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Jason Panella

Treme

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Looks interesting. Funny that the name of the neighborhood isn't spelled correctly in the trailer. It's Tremé.

I've seen it spelled with and without the accent before, so I'm sure it's intentional.

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The write-up on the Wikipedia page sounds fantastic. I trust Simon, and while he's not a New Orleans native, co-creator Eric Overmyer is, and they're immersing themselves in the culture. (Lots of local non-actors used, lead actor Wendell "Bunk Moreland" Pierce is a Nawlans-native, etc.)

This might sound ridiculous, but I just played through the game Left 4 Dead 2, much of which takes place IN Treme and the French Quarter (with real locations used), so the show's trailer is like a narcotic.

And Michael: the show is supposed to 'showcase [sTEVE ZAHN'S] singing and guitar playing talents.' I'm a big fan of the guy, so I'm excited.

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Well, it almost seemed like those were leading questions, Ellen! :)

Tremé will feature lots of local musicians — including Donald Harrison Jr., Kermit Ruffins and Davis Rogan — in either acting or consulting roles (or, in Ruffins's case, both). They're also using lots of local chefs for the show too, in acting roles.

And the post-Katrina aura over New Orleans is definitely one of the show's main themes.

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I don't know if I meant "leading" questions — I had just returned home from playing Irish music with some friends had a little bit of Tullamore Dew in my system, so I'm not sure how much sense I was making! :)

Anyway, I'm not sure how familiar you are with The Wire, Ellen, but David Simon & co. generally hired non-actor Baltimore residents for many roles. Sure, there were a few character actors with resumes a mile long (and curiously, several English actors putting on American accents), but the huge cast had a very high percentage of Baltimore natives. Most of the characters from the fifth season's newspaper story arc were actual Baltimore newspaper writers / editors, and one (Bill Zorzi) was also one of the show's writers. Et cetera. Plus, lots of the cops played themselves: Ed Norris, former (real life) Baltimore police commissioner (who went to prison for a while) plays a cop named Ed Norris. Former Baltimore cop Jay Landsman plays a major reoccurring character named Sgt. Mello (and another character is based Landsman, the real person). Snoop Pearson, former Baltimore street thug, plays a street enforcer named...Snoop Pearson (after one of the show's actors met her in a bar and was struck by how genuine she was).

It seems like they're trying to do the same for Treme. As much as I loved Wendell Pierce's work on The Wire, I initially balked as his lead role here (is Simon just using the same people again?) ... then I realized that Pierce is a New Orleans native.

So anyway, I have no doubt that Simon & co. will go above and beyond the call of duty to make the show as 'real' as they can. They set the bar with The Wire, in a way.

Sorry for the rambling!

Edited by Jason Panella

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mrrrty   

I'm cautiously excited. As a New Orleanian, I'm personally a bit tired of hearing about how bad things are, or about the state of post-Katrina New Orleans. We're a soulful group of people but it's not like we sit around and ruminate; we do things, we make things, we create things. While it's certainly true that things are different, it's not as if people walk around with their heads hung, or like we sit on our porches with a far-off look in our eyes. In a discussion of the Saints' (then-) perfect season, ESPN.com said that the team aren't reminding America that the city needs to be rebuilt; they're a witness of what has been done, an invitation to the rest of the country to believe in the joy that comes from suffering. We are the happiest state in the Union. I seriously hope that that's the tone the show takes, though, given the involvement and the need for drama in television, I'm not terribly optimistic.

That's not to say that I don't think it'll be disrespectful in the slightest; these people know what they're doing, and even if they didn't, the locals advising the show would set them straight (anyone seen K-Ville lately?). I'm just worried that the show's tone will reflect an outdated and subtly hurtful interpretation of the city.

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mrrrty   

While I see what you're saying, m, I can't help thinking of all the people who still don't have houses, and/or are scattered around the country. I don't want to minimize what's been accomplished, but it seems like there's still an awfully long way to go. (This from a non-native, so please take it for what it's worth... might not be much, eh?)

