Treme (TV series)

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Treme
Treme-intertitle.jpg
Season 1 title
Genre Drama
Created by David Simon
Eric Overmyer
Starring Khandi Alexander
Rob Brown
Chris Coy
Kim Dickens
India Ennenga
John Goodman
Michiel Huisman
Melissa Leo
Lucia Micarelli
David Morse
Clarke Peters
Wendell Pierce
Jon Seda
Steve Zahn
Opening theme "The Treme Song" by John Boutté
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 36 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David Simon
Nina Kostroff Noble
Eric Overmyer
Carolyn Strauss
James Yoshimura
George Pelecanos
Location(s) New Orleans, Louisiana
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel HBO
Picture format 1080i HDTV
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original run April 11, 2010 (2010-04-11) – December 29, 2013 (2013-12-29)
External links
Website

Treme (/trəˈm/ trə-MAY) is an American television drama series created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer that aired on HBO. The series premiered on April 11, 2010, and concluded on December 29, 2013, comprising four seasons and 36 episodes. It takes its name from Tremé, a neighborhood of New Orleans.[1] The series begins three months after Hurricane Katrina as the residents, including musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians, and other New Orleanians, try to rebuild their lives, their homes and their unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane.[1][2][3]

Production[edit]

Conception[edit]

David Simon and Eric Overmyer first worked together as writers on the television series Homicide: Life on the Street and became friends.[4] They collaborated again on Simon's series The Wire when Overmyer joined the crew as a consulting producer and writer in 2006.[4] Treme was put into development by HBO in 2008 shortly after the conclusion of The Wire. The show was envisioned to focus on the working class Tremé neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and is smaller in scope than The Wire, which examined an entire city.[3][4]

Overmyer lived part-time in New Orleans and Simon believed his experience would be valuable in navigating the "ornate oral tradition" of the city's stories.[3] Simon has stated that the series would explore New Orleans culture including and beyond the music scene to encompass political corruption, the public housing controversy, the criminal-justice system, clashes between police and Mardi Gras Indians, and the struggle to regain the tourism industry after the storm.[5] Simon also consulted with New Orleans musicians Donald Harrison Jr., Kermit Ruffins, Davis Rogan, local chef Susan Spicer, and civil-rights attorney Mary Howell while developing the series.[6][7][8]

Development[edit]

In 2008, HBO commissioned a pilot episode for the series but did not "green-light" a complete series at that time.[4] The pilot was announced at the 2008 Television Critics Association summer press tour.[1] Simon initially hoped to film the pilot episode of the series in 2008 and to continue filming in 2009 if the series was commissioned.[5] The series was planned to film on location and was predicted to be a boost to the New Orleans economy.[5]

The pilot did not actually begin filming in New Orleans until March 9, 2009.[9] Award-winning Polish director Agnieszka Holland was hired to direct the pilot.[9] (Holland had worked with the creators previously on The Wire, directing three episodes of that series.) After the Treme pilot was written HBO commissioned another ten scripts.

Crew[edit]

A scene from the Tremé part of New Orleans

Simon is a veteran of HBO having developed The Corner, The Wire and Generation Kill with them and is the show runner and an executive producer. Overmyer is an experienced playwright and television writer/producer and is an executive producer and writer. Simon and Overmyer previously collaborated on Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire.

Simon and Overmyer began to assemble a writing staff for the full series,[6] first hiring local writer Tom Piazza, author of the non-fiction book Why New Orleans Matters. Piazza and Overmyer had known one another for years and Simon had read and enjoyed Piazza's work. They also hired Times-Picayune reporter Lolis Eric Elie. Simon, himself a reporter before working in television, has been impressed with his expansive knowledge of local people and background. Elie was the writer of the documentary Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.[6] Novelist George Pelecanos is also on board as part of the writing staff. Pelecanos was a writer on all five seasons of The Wire.[6]

Simon also brought fellow reporter-turned-television-collaborator David Mills in for the project as co-executive producer and writer. Mills was a music enthusiast who had worked with Overmyer and Simon on both Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire as well as co-writing The Corner, the award-winning HBO miniseries, with Simon. On March 30, 2010, David Mills died suddenly in New Orleans, twelve days before the show's premiere.[10]

Blake Leyh is the music supervisor for the show. He has worked on numerous other projects including HBO's The Wire. Skip Bolen is the unit stills photographer for the pilot episode. He has worked on projects including HBO's season finale of True Blood.

