If it hasn't been stated about a 107 times already: Treme is not The Wire. Sure, it has mostly the same creative team and they share a few actors, but while The Wire has the media-sexy drug thing going, Treme tells you about... musicians? Chefs? Barkeepers? Sure, there's the aftermath of Katrina, but that's in the background.
Having just watched The Wire for the nth time before starting with Treme, it's obvious that the series continues in the footsteps of it in terms of the high quality of everything: the absolutely superb acting, the sharp writing, the great directing - it's all there. There are plenty of characters (not quite the 60 something there were in the latter parts of The Wire, but enough), and every one of them has something going for them. The plotlines might appear to be non-existing at first - how much can you tell about a guy preparing a costume for a parade? - but that's deceiving. Beneath the surface there's plenty of going on. It's like following everyday life, except this one is interesting.
And did I mention the music yet? I've always considered myself as a rock fan, and never had much interest in jazz or blues or anything that can be played with a trombone. But my goodness, the first episode of Treme managed to alter my music taste. Much like a big part of The Wire was the lack of music, here the music plays a huge part. And it's spot on every time.
While Treme is clearly lacking a large target audience, I can't but recommend it to everyone interested in good television series. Just have an open mind (and ears) and start watching. Now.
Created by the same team that brought us The Wire I was certainly looking forward to watching Treme. I have now watched the entire first season and Treme does reproduce much of what made The Wire so great namely a well written script, interesting well realised characters and fantastic acting.
As with The Wire, Treme can also be slightly slow in places but, where as The Wire always had the constant conflict between and amongst the criminals and law enforcement to retain viewer interest, there is no over arching story within Treme that is able to recreate what kept me hooked throughout the five seasons. I almost hate myself for saying this but I found it incredibly difficult to get into this series and, despite all the positives I mentioned, I will be unlikely to tune into the second season.
Interesting idea, placed in an interesting setting that a lot of viewers would like to find out more about. The acting was mostly good and casting was successful, however the plotlines really failed to grab me and I found the whole show extremely slow and not interesting enough to keep watching. It has potential and maybe it will be in better shape after a few episodes but judging from the pilot it has failed to captivate me in the way that many other shows have.
I must give it an extra point for music though as it was quite wonderful and should be acknowledged.
I wasn't sure when I first watched, but this is a great show. The music and cast are the best. The drama of putting the city back together after Katrina is more than enough for many seasons. But then imagine what we in the future audience know is coming in the form of the Gulf Oil Spill. It adds a perspective of even higher drama to what is already before us. For what is worse than a mother and sister finding their man 5 months dead and unidentified in an old trailer cooler, than to know that given the barest of time to heal and move on, these people and their city will be again in the middle of another catastrophe that could wipe them out. Yet you know that even then they won't stay down. You can feel it in the music. It breaks your heart and lifts your spirit all at once. It's tragic magic.
I've read a lot of people complaining about the plot or the rehashed setting and all of that, but I'm here to tell you, this show is most definitely, some of the most quality television HBO has ever put out.
Let me just start out by saying, the theme music is ridiculously catchy. I liked The Wire's opening theme, but Treme's theme is fun and alive and just embodies the spirit of Mardi Gras. The music in the show, from the street musicians to the club bands to the Carnivale Indians, is what keeps me coming back to the show. The Second Line in the pilot episode was so gritty and real, you could feel the trombone jump in, and the Indian chant outside of a decimated house had vocals just shaking my speakers. The choice to use legitimate, homegrown musicians was genius, Kermit, Elvis Costello, it just made the scenes feel so organic and real. A real musician on a real instrument, regardless of whether or not they are actually playing while being taped, is just different.
The story is one that America has already heard before, in documentaries, benefit concerts, etc. But, the actors in this show are chosen very, very well, much like The Wire (which many are from, Walen, Bunk, and Freamon). I will concede, that if you are watching the show purely for the plot, you may not like the show, or think its just another show taking advantage of the Katrina catastrophe, but I would also counter with the statement, you are missing the real show. The show is not just about the people of New Orleans and their struggles, it is about the music and culture of the city that pulls her people back to her. Without the music, the show is just another show on television. With the music, the show is a cultural experience that we have the opportunity to live in, all in one hour increments.
