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  • Rich Kassirer

Three Cheers for Treme


Steve Zahn, musician Kermit Ruffins and Wendell Pierce in “Treme”

I’m not a big TV watcher. Luckily, “Mad Men” is on a station I get and I can’t wait for it to resume this summer. I enjoy a couple cop shows network TV, but don’t get too attached too many dramas or sitcoms. I don’t have HBO or Showtime, etc., so my only access to shows on these channels is the Internet. I’ve watched “Weeds” and “Californication” after they’ve aired by the links at www.alluc.org. And now I’m doing the same with “Treme,” and I’m this close to getting HBO because of this show.

For those who haven’t seen it, “Treme” is based in New Orleans a couple months after Katrina. The people are still dazed by the disaster and are trying to put their lives back together as the first post-hurricane Mardi Gras approaches. The series focuses on a diverse group of characters, whose lives weave in and out of each other. The acting is brilliant, and while John Goodman is probably the best-known actor of the cast, the show is filled with amazing characters.

Among the cast are: Wendell Pierce as trombonist Antoine Batiste, who is always searching for his next gig. Khandi Alexander as LaDonna, who is looking for her brother, who has been missing since the storm. Goodman is a college professor who makes a name for himself locally with his YouTube rants about lack of aid and caring for the city. His wife is played by Melissa Leo, a civil rights lawyer.  Kim Dickens plays Janette, a chef who loses her restaurant because she can’t pay her bills. The superb Clarke Peters as a Mardi Gras India chief. Lucia Micarelli and Michiel Huisman as buskers. And the hilarious Steve Zahn as Davis McAlary, who is constantly getting himself in and out of trouble.

The other stars of this show are the city and the music. The producers of this show do an amazing job of staying true to both. They let you see both the bad side of the city as well as the good. You want to help the characters and to slap them, sometimes simultaneously. There’s a great jazz blog on NPR.org called A Blog Supreme that breaks down, in incredible detail, the show’s story lines and the music. NPR’s Patrick Jarenwattananon with the help of  Josh Jackson, a DJ at WBGO in New Orleans and knows first-hand about the city and the scene, break down the songs, the characters, the food and, the best part, who the musicians are. There are tons of cameos on the show. Dr. John, Elvis Costello, McCoy Tyner, and Steve and Justin Townes Earle.

There is so much to discuss about this show. I hope it continues for years, but I’m guessing its run will be short. I’ve been lucky to be able to find these episodes on line. You really have to search, especially if you are trying to do it as it’s airing. If you have HBO, you have to watch this show. If you don’t, it’s definitely worth searching for.

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