (smart move casting New Orleans native Phyllis Montana LeBlanc who was a stand out in the chilling Spike Lee documentary “When The Levees Broke”). They don’t look like models dressed-down to look common, they look like people you would see walking down the street and that adds to the realness. The cinematography also helps put the viewers smack dab in Treme without them having to leave their room.
“Treme” is an ace show, which thus far has been ignored by the Emmy’s (surprise surprise! yet they have no issue giving a trophy to a song called “Dick in a Box”) but it’s still a show that needs to be checked out because you can learn so much from it and feel so much from it as well.