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'Treme' Reviews

by Allyssa Lee, posted Apr 8th 2010 8:00PM
Set three months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, HBO's new series 'Treme' follows, quite simply, a loosely-connected network of New Orleans residents as they struggle to pick up their lives in the wake of the disaster.

But given that this is the latest effort from David Simon -- the much-heralded creator of the seminal HBO series 'The Wire' -- this drama proves to be so much more than just that.

Those expecting a Big Easy version of 'The Wire,' however, are out of luck. This is no police drama, and the city's politics are largely unexplored. The series takes its title from Faubourg Tremé, the historic New Orleans neighborhood adjacent to the French Quarter thought to be the birthplace of jazz. And the music from this multi-cultural, multi-storied, proud yet battered city pulses like a heartbeat throughout.

There's been no shortage of talent gracing this drama. The ensemble cast includes 'Wire' vets Wendell Pierce (a New Orleans native) and Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Steve Zahn, in his first regular TV series role. Guest appearances from musicians such as Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello, Dr. John and Kermit Ruffins lend authenticity.

Nor has there been a shortage of media coverage leading up to 'Treme's April 11 premiere. Sadly, part of that has been due to the unexpected death of one of the team's writers, David Mills. But 'Treme' is also being hailed as more than just another television program: It's an event. While some have noted the series' meandering pace, many critics have been praising Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer's new series for its ability to immediately transport viewers on a musical journey into the heartbeat and the heartbreak of this weird and wonderful city.

Read what the critics had to say after the jump.Set three months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, HBO's new series 'Treme' follows, quite simply, a loosely-connected network of New Orleans residents as they struggle to pick up their lives in the wake of the disaster.

But given that this is the latest effort from David Simon -- the much-heralded creator of the seminal HBO series 'The Wire' -- this drama proves to be so much more than just that.

Those expecting a Big Easy version of 'The Wire,' however, are out of luck. This is no police drama, and the city's politics are largely unexplored. The series takes its title from Faubourg Tremé, the historic New Orleans neighborhood adjacent to the French Quarter thought to be the birthplace of jazz. And the music from this multi-cultural, multi-storied, proud yet battered city pulses like a heartbeat throughout.

There's been no shortage of talent gracing this drama. The ensemble cast includes 'Wire' vets Wendell Pierce (a New Orleans native) and Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Steve Zahn, in his first regular TV series role. Guest appearances from musicians such as Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello, Dr. John and Kermit Ruffins lend authenticity.

Nor has there been a shortage of media coverage leading up to 'Treme's April 11 premiere. Sadly, part of that has been due to the unexpected death of one of the team's writers, David Mills. But 'Treme' is also being hailed as more than just another television program: It's an event. While some have noted the series' meandering pace, many critics have been praising Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer's new series for its ability to immediately transport viewers on a musical journey into the heartbeat and the heartbreak of this weird and wonderful city.

Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

Salon: "Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer offer up such an intimate portrait of this strange, soulful American city that watching it makes you feel as if you're there, mopping your brow over a cold beer in a dark corner bar, taking in a jazz band at a club, tapping your foot along with a parade on its streets. Suddenly, all the talk of the uniqueness of New Orleans culture, the passionate embrace of its music, the struggle to revive the Lower Ninth Ward and bring its natives back home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, all of it comes together and you can feel the heartbreak of this city, from the second-line parade that opens the first 80-minute episode to the slow funeral procession that ends it. 'Treme' epitomizes the sort of great storytelling we all thirst for on TV but rarely find."

The New Yorker: "In 'Treme,' your gaze is always brought from the general to the specific, or -- more specifically -- to a dense mesh of details that don't always appear to make sense or add up easily. That approach is a fitting one for looking at New Orleans, especially post-Katrina, assuming that Simon and Overmyer can get under the city's skin. It's one thing to take us to New Orleans -- anyone can do that -- but not everyone can take us inside New Orleans. ... The characters in the show are ambivalent about outsiders, and if you're at all sensitive to that you feel intrusive, rude -- almost a colonialist -- for appreciating what you see and hear in 'Treme.' The series virtually prohibits you from loving it, while asking you to value it. In that sense, I suppose, it may be the bravest show that David Simon has ever made."

Entertainment Weekly: "Hoo boy, are you going to have fun watching this. It bursts with great rhythm & blues, funk, and jazz music ... 'Treme' explodes with pleasure. And pain. Without becoming a pious bummer, the show never lets you forget the unending tragedy in New Orleans. ... The artistic achievement of 'Treme' is that it blends bluntness with the nuances of gorgeous music."

'Treme' Trailer

The Baltimore Sun: "In 30 years of writing about television, I have never heard music used as organically, wisely and powerfully as it is in the new HBO drama. ... I'm not saying "Treme" is necessarily in a league with "The Sopranos," "The Civil War" or even "Homicide" at its best. But the pilot moved me as those productions did -- and in the world of television, that is something special."

Minneapolis Star Tribune
: "As pleasurable and captivating as anything on TV. ... Simon and Overmyer paint all their figures with sympathy, with one glaring exception. Tourists -- the folks whom New Orleans has always relied upon to pay the bills -- are presented as gawkers, fools and bumpkins only there to stumble down Bourbon Street or snap pictures of the Fourth Ward. ... Simon should remember that he, too, is a visitor, and that he's not the only one who wants to dance in the second line."

Chicago Sun-Times: "It's fitting that a TV show about the Big Easy would be meandering, with the film equivalents of jazz riffs, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch. Nothing is explained or introduced; viewers are expected to just join the slow-paced funeral parade even though nothing much happens. 'Treme' is real enough that it would have been a fascinating documentary, and the music is so rich that a concert would be insane. But as a series, 'Treme' is a tough slog."

NPR: "It's the sign of a great TV series when you don't care which characters are on-screen, because you're interested in them all. Very quickly, 'Treme' establishes itself as that type of series. Best of all, perhaps, is what the show does with music. ... 'Treme,' from the start, is like one of those haunting pieces of jazz from the French Quarter. Get one taste, and you're not likely to forget it."

Boston Herald: "Unlike 'The Wire,' the pacing is lazy. Many of the moments seem authentic, but to paraphrase director Alfred Hitchcock: A good show is life minus the boring parts. There's no question that music is important to the lifeblood of New Orleans -- the show features appearances by many local artists -- but you'll either love it here or feel as if you're being force-fed. It's as if you're trapped at a dinner table with a cousin who's trying to convert you to his newfound religion."

The Washington Post: "So is it good? Yes, it's quite good. Sunday's episode is nearly flawless and a textbook example of how to launch an ensemble saga that may eventually embroider itself into a haunting tapestry. Will it be as good as 'The Wire'? Three episodes in, I'm willing to say 'Treme' (the title is two syllables; it rhymes with away) has the potential to be better than 'The Wire.' It's suffused with characters and an amazingly crafted musical and ethereal texture that is as lovely and depressing as New Orleans itself."

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Lora

Love the show. I live in Houston with a sister from NO. She came to stay with me during the storm and aftermath. I have a special fondness in my heart for NO, but don't disparage Houston for helping. Lord knows, it's not NO, but we did help. Please acknowledge it.

May 08 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edgard Mark

I really like the show a lot. I've been following all the chatter on sites like this one and also
http://tremegumbo.com . I'm really interested in seeing how David Simon is going to put his stamp on theis show. The Wire was the greatest show ever and I exopect similar from Treme.

May 06 2010 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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