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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Complete First Season


Starring: Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman and Michiel Huisman
HBO Home Entertainment
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 30 May 2011

Three months after hurricane Katrina tore its way through the southern city of New Orleans, the residents of Treme are trying to put their lives and city back together. Much has been destroyed, people missing, but what hasn’t been dented is the fierce identity which the city’s population cling to, expressed in their culture and music...

Treme (2010) is a ten part series detailing the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The show was created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer, two of the creative team behind The Wire (2002-2008), a show whose adherence to realism made it one of the best dramas produced. Simon has moved away from Baltimore to New Orleans, but his faith in showing real people leading real lives has not diminished. The show has been nominated for both Emmys’s and Grammy’s.

Treme (pronounced "Tre-may") is a difficult series to categorise. The show sports a large ensemble cast with multiple storylines. However the arcs, such as they are, are generally made up of moments. Even in the commentary Simon agrees that little happens in the first episode save for the theft of some CDs from an abandoned record shop. The moments grow together to build up a convincing portrayal of a city battered, bruised, but not defeated. This sense of identity might seem odd to a non-American audience. There is much that is tribal about the residents of New Orleans. Its well and fine to be proud of where you come from, but some of the citizens take this to extremes, being territorial, not only against their fellow countrymen, the national guard especially, but also with fellow New Orleans residents who may not come from their own neighbourhood.

More than anything Treme is a love letter to the city and the music it produces. It’s not that the cast is relegated to second place, but they have to put up a strong showing to compete with the music. This is also reflected in the balance of the extras. Many of the cast have come from either The Wire or other HBO programs, except for John Goodman who plays a reactionary Creighton Bernette, who finds his voice on the Internet, as he tries to get people to accept that the government were to blame - as they knew the levies would break. His wife, Antoinette "Toni" Bernette (Melissa Leo) is more effective in trying to get justice as she works for musicians, whilst trying to find her missing brother.

I did have one problem with the show and this is purely a cultural one; too many of the characters are either fighting against ‘the man’, or conspiracies of silence, or plain old cover-ups that there is a general air of paranoia pervading the show - as if Americans just can’t believe that sometimes sh*t happen, sometimes bad sh*t, without it being orchestrated by some authority figure. There seems to be a general air that the universe isn’t random and fault and intent can always be attributed to someone. It would be interesting to know if there were a correlation between belief in a god and this form of paranoia, in both cases fault can be attributed to a single being.

Although the cast is uniformly wonderful, Wendell Pierce (Antoine Batiste), has a stand out performance as a trombone player, trying to make his way through the madness and devastation, concerned primarily with just finding the next job and not getting caught cheating by his wife. Pierce turns in a memorable performance as the rouge with a heart.

Season One is presented on four DVDs containing all ten shows. Each show has a clear and strong picture as well as a strong English and French 5.1 track and a 2.0 Spanish track, important for a show about music. There is also a collection of eight European subtitles. As I mentioned before the music is important in this show so you have The Music of Treme a text based information set which appears when the music does, but you also get context sensitive music commentaries. There are a number of interesting full length commentaries on the set which should expand your background knowledge of the show.

Treme is an impressive show, little wonder that it has been picked up for a third season. There is little to fault with the writing, acting or directing, though the characters insular view of the world might put some people off.


Charles Packer

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