Treme is one of the greatest television series that HBO has ever aired in its television history. This engaging and unique television creation is from creators Eric Overmyer and David Simon (both of whom worked as writers/producers on The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street; the former of which was also created by Simon, who was the head-writer). It's perhaps unsurprising that two of the minds behind some of television's most acclaimed are creatively behind another critical success that can call it's home HBO. What's surprising is that this ridiculously intelligent and mesmerizing series isn't more popular with audiences.
HBO hasn't had the best of luck with marketing Treme. It's struggled with finding itself an audience. That's probably an odd way to kick-off trying to talk about the show, but it's an interesting thing about the series and it's place in pop-culture. Unfortunately, the series is something that has never done particularly well in the ratings. The numbers simply aren't impressive. Whether this is due to a lack of awareness of the show or something else is a interesting question -- but regardless, the critical darling has had some rough times.
Yet Treme has survived on HBO for several good reasons, including: it has a loyal fan-base, an immense critical response, and co-creator David Simon's insistence on seeing to it that the show receive a quality-conclusion (the show almost became cancelled prior to season three and it was announced HBO would not pick-up the show for a fourth season before Simon convinced the network to give the series a final five episodes to conclude it, which air this December as the show's fourth and final season).
The series revolves around the citizens of New Orleans in a post Hurricane Katrina world. This immediately sets it apart from anything else on television. I am astonished by so much of this series. It's one of the bravest and most authentic narratives on television, tackling diverse and difficult subject matters related to socio-economics, politics, and culture. Few shows have the guts to address these kinds of topics at all, even fewer have the skill and intelligence to do so within a frame-work based around a culture within America that is so cherished and that hits seriously close to home following the tragedy of New Orleans after Katrina.
The series is not one to have any sort of specific "plotline" -- there is never one lone narrative device driving things forward. If there is such an element to Treme, perhaps it's that this is absolutely a show aimed at following all of the characters that inhabit the shows world. It focuses on the characters above-plot, though it is a dramatic series with many continuing storylines, all of which grow and evolve over the series.
The idea behind the series is to simply follow the characters throughout their lives -- through their struggles, their hopes, and their dreams. You witness moments of weakness as well as heroism. Moments of exquisite grace and moments that lack in grace. The show manages successfully to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of ordinary people through the characters of Treme.
The cast is remarkable. I almost cannot fathom how so many great performers work on this series. All in one cast. It's so impressive. The series contains several great character actors (several of whom were also cast members of The Wire). Melissa Leo (an Academy Award winner, no less) has one of the best parts as Toni Bernette, someone always seeing to find answers from the police and government, even while dealing with (or failing to deal with) personal issues in her immediate life. This is a passionately dedicated character and this particular storyline is oh-so-fascinating. Steven Zahn is the lovably quirky Davis, who demonstrates enthusiasm and dedication to music more than most. This is the best role (performance, too!) given by this vastly under-rated actor in his entire career to date.
There are so many characters and each has a fascinating storyline that is well developed by the writers of the show. The enormous cast always get a moment to shine: Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, Michiel Huisman, Lucia Micarelli, Clarke Peters, David Morse, and Jon Seda chief amongst the actors. With brilliant performances from everyone, the show maintains a ridiculously high-quality standard that is so consistent that it amazes me as a series at each episode and turn of the story.
New Orleans seems to be a character on the show as well. This show would not even remotely resemble what it is if it were not for New Orleans. The series is filmed there and the show has featured countless musicians, restaurants, and locations throughout episodes that reside within New Orleans. It enhances the sprit and feeling and makes the story more powerful and resonant. The setting truly makes Treme uniquely special.
I imagine this is likely the best television series or film that will ever be made in New Orleans -- it's a tribute - a love letter, proclaiming it's love for New Orleans culture (the music and food especially) and most importantly, the people who reside within.
The music is incredible! If you have even the slightest bit of an appreciation for the music of New Orleans and jazz or classical music this series is an absolute requirement. No joke. This series has one of the best musical backgrounds I've ever seen or heard. Fans of music should without question watch this show. The series takes so many moments to showcase the music, focusing in on the performances and taking viewers (listeners?) on a music journey. It's pure amazement seeing a show with such good writing, directing, acting, and just about all other elements, also have such a stellar musical background.
Treme joins a very short list of some of the best television series ever made. It's that good. Everyone who loves quality storytelling, character-based drama, and great music will find something (perhaps a ton of things) to love about the show. It's must-see television.
The 1.78:1 widescreen transfers retain the original aspect ratio (OAR). The series is encoded in MPEG-4 AVC in 1080p at 24fps. The series looks stunning with good detail reproduction, the clarity of the show is noteworthy. The colors and depth manage to make this one of the finest looking television series on the format, with relatively high bit-rates that demonstrate quality encoding benefits.
The series 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is one of the best I've ever heard on the format. I've been consistently impressed with the audio on all of the Treme seasons, and it doesn't stop here. The surround stage is vivid and detailed with crisp high-resolution audio enhancing it. The 24 bit encoding goes a long way too, adding a lower sound floor and the uncompressed clarity that produces the best sound.
Extras for Treme Season 3 include Audio Commentaries, Music Commentaries, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. There are also two exclusive music-related features about the music on the show as well.
Treme has managed to lose out on having a big audience while airing on HBO. I hope to find this show's fan-base has expanded ten-fold (or more), as more people discover it on Blu-ray medium. Creators Eric Overmyer and David Simon have made something special with talented writers, directors, musicians, and actors. It's a remarkable accomplishment from all. Fans of quality television should check out Treme; it's part of the reason why so many feel golden-age of television is happening right now. With excellent PQ/AQ and lots of supplementals it is something that seems to be an excellent value for fans of the series.
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