Casting[edit]

The Wire star Wendell Pierce was the first to be attached to star in the series. His involvement was announced shortly after the pilot was commissioned in July 2008.[11] Pierce is a New Orleans native and plays Antoine Batiste, an accomplished trombonist.[6][12] Fellow The Wire alumnus Clarke Peters was also attached to star in the project early in its development. Peters plays Albert Lambreaux, the leader of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe who is trying to bring his scattered people home and revitalize the neighborhood.[13] Khandi Alexander, who previously worked with Simon on The Corner, joined the project in August 2008 and was cast as Ladonna Batiste-Williams, the ex-wife of Pierce's character and a bar owner.[12]

Film actor Steve Zahn joined the project in February 2009. Treme is his first series commitment in television. Zahn plays Davis McAlary, a radio disc jockey and band member/leader in a role that showcases his singing and guitar playing talents.[14][15] Zahn's character is based on series consultant Davis Rogan and shares his first name.[16] Kim Dickens previously of Deadwood and Friday Night Lights was also cast in February 2009 as a chef with a tumultuous relationship with Zahn's character.[14][15] Rob Brown was cast in February 2009 as Delmond Lambreaux, a New York jazz musician and son of Peters' character who reluctantly returns home after Katrina.[17] Academy Award winner and former Homicide star Melissa Leo was cast as a civil rights lawyer just before the pilot began filming in March 2009.[9][18] John Goodman was cast as her character's college professor husband when the show started filming its season order, and scenes featuring him were added to the pilot.[19]

The casting of the series is similar to that of The Wire in that local actors are used wherever possible.[7] Local casting took place for the first season in January and February 2009 and continued for season 2 through April 2011 via RPM casting.[20] New Orleans native Phyllis Montana LeBlanc was cast as the girlfriend of Pierce's character. LeBlanc was recommended for the project by director Spike Lee who had worked with her on the HBO Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke.[6] Additionally, well-known New Orleans musician Kermit Ruffins appears as himself in the pilot and guests throughout the series.[21] Other musical guests include Soul Rebels Brass Band,[22] Allen Toussaint, Shawn Colvin, Spider Stacy, Dr. John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Eyehategod, Justin Townes Earle, Sammie "Big Sam" Williams, Donald Harrison, Jr., Galactic, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Deacon John Moore, The Pine Leaf Boys, Paul Sanchez, Rebirth Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, Fats Domino, Red Stick Ramblers,[23] saxophonist Joe Braun, bassist Matt Perrine, bassist Ron Carter, The Pfister Sisters (Holley Bendtsen, Debbie Davis and Yvette Voelker), clarinetist Bruce Brachman, bass drummer "Uncle" Lionel Batiste, percussionist Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, vocalist John Boutté, singer/guitarist Coco Robicheaux, pianist Tom McDermott, vocalists Lloyd Price and Irma Thomas and fiddler/accordianist Cedric Watson. Hundreds more New Orleanians have appeared in background roles throughout the series.

Opening credits[edit]

The Treme title card evolves with each season. The season two title card (top image) appears against a molded backdrop and in season four (bottom image) it appears on a newly painted plastered white wall.

The opening credits, set to John Boutte's "The Treme Song", were designed by producer Karen L. Thorson, who previously did the opening credit sequences for David Simon's previous series, The Wire.[24] The opening credits evolve and change with every season, showcasing the events that happened during that time period and themes of that season.[25] All the actors' names are set against molded walls or other imagery associated with their character, as no one wanted to put their names against real old photographs.[26] Consistent throughout all the credits are images of New Orleans culture, including second line parades, Mardi Gras Indians, music, and food.[27]

For the first season opening credits, they were designed "to show what has been lost", including "the culture, the music, the people". The sequence features more than 80 elements used from film, video, and still photographs, all used from people who lived in New Orleans, including family images from the hurricane.[24] The title card appears against a molded flood-damaged backdrop.[27]