No no - please don't think that I'm discounting your opinion, or anything like that. (Though I very much appreciate the humility of your response, as it is a touchy subject.) Obviously there's still quite a bit of work that needs to be done, and there are quite a few people who are struggling with the realities of life there today (I currently live in Montreal but make it back as often as I can). Yes, there is a long way to go, but I don't know if that's the story that needs to be told at this moment. There is serious Katrina fatigue, and has been since September '05. It's nearly impossible to cover an unrelated news item in New Orleans without mentioning the storm and its effects. Particularly with what's happened in Haiti this week, I imagine that people are pretty tired of hearing about how depleted New Orleans is, and how badly New Orleans needs their help. People need to see that we have, indeed, helped ourselves, and, more importantly, that we have been the willing recipients of quite a bit of help (the overwhelming majority of which has been from the Body of Christ, whose humble and steadfast dedication to rebuilding is the unsung story of the recovery effort -- though that's another post for another day).

All of that to say -- shows like Tremé (or Treme, or whatever) are something like image bearers, and they shape the way that people think about a place. Louisiana is a place that has benefited both positively (um, jazz) and negatively (The Waterboy comes to mind) from such exposure. And I might be cynical (that's an honest admission), but I can't see people in Oregon, or Missouri, or Vermont appreciating the merits of a show about a broken system that still seems to be broken; I can only see them changing the channel, their preconceived notions of what's happened in Louisiana confirmed.

What you say is true, though -- the show (and all media representation of NOLA) would be in great peril to ignore the hardship of post-Katrina life. It would be dishonest at best and classist and racist at worst. But it's my sincere hope that they don't turn the show into a graveyard tour of neighborhoods. We've come quite a long way, and I think it's important for people to see that we're worth celebrating.

Phew, sorry for the bluster. I love my home very dearly, and miss it terribly, and I have what I am discovering is a Frenchman's overarching defense of the way his home is perceived. I apologize if that comes across as overbearing, as I certainly don't mean it to be harsh or rude or callous.

Edited by mrrrty

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mrrrty   

Now, that might seem a bit extreme, but I wonder... What's self-evident to you might never have occurred to others, you know?

edited to add: Baltimore isn't solely what people saw in The Wire. :)

Well, that's certainly a good point as well--there are things that seem self-evident to me that I'm sure are not.

My whole fear, though -- and the thing that causes half of my writer's block, probably -- rests in the misrepresentation of a place. If I were from Baltimore, I'd likely pretty upset about the way the Wire chose to portray life there, just as I'm sure there are people in West Texas who are upset about the way their culture is portrayed in Friday Night Lights. But I do wonder now whether it's possible to have a show (or a book, etc) set in a place without somehow stereotyping it in some manner. I.e., how could Friday Night Lights possibly exst without upsetting some of the people in West Texas? I mean, I guess the thing I'd be quick to say is that the writers should just be honest, but even then, some people's interpretations of a place are going to be vastly different from others'. Yikes...perhaps I am too postmodern to be answering my own question here, haha

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Baltimore has been portrayed in less than flattering ways before, often by locals - I think people there are well aware of them. (You know, "Homicide: Life on the Street," various John Waters movies, some of Barry Levinson's movies, various film portrayals of "The Block" - which was/still is a pretty seedy part of town, etc.) as far as I've seen, people there tend to have a sense of humor about the city: the locals' nickname for it is Charm City. ;) There's even an internet company there called Charmnet.

Well, I've read the lots of Baltimore/D.C.-area officials do not like The Wire one iota. That said, David Simon is a Baltimore native. I don't think his work on Homicide and The Wire isn't done to knock the city, per se. One of his running themes is how fallen institutions are (because of how fallen human beings are)...he just happened to use his backyard because it's what he knows.

