Saturday, 18 September 2010

Treme (HBO)

Treme is the new series from Wire mastermind David Simon. Set in the months following Hurricane Katrina it is another sprawling ensemble drama as much about the city and it's culture as it is the characters; although in true David Simon style they are wonderfully written, multi-dimensional people.

Our primary window into the world of New Orleans is through the music so several of the principal characters are musicians including young couple Sonny and Annie who make a living busking, rich kid DJ Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) who constantly champions the "real New Orleans" but has refused to grow up, and Wire veterans Wendell Pierce (Bunk) and Clarke Peters (Freamon) as freelance trombonist Antoine Fontaine (strictly a cooked fish eating mother fucker) and Big Chief Albert Lambreaux; plus a plethora of supporting characters around them. Outside of the music culture we have the Janette Desautel (played by the marvellous Kim DIckens, Joanie Stubbs from Deadwood and Sawyer's ex in Lost) as a chef struggling to keep afloat and middle class married couple Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) and Creighton Bernette (John Goodman), a lawyer and author. Goodman is quite fantastic as the angry voice of dissent throughout the show, his angry youtube tirades in particular.

Each of these characters, and those around them, are searching for meaning after the tragedy that has struck, but never is there any hint of schmaltz or any easy answers. This, like The Wire and Simon's other HBO show Generation Kill, never ties things up neatly or with any finality. While this series has it's story you wouldn't feel cheated if the show had been cancelled like, say, Deadwood. Thankfully it hasn't.

Along with the humour (this is comfortably SImon's funniest show), cracking dialogue and richly drawn characters every episode is filled out nicely with sustained music sequences. These will likely detract for anyone who doesn't like jazz, but every one shows us something new about the characters and the culture of the city.

The one element that sets The Wire apart from this (and everything else on TV ever) is that while this has its story, that story doesn't have a strong thread to draw you along whereas each series of the Wire had it's case (except, arguably, series 4). Therefore Treme is more like The Sopranos or Mad Men; great characters, no narrative thrust. I prefer this first series to any of the 3 series of The Sopranos I've dragged myself through or the half a series of Mad Men I've twice tried to watch mainly because the world and characters are far more expansive and interesting than either of those shows.

If you like intelligent, serious, adult drama (and jazz) I urge you to seek this out and watch it.

1 comment:

  1. Can't go wrong with Angry Goodman. On my murder and scandal tour of LA, the guide claimed Goodman is gay. Surprising and scary.