The second season opening credits evolve, showing more contemporary video and updated themes that are present in the season, including public housing residents protesting, crime scenes, and the beginning of rebuilding the city.[24][26] The title card for season two shows more mold growing over the logo.[27]

The third season opening credits begin showing the revival of the city and the rebuilding, as well new events from 2007–08, in which the season takes place, including the killing of NOPD officer Nicola Cotton and the NOAH scandal.[27] The title card evolves, evoking the themes of third season, and shows it being replastered over the mold of the previous seasons.[27]

The fourth season opening credits show post-Katrina recovery and imagery of Barack Obama being elected as President. The fourth season credits features more footage and images of joyous New Orleans occasions and touchstones, as Thorson did that as a "thank you" to the city. The final title card appears newly painted on a white plastered wall, which actor Clarke Peters provided the hand-brushed finishing touches on.[25]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Batiste-Williams — She was formerly married to Antoine, and owns and runs a tavern in New Orleans. She commutes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where she and Antoine's sons are living with her current husband, Larry Williams (Lance E. Nichols), a dentist. She is pressured by her husband to move to Baton Rouge, as she has no ties to New Orleans anymore. She previously took care of her elderly mother, who refused to leave the city when they were trying to locate LaDonna's younger brother David Maurice (Daymo), who went missing during the storm.
  • Rob Brown as Delmond Lambreaux – The son of Albert, an accomplished trumpet player. He finds himself drawn more to the music and atmosphere of New York than New Orleans. Delmond's character is based on jazz innovator Donald Harrison, Jr., whom Simon and Overmyer brought in to consult for the series.
  • Kim Dickens as Janette Desautel – A struggling chef trying to keep her restaurant open while waiting for insurance to pay for her losses in the storm. She and Davis maintained a casual but tumultuous relationship.
  • Michiel Huisman as Sonny – A street musician from Amsterdam who met Annie while she was backpacking in Europe. His drug use causes problems for both their professional and personal relationship.
  • Melissa Leo as Antoinette "Toni" Bernette – A civil rights lawyer who worked with LaDonna in trying to locate her missing brother. She defends musicians and people abused by the justice system in the city. She is relentless in her investigation of NOPD corruption which puts both her and her daughter's life at risk.
  • Clarke Peters as Albert "Big Chief" Lambreaux – A Mardi Gras Indian chief who is well respected in his community. Having returned to his home to find it severely damaged, he moves into the neighborhood bar where his tribe practices. He is repairing it while working to bring the other members of his tribe, as well as his son Delmond, back to the city.
  • Wendell Pierce as Antoine Batiste – A trombonist, constantly hunting for his next gig, Antoine lives with the mother of his youngest child. He rarely sees his two sons with his ex-wife LaDonna, in part because he has no car since the storm and must rely on cabs and public transportation. He is the frontman for his band, "Antoine Batiste and his Soul Apostles", and has a part-time job as an assistant music instructor at a local middle school.
  • Steve Zahn as Davis McAlary – A part-time DJ and musician, Davis is from an Uptown family but now lives in Tremé, he is a passionate lover of New Orleans and its culture. He is constantly seeking to incite social outrage against perceived injustices.
  • India Ennenga as Sofia Bernette (recurring season 1, starring seasons 2–4) – Toni and Creighton's teenage daughter. In season 3 she is repeatedly targeted by the NOPD in an effort to dissuade her mother from investigating police corruption in New Orleans.
  • David Morse as Terry Colson (recurring season 1, starring seasons 2–4) – An honest police officer working as a shift lieutenant for the NOPD, a friend of Toni Bernette. He secretly works with the FBI in investigating his city's police corruption.
  • Jon Seda as Nelson Hidalgo (seasons 2–4) – A politically connected developer and venture capitalist from Dallas, who becomes involved in the renewal efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans.
  • Chris Coy as L.P. Everett (seasons 3–4) – a young reporter for ProPublica new to New Orleans investigating the various crimes that happened during Hurricane Katrina. The character is based on real-life reporter Adam Clay Thompson.