Which, because of what Marty mentioned, adds a tinsy bit of worry to my anticipation. New Orleans isn't his back yard. How will this run? (That said, the Middle East isn't his backyard either, but I haven't seen Generation Kill, so I can't comment on it.)

Oh, to maybe flesh out what I was saying too, I think The Wire is more "Baltimore is a city. Crap happens," instead of "Crap happens because it's Baltimore." I love my incredibly economically depressed, decaying Rust Belt town — I've decided to stay here because of that love. But I also grumble about it and realize it has lots of negative aspects, maybe of which keep getting worse.

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mrrrty   

Oh, to maybe flesh out what I was saying too, I think The Wire is more "Baltimore is a city. Crap happens," instead of "Crap happens because it's Baltimore." I love my incredibly economically depressed, decaying Rust Belt town — I've decided to stay here because of that love. But I also grumble about it and realize it has lots of negative aspects, maybe of which keep getting worse.

Jason, I think you've hit the nail on the head here. (Though I made add as a caveat that sometimes crap does happen because it's New Orleans, or Baltimore, etc). This is probably the same with any city, and for the reason you mentioned above -- it's an institution, and a human institution at that. They're bound to fail at things, and life is bound to be hard literally anywhere. Theoretically, it seems like acknowledging that should bring us together, this common inability to make the world perfect. It should make us all realize our need for something else. I guess I'd never thought of it before in these terms, but the city's not a savior.

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Alan Sepinwall -

Because "The Wire" is hailed by those who watched it as the greatest drama in TV history, and because Simon used that series' cop show format as a Trojan Horse from which to launch a blistering attack on the state of the American system, expectations for "Treme" (pronounced "Truh-MAY") are sky-high, as are assumptions that the show will be one long screed about Katrina and its aftermath. The former is unfair, and the latter is inaccurate. Critics have seen three episodes of "Treme." After three episodes of "The Wire," no one knew it would be the Best Show Ever; we were all struggling to remember everyone's name and figure out what a "re-up" was. "Treme" may lack the obvious narrative engine that the cops vs. drug dealers narrative gave "The Wire," but it's already a smart, engaging, moving and funny series, one that in many ways is more accessible than its predecessor.

And any fears that "Treme" might be nothing more than a polemic in scripted drama form are dispelled by two scenes in the pilot.

In the first, we see college professor Creighton Bernette (played at "Big Lebowski" volume by John Goodman) being interviewed about the floods by a smug British TV reporter. The reporter asks why federal taxpayer dollars should be used to rebuild New Orleans, and dismisses the city's famed music as old-fashioned and its cuisine as provincial and fattening. Bernette recognizes that he's not going to get through to this clown, and moves to throw his microphone, and then his camera, into the canal.

In the second, DJ, hipster and self-appointed guardian of the city's musical heritage Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) wastes so much time ranting about how the mob would be better equipped to fix New Orleans than FEMA, and about how a station mandate to play songs from the pledge drive CD violates the spirit of independent radio, that he nearly misses the start of his own show and rushes on Louie Prima's "Buona Sera" (since he credits the mob for Prima's career).This turns into a musical interlude where we check in on many of the show's characters - some struggling to pick up the pieces after the storm, others simply enjoying a nice night in their beloved hometown - before we cut back to the station, where Davis is bopping along to the oldie-but-goodie while ignoring angry calls from the station manager for defying the pledge drive disc mandate.

Edited by Persiflage

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Thanks Simon, for putting Pierce in this (I never got a chance to see The Wire). He's been a favorite character actor of mine for some time now and I never have been able to catch his name. He's perfect for his role. Been hooked on him since Hackers. Also, what everyone said about Zahn as well. This series is going to be fun.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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What's very very wrong here ...

I never got a chance to see The Wire.

Damn dude, go to Bestbuy or Walmart or Borders or amazon.com and plunk down the $35 for the first season. Bunk is Wendell Pierce's best character by far.

And yes, Pierce and Zahn are both going to be part of what makes Treme awesome.

