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Treme – episode 1 review

Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) in Treme

Review by Tim Carson

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TREME, the new TV show from David Simon and Eric Overmeyer, two of the men behind The Wire, got off to a perfect start on Sky Atlantic on Friday night. Set in post-Katrina New Orleans the first episode introduced us not only to a host of characters but also to the city itself.

It’s a city that’s dying as John Goodman’s character Creighton Bernette is at pains to point out to whoever will listen – hurling abuse at a English TV reporter who dares to suggest that New Orleans is beyond saving. To Creighton losing such an historic city – rightly famed for its music, its food and so much more – would be a crime to add to the list he already feels have been perpetrated by the federal government in dealing with the disaster.

But to breath life into the crippled city is going to be hard. Many people have left and not returned. Even those who are starting to return like Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters from The Wire) are confronted by devastation and decay. His daughter and son don’t want him to stay but he’s determined to rebuild his life. He even has faith that there will be a Mardi Gras parade this year.

His faith and the vibrant music that still reverberates throughout New Orleans are the first signs of hope that there can be a recovery.

Naturally music pervades the whole show. It starts with the Treme neighbourhood celebrating its first parade since the hurricane and ends as the neighbourhood buries one of its many dead with a traditional jazz funeral. Both feature trombonist Antoine Batiste – a musician struggling to make ends meet and always hunting for his next gig. It’s another big character for Wendell Pierce who played Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire and no doubt will come to love Antoine as much as we loved Bunk.

His story connects with the numerous others running across the show. He plays with the legendary Kermit Ruffins in a bar watched by DJ and musician Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), whose sometimes girlfriend is chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens), who serves Creighton Bernette and his wife Toni in her newly reopened restaurant.

Like The Wire, Treme feels like a programme you have to commit to in order to get the best out of it. The first episode gave us tantalising glimpses into the life of New Orleans and its people but there was no killer storyline to bring you back next week. It’s the people that are important and that’s not just true of the show but also in life and it’s why we should all be tuning in next week.

Treme continues on Sky Atlantic, Fridays at 10.15pm