Recurring cast[edit]

  • Lance E. Nichols as Larry Williams – LaDonna's husband and a dentist based in Baton Rouge. He strongly urges LaDonna to sell her bar and mother's house in New Orleans so that she could live full-time with her sons and him.
  • Phyllis Montana LeBlanc as Desiree – Antoine's strong minded girlfriend and mother of his youngest child. She truculently fights against eminent domain.
  • Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine as Jacques Jhoni – Janette's loyal sous chef. He faces some immigration problems and becomes romantically involved with Janette.
  • Davi Jay as Robinette – A refuse hauler who becomes affiliated with Nelson Hidalgo and assists with his demolition projects.
  • Elizabeth Ashley as Aunt Mimi – Davis' flamboyant favorite Aunt. Though they are close, they begin to quarrel when they start a record company together.
  • Edwina Findley as Davina Lambreaux – Albert's daughter and Delmond's sister.
  • Steve Earle as Harley Wyatt (seasons 1–2) – A talented street musician who mentors Annie Tee.
  • David Chang as himself (seasons 1–3) – a prominent restaurateur in New York City.
  • Dan Ziskie as C.J. Ligouri (seasons 2–4) – A banker who finances much of New Orlean's reconstruction projects. He acts as Hidalgo's supervisor in season 2. In season 3 he realizes his ignorance on the sensibilities of New Orlean's jazz and poor communities such as Treme. He hires Delmond and Albert to consult his firm on what kind of projects will please Treme's disenfranchised.
  • Michael Cerveris as Marvin Frey (seasons 2–4) – Annie's music manager.
  • Hong Chau as Linh (seasons 2–4) – Sonny's Vietnamese girlfriend whom he marries at the end of season 3.
  • Sam Robards as Tim Feeny (seasons 3–4) – a restaurateur and Janette's partner for her new restaurant.

Episodes[edit]

The series premiered on HBO on April 11, 2010,[6][28] with an 80-minute pilot episode, the first of a 10 episode season which concluded on June 20, 2010.[2] On April 13, 2010, HBO renewed the series for a second season.[29] The second season premiered on April 24, 2011, and concluded on July 3, 2011, consisting of 11 episodes. On May 13, 2011, the series was renewed for a third season[30] consisting of 10 episodes which premiered on September 23, 2012 and concluded on November 25, 2012.[31] The series was renewed for a shortened fourth and final season on September 22, 2012,[32] which premiered on December 1, 2013, and concluded on December 29, 2013, consisting of five episodes.[33][34]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Reception by television critics has been very positive.[35][36][37] The New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley viewed the series as a sign of the city's inextinguishable joie de vivre.[38] Salon's Heather Havrilesky remarked that Treme "epitomizes the sort of great storytelling we all thirst for on TV but rarely find."[39] However, Adolph L. Reed, Jr. (professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania) has criticized the series for its clichéd portrayal of the city and the issues around Katrina.[40]

Local response[edit]

New Orleanians waited cautiously for the series premiere of Treme, but quickly embraced the show as an accurate and honest representation of the city.[41][42] The Times-Picayune writer Dave Walker expressed the city's collective sentiment that Treme is "the screen depiction that New Orleans deserves, has always desired, but has been denied."[43] While Simon attempted to recreate post-Katrina New Orleans with precision, he did confess a willingness to include subtle anachronisms such as the inclusion of a Hubig's pie in the first episode when such pies were still unavailable.[44] Simon prefaced the airing of the first episode with a letter in The Times-Picayune promising not perfect historical accuracy but a treatment "respectful of the historical reality."[45] Treme includes many location-specific references, as did Simon's The Wire. In response, The Times-Picayune publishes a weekly debriefing of each episode's unexplained New Orleans references called "Treme Explained."[46]

Accolades[edit]

For the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, Agnieszka Holland was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the pilot episode, "Do You Know What It Means", and Steve Earle was nominated for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the song "This City". For the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, for its shortened fourth and final season, it received nominations for Outstanding Miniseries; Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for the series finale episode written by David Simon and Eric Overmyer; and won for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie.[47]

