New Orleans, three months after Katrina, rebuilding the city, the lives and the music.
A couple of things you won’t know from the show – Treme is a pronounced treh-MAY, and the name refers to a neighbourhood of New Orleans , “an important center of the city’s African-American and Créole culture, especially the modern brass band tradition” according to wikipedia.
The fact that the television show doesn’t actually tell you that is pretty indicative of the show; it’s beautiful, heartfelt, passionate, possibly superb… and I had very little idea what was going on a lot of the time. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the characters and often couldn’t understand what they were saying thanks to a combination of strong accents and loud background music. In fact, that’s similar to my reaction to The Wire, the show the Treme’s creators (and some of the cast) are best known for.
I really wanted to like this show, and while I think it may well be qualitatively superb, after the extended pilot episode I had absolutely no desire to watch any more of it. I didn’t connect with the characters; I felt a lot of sympathy for them and respected their spirit, but I in a kind of abstract way where I was very conscious I was actually thinking more of the real people in New Orleans than the characters on the screen. The fact that it’s so believable and so depressing, that you’re watching something for entertainment when there are people actually living these lives and responding to these situations, made me feel uncomfortable, and far from entertained.
While I feel compelled to write an honest review about how I responded to the show, I really don’t want to discourage anyone from watching it. It’s a good show, possibly even amazing. It’s really beautifully shot, the script has a lyrical, poetic quality to it and the contrasting characters and situations are cleverly introduced. There are a lot of New Orleans natives involved in the production and the passion for the city and particularly the music really came through. While I myself will probably not be tuning in to watch this, I’d heartily recommend that everyone watches at least the pilot, it’s a superb piece of work – I just didn’t like it, and that’s probably my loss.