bill bodkin goes to n’awlins…
Treme is a fascinating show…and for so many reasons.
First and foremost, Treme is able to capture every aspect of the city of New Orleans and put it into a drama — from the music scene to the culinary scene to the abounding corruption and despair of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. It’s ensemble at its best, a Damon Runyon-type of saga, spiked with the color and culture of one of America’s most vibrant cities.
With that being said, the second fascinating aspect of Treme is that it’s so easy to pick up for first time viewers. Having missed the first two seasons, this reviewer found it extremely easy to pick up on all the major storylines and engage with all the major characters while quick glances at the show’s Wikipedia page helped fill in some blanks. To me, this is the mark of a truly well-written show.
The third most fascinating part of Treme is that the show really shouldn’t make sense. A show that’s about greed, corruption, music and food? Really? The food aspect should be the silliest part of Treme; but since one of New Orleans’ main attractions is their resplendent culinary scene, it only makes to make food a key part of Treme’s storyline. And it doesn’t hurt that the brilliant chef/author Anthony Bourdain co-wrote the episode and celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio and Wiley Dufresne made cameo appearances.
And the music, my God, the music. It’s such an infectious part of the show and it helps not only score the scenes, but helps create drama. Listening to bands like Rebirth Brass Band and other horn section filled jazz, funk and blues outfits just gets your blood flowing, it stirs the soul. The songs on Treme are songs of worship, protest and revelry and as an audience member, you can’t help but get swept up in the musical emotion.
The cast of Treme is also a big reason why the show is just so good. Melissa Leo, as always, is super impressive as the motherly yet resourceful civil Antoinette “Toni” Bernette. Despite her brilliance in Frozen River and The Fighter, it seems like one always forgets just how good of an actress she is and just how wide her range is.
Then you have two of the premier character actors of our generation, Steve Zahn and Wendell Pierce. They’ve been great role players in all the movies they’ve appeared in, so it only makes sense to have them in the rich ensemble of Treme. Of course, Wire fans already know how good Pierce is, but for the rest of us, seeing Pierce as the wandering trombonist Antoine Batiste is a joy. When the episode opens with him haggling with a cab driver and using the Pythagorean Theorem to justify his lack of funds was absolute brilliance all around — from whomever came up with those lines to Pierce’s delivery.
As for Steve Zahn, well he plays your usual half-baked yet utterly sincere Steve Zahn character. You know, that excitable dude, who has his heart on his sleeve and is usually the butt of the joke. Yup, not too much of a difference between his normal characters and Treme’s Davis McAlary. But despite the similarities, it really works here. And it’s probably because you know Davis McAlary — the music junkie who’s neck deep in vinyl, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of a certain musical genre and is always hanging around the local concert venues. You know this guy and you probably like him too — hence Zahn is perfect for the role.
The writers and producers of Treme are weaving us a tele-tapestry of the world of New Orleans. Using fibers of fiction and fact, they are telling us a rich, complex tale with bold characters and rich music. It’s an engrossing show that even if you’ve missed it’s beginnings, you’ll want to stick around to see the end.