For the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, the season one soundtrack was nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or other Visual Media, and the song "This City" by Steve Earle, was nominated for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.[48]

The series was awarded with a 2011 Peabody Award.[49]

Home media releases[edit]

DVD and Blu-ray[edit]

The first season of Treme was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on March 29, 2011,[50] in region 2 on May 30, 2011,[51] and in region 4 on March 30, 2011.[52] The extras include two documentaries—"The Making of Treme" and "Treme: Beyond Bourbon Street", as well as "The Music of Treme", a text-only feature displaying the song information during the episodes. The Blu-ray includes the same extras plus an exclusive featurette, "Down in the Treme: A Look at the Music and Culture of New Orleans", another text-only feature displaying information about the music, slang, locations, and characters. The sets also include five commentary tracks—"Do You Know What It Means" with co-creators/executive producers David Simon and Eric Overmyer; "Right Place, Wrong Time" with Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander and TV critic Alan Sepinwall; "All on a Mardi Gras Day" with Overmyer and producer/director Anthony Hemingway; "Wish Someone Would Care" with producer/writer George Pelecanos and John Goodman; and "I'll Fly Away" with Simon and executive producer Nina Kostroff Noble. Scene-specific commentaries for all music sections in each episode are done by WWOZ FM-90.7 alum Josh Jackson and Patrick Jarenwattananon, who wrote analyses of Treme '​s music on NPR.org.[53]

The second season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on April 17, 2012,[54] in region 2 on May 28, 2012,[55] and in region 4 on April 4, 2012.[56] Extras include three featurettes–"The Art of Treme", "Behind Treme: Food for Thought", and "Behind Treme: Clarke Peters and the Mardi Gras Indians, as well as "The Music of Treme, a text-only feature displaying the song information during the episodes. Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is "Down in the Treme: A Look at the Music and Culture of New Orleans", another text-only feature displaying information about the music, slang, locations, and characters. The sets also include four commentary tracks–"Accentuate the Positive" with director Anthony Hemingway, and actors Kim Dickens and Lucia Micarelli; "Carnival Time" with director Brad Anderson and music supervisor Blake Leyh; "What Is New Orleans?" with writer George Pelecanos and actors Clarke Peters and Rob Brown; and "Do Whatcha Wanna" with creator David Simon, executive producer Nina Kostroff Noble, and actor Wendell Pierce. Like the previous season release, scene-specific commentaries for all music sections in each episode are done by WBGO's Josh Jackson and NPR Music's Patrick Jarenwattananon.[57]

The third season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on November 19, 2013,[58] in region 2 on September 30, 2013,[59] and in region 4 on October 23, 2013.[60] Extras include three featurettes–"Behind Treme: Chef Dinner", "Behind Treme: Neville Brothers", and "Behind Treme: David Simon". Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is "The Music of Treme, a text-only feature displaying the song information during the episodes and "Down in the Treme: A Look at the Music and Culture of New Orleans", another text-only feature displaying information about the music, slang, locations, and characters. The sets also include five audio commentary tracks and scene-specific commentaries for all music sections in each episode by WBGO's Josh Jackson and NPR Music's Patrick Jarenwattananon.[61]

The fourth season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on January 28, 2014. Extras include two audio commentaries, for "Yes We Can Can" with creator David Simon and writer George Pelecanos, and for "To Miss New Orleans" with Simon, executive producer Nina Noble and actor Clarke Peters.[62] A complete series Blu-ray box set was also released on January 28, 2014, containing all the episodes and special features from the individual season releases and a bonus disc containing 71 minutes of musical performances featured in the series.[63]

Soundtrack[edit]

Treme: Music From the HBO Original Series, Season 1 was released by Geffen Records on September 28, 2010. The soundtrack includes 19 songs featured in the first season by several jazz artists who appeared on the show, as well as songs performed by cast members.[64] The soundtrack received two Grammy nominations, for "Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media" and "This City" by Steve Earle for "Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media".[53] A second soundtrack, featuring 18 songs in the second season was released on April 17, 2012.[65]

References[edit]

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