Treme

This series, which takes a look at how various residents of New Orleans deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, uses interlocking stories in a manner that will be familiar to viewers of David Simon’s The Wire.   

The stories concern people in all walks of life, from lowlifes in and out of prison, to restaurant chefs, carpenters, college professors, lawyers, small business owners and, of course, musicians at all success levels. All of the stories are told against the backdrop of the city preparing for its first Mardi Gras after the storm, an event much more important for the recovery of the city than its reputation as a tourist spectacle would indicate.

The strong cast includes some old favorites from The Wire (Clarke Peters and NOLA native Wendell Pierce), as well as John Goodman and recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo. The first couple of episodes are kind of slow (it takes time to introduce all the characters), but once it gets going it the characters will take hold of you, and you won’t be able to let go. You don’t find out how the characters weathered the storm until the last episode, by which time the characters seem like old friends, and their various fates (and those of their loved ones) are surprisingly affecting.

The music is great throughout.

The second season is currently underway on HBO, but I think the first season DVD is now available.  Don’t watch Series 2 without having seen Series 1 — there’s almost no exposition.

(and more about Series 1)

Fans of The Wire will likely love this series about post-Katrina New Orleans.  Katrina destroyed not only homes, but whole communities, and in some cases, a way of life — much like what is probably happening in the Gulf right now. The series follows about a dozen characters, from all over the socioeconomic spectrum, as they try, with varying degrees of success, to rebuild their lives.  The characters are diverse, complex, and recognizable as human beings.  Many of the actors here will be familiar from other Simon/Mills enterprises, and they do fine work here. Wendell Pierce (“Bunk” on The Wire and a native NewOrleanian) plays a jazz trombonist, Clark Peters (“Lester Freeman”) is a Mardi Gras Indian, and Khandi Alesander (“The Corner”) is the owner of a small bar.  But the emotional heart of the show is John Goodman, who plays a Tulane English professor motivated by the storm’s aftermath to rant on a then-new technology called YouTube.

The first few shows move slowly, as we are introduced to all the characters and the interlocking plot lines are set up.  But the payoff comes later, as the plot lines slowly resolve and you find yourselves totally immersed in these characters fictional lives.  In the last half hour of the final episode, we suddenly meet a character who has offscreen for the entire series, but we’ve learned so much about him from everyone else that he is instantly recognizable. The series ends at the beginning.  We finally see the storm that has changed everyone’s lives, but only after knowing how things turn out — which does nothing to detract from its dramatic power.

Many well-known musicians participated in this series, as well as many more who should be better known.  Not surprisingly, the music is terrific.

As an extra added bonus, after watching this series, you may finally understand the lyrics to Iko Iko:

Look at my King all dressed in red
Iko! Iko! an de’
I bet you 5 dollars,  he kill you dead!
Jackomo fe nan e’
Takin bout …..  hey now, hey now
Iko! Iko! an de’
Jackomo fe no an e’ , Jackomo fe nan e’

My flagboy and your flagboy,  sittin by the fire,
My flagboy  told your flagboy, I’m going to set your flag on fire,
Takin bout …..  hey now, hey now
Iko! Iko! an de’
Jackomo fe no an e’ , Jackomo fe nan e’

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