Edited by Persiflage

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What's very very wrong here ...

I never got a chance to see The Wire.

Damn dude, go to Bestbuy or Walmart or Borders or amazon.com and plunk down the $35 for the first season. Bunk is Wendell Pierce's best character by far.

Yeah, there's a lot to watch and a lot to plunk cash down for. I got the complete M Squad for Christmas and haven't had the chance to watch any yet. Now that Formula 1 is in full swing (best racing in years) my DVR cache is always near 80%. I'm trying not to be managed by TV and/or DVR..... Trying.

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Tyler   

It will be interesting to see how Simon develops this series. With The Wire, there was always a built-in narrative arc (drugs, crime, etc.) to keep things moving. Treme seems like it will be more strongly character-driven (although the characters on The Wire were incredibly memorable and well-developed; we just came to know them in the course of the story. Treme fells like the reverse of that: start with getting to know characters and eventually stories will develops from them.)

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This will be good, if you are correct. I LOVE character as narrative and characters. This would mean an opportunity, not only to enjoy some favorite character actors, but to "collect" new ones!

IF you are possibly incorrect, I don't know. Where can Simon go? With specific issues as possible plots, there would be a risk of alienating viewers and splitting them along political lines uselessly. Right now, focusing on an aspect of Katrina that was lost in the catfight over what happened and who was at fault is inspired. Every now and then during the catfight, little stories and headlines would slink out of Louisiana about life going on as before despite utilities being unreliable and supples being scarce and unreliably delivered. This seems to be the thrust of the initial segment....

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Caught the premiere the other day, and I was shocked with not only how smitten I was with the show after one episode, but how different it is than Simon's other work. And that might've been the most natural cameo — from Elvis Costello — I've seen in a while.

I'm still processing it, though, so no deeper thoughts. As Ken Tucker mentioned in his review for NPR, I don't care which story they switch to because I was interested in the whole cast.

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Guess I'm just not nitpicking or worrying about how realistic details in this show are (like whether anyone would carry around a trombone without a case). I just don't care about details like that because it has zero effect on whether I'm enjoying the story or not.

So far, Treme has been very enjoyable. Steve Zahn is hilarious. Maybe he's a stereotype, but who really cares? Zahn and Pierce aren't unlikeable to me simply because they're living on a day to day financial basis. Both characters have maturing to do, but I'm guessing that's going to be a main point to the story. Lucia Micarelli is enchanting on the violin. I have a feeling Clarke Peters is going to be one of the strongest characters on the show - a solid reason for keeping a number of down-and-out characters in the city and committed to rebuilding it. John Goodman, along with Zahn, is providing more comic relief, including showing the spirit in the city that doesn't give a ... for what the rest of the media or modern day culture thinks about them.

Maybe it's also because I have a love for blues music, but seeing a story about characters who share my love for the same sort of music makes them seem like friends/kindred spirits. And that keeps me interested in how they are all going to survive this mess. There's a heart to this story that's just starting to show, give it time, and it'll grow on you.

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Sepinwall's still nailing why I appreciate this show.

treme-all-on-a-mardi-gras-day_article_story_main.jpg

Good art has the power to transport you - to make you feel like you've been to a place you've never visited, or like you understand a person you've never met. Going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras is one of those trips my wife and I talked about forever but never managed to pull off. I still want to do it one day, but for now, I'm sated by the time I spent watching "All on a Mardi Gras Day."