The Simon/Overmyer team of The Wire fame return with their signature style of multiple narratives, loosely-bound through flawed-yet-redeemable characters, on a backdrop of human-wrought disaster. While that ought to be enough to make fans of The Wire giddy, be they warned that the departures from The Wire formula make Treme an altogether different dramatic enterprise.
As in The Wire, the cast of Treme is outstanding and exploited to the maximum of their collective acting abilities. The acting in these shows is as good as it gets. Of course, Simon and Overmyer writing the scripts helps a great deal. The influence of their writing comes through loud and clear in the all-too-real dialogue (and diatribe).
The characters are formed to grate while they charm, offend while they endear, and misbehave while engendering our sympathy. They are made whole and human through natural portrayals delivered by a gifted cast. The characters, actors and performances have been described at length around the Internets so I won't re-hash them here - but I will tell you to trust that they are credible without pretence and vibrant without (too much) excess.
Also like The Wire, the scene-setting and storytelling are all-important and exquisitely detailed. These are shows best watched without any distractions and are not for the attention-deficit. Don't expect fast-paced action, flashy cut-scenes, and so on. If you are not captivated by the end of the first episode, these shows are probably not for you. On the other hand, if you suffer from attention-abundance you can probably expect Treme to be a series richly rewarding that, like The Wire, can be enjoyed again and again.
The most obvious difference from The Wire is that Treme is set in New Orleans three months after hurricane Katrina and the flooding. The squalor we see in New Orleans, however, is tempered by that city's epic musical tradition. The music makes up the fabric of the narratives in Treme much like heroin did in The Wire. Despite the play-for-the-money emphasis from the start, the music in Treme gives it a huge leg up over The Wire in this key regard: the music gives hope. If I was somewhat discouraged by the abject hopelessness of many situations in The Wire, I am finding that Treme, while still dark, hits the right note. The Katrina disaster is everywhere the music isn't. The music is a joyous and optimistic defiance to the havoc wrecked by the storm, and a symbol of the strength of spirit of New Orleans and its people.
Also worthy of note is that the featured bands are all authentic and credited. Also, the music is so good it's difficult to stay sitting while your ass bounces around on the sofa.
Still, it's safe to say that Treme is no more about music than The Wire was about drugs. While The Wire was about what people did to get by in Baltimore, Treme is about the people themselves trying to put their lives, families and city back together. Treme is less focused on plot than The Wire was and more focused on the lives of the characters. There is still dramatic tension, though much more relaxed than in The Wire. Treme builds, relies on and thrives on the remarkably engrossing stories of the characters.
An interesting aspect of Treme is that it conveys a concertedly negative attitude towards disaster-tourism and media exploitation. On the surface this may appear disingenuous considering the ghetto-tourism spawned by The Wire and that Treme seems to be engaging in what it condemns. I'm quite sure this is not the case, though. Rather, the creators of Treme, by liberally hiring cast and crew from the community whose struggles they are highlighting, are acting in direct opposition to disaster porn. Obviously, this only holds to the extent that without the Katrina disaster, there wouldn't be a show like Treme. Treme, however, does not appear to be capitalizing on the disaster and its carefully crafted message is not part of the problem but part of the solution.
Don't mistake Treme as a politically slanted social commentary, though. The focus is clearly on the the lives and stories of the characters. In a story like this, however, the social commentary is an inevitable part of the landscape. This was also true of The Wire. Like in The Wire, Simon and Overmyer don't shy away from portraying the landscape as true-to-life as possible.
If you liked The Wire, Treme may not be your hat but it'll still be worth watching. If you loved The Wire the third time through, you're probably in for quite a treat. So far, Treme is the most compelling television drama of the year - possibly of the past decade. And did I mention that the music is awesome?
Sorry, but I didn't like it. I watched 20 minutes of the pilot and It totally failed to catch my interest ( I didn't have the willpower to finish it). I mean a pilot is supposed to be enticing ( I hope I'm using the right word), to rake you in, to make you feel connected to the characters (at least some of them). The only point I was a bit interested was about that guy on the riverfront, being interviewed by the brit journalist, about the failure of city' system of protection, but the ending of the scene was bleh :P. About New Orleans I liked more K-ville ( by the way: this show is nowhere near the level of "The Wire"). In the end I'm not a bit fan of Jazz music, but I supposed if you like the genre, you could like more than me this series. Enjoy.
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