Monday, April 12, 2010

Treme a study in a delightful, resilent neighborhood

     Treme, is a neighborhood in New Orleans of less than a square mile and with a population of a little less than 9,000, or so the U.S. Census in 2000 counted.  Considering what the area has been through since then, it may be considerably less right now.  And that's what HBO's new series, Treme, shows viewers.  Beginning three months after Hurricane Katrina, the place is a near deserted, dilapidated mess.  Yet, residents are starting to trickle back in, and a few never left.

     One such couple is Toni and Creighton Bernette (John Goodman and Melissa Leo).  Toni sued half the cops in town, but is only hated by some of them.  In the pilot, she goes well out of her way to help a friend locate her missing brother, not seen since the storm.  Goodman is back in fine form as Creighton, and his rants at the media provide a necessary levity, as well as a show of strength.  Equally profane is rule-breaking and borderline criminal Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn, in his first series regular role), but he is still very likable.

     The major focus, though, seems to be the music.  Wendell Pierce plays Antoine Batiste, an incredibly talented trombonist, who seems to find gigs easily enough, but is still living hand to mouth.  Pierce also starred in the series The Wire, which was created by David Simon, who, along with Eric Overmyer, has also served up this show.  I did not watch the previous one, but in just eighty minutes I can see why they wanted to keep working with Pierce.

     Another colorful character returning to town is Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), an Indian chief who wants to bring his tribe back to the neighborhood.  In the meantime, his own house destroyed, he has taken up residence in an abandoned local bar.  One can't help but wonder what will happen when the owner returns.  Or perhaps he or she won't.  Many residents did not.

     It is a large cast, and I can't pinpoint specific plots for each character.  Yet, the city and its spirit seem to be captured wonderfully.  It was a fantastic pilot, with plenty to draw viewers back.  The music is what really sells the series, with local musicians from the area popping up to grant authenticity.  I look forward very much to the rest of the season, and I don't usually say this after a pilot, but years to come.

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