... No one on this show - and perhaps in the entire David Simon ouevre - is as unpleasant as Sonny. The great thing about "The Wire" was that every character had some kind of redeeming and/or humanizing feature. Valchek was a myopic, petty bully, for instance, but he knew how to get things done. Sonny, on the other hand, is loathsome in pretty much every way. Even the scenes in this one with the man who claims Sonny rescued him during the storm - which matches up with the stories Sonny was telling back in the second episode - don't feel particularly redemptive, because Sonny clearly has no idea who the guy is. So either he's been telling someone else's story (and has now been confused with the original teller), or (more likely) he doesn't remember, either because he was high then or high now. If Sonny did go out on a boat to help people, it wasn't because he cares about other human beings, but because it was the sort of adventure that fits the persona he's constructed for himself. While his scenes offered up a side of Mardi Gras we weren't going to get from any other character, I still find anything with him a chore to get through, and in fact dislike him so much that I was hoping Davis and Annie would have sex - even though Davis was making an effort to be a gentleman for the sake of both Annie and Janette - just so she would get to experience the love of a better man.

(Congratulations, Sonny. Davis is a more admirable person than you are.)

Chaste though it was, Davis and Annie's day together was extremely charming, as were our glimpses of Janette the Mardi Gras fairy wandering around on her own, increasingly drunk, trying to turn a car into a taxi cab. (She can wish and wave her wand all she wants, but that car won't become a cab anymore than her restaurant will become solvent, her home become fixed or the city become whole once more.) I reckon I would have watched an entire hour that just followed Janette around in that costume, so adorable was Kim Dickens. (And "adorable" is not usually an attribute you associate with the characters she plays.)

For that matter, I could have watched an entire episode that was just Antoine following the grief-stricken Ladonna around (and Khandi Alexander was outstanding at showing us the weight Ladonna was carrying and trying to keep from others, even the prosecutor who kept fighting Toni in court). And I absolutely would have watched an hour that was just Antoine and Mr. Toyama catching up, debating jazz trivia and toasting to fallen idols. I think it says something about "Treme" that the most choked up I have gotten at any point in these episodes - more than when Albert got a look at his house, or when Ladonna got her look at Daymo's body - was when Antoine told Toyama the story of regifting the new trombone to his teacher, and then to his teacher's grandson, and Toyama smiled and said that pleased him very much. I had been so afraid that the truth would create another ugly moment between the two men - that Toyama would be upset that his expensive gift would be so cavalierly given away - and was relieved that it was not only not a problem, but a reason for these two men from different parts of the world to better understand each other.

"Treme" is a show about people, and for the most part (Sonny excepted), it does a beautiful job at breathing life and humanity into them. But it's also a show about a city and its culture, and the fear that the flood may have destroyed that culture right along with all the houses. For Antoine to be in the company of a man who knows of, and mourns, the loss of his beloved teacher - and who understands and is even pleased with the idea of the family tradition - is as comforting and appropriate a moment as he can have in the run-up to Mardi Gras. The city is diminished, the parades smaller, but people are still coming to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, they still know, and they still care. And that matters.

Click 'All on a Mardi Gras Day' for the full article.

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How HBO saved television -

Former boxer Jon Seda plays one of The Pacific’s three leads, Sgt John Basilone. It’s his most prominent role to date, though his first real acting break came playing a detective in Homicide: Life On The Street. For him, it was HBO that “changed everything” on the American dramatic landscape.

“They’re not as limited as regular television networks, they’re willing to take on different projects and they’re not afraid to go deeper,” he says. “Because of them, you now have cable networks like USA and TNT and FX following in their wake”.

In a few weeks, Seda will team up with Simon once more when he joins the cast of Treme, set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Shooting on the second season begins next month. Seda will play a “politically-connected venture capitalist” from Dallas who sees opportunities to be had (and money to be made) from exploiting the grants available for the rebuilding process. “He’s a good guy, and what he’s doing isn’t illegal but it’s not morally correct,” he explains.

In other words it’s another of those morally ambiguous roles Simon specialises in and which American television drama does so well.

“As an actor you always want something you’re going to be able to sink your teeth into,” Seda agrees. “I’m in a perfect scenario now with Treme. It’s a critically acclaimed show, it’s by David Simon and Eric Overmeyer, who I’ve worked with in the past, who I respect and who write incredible stories. That’s not to say you can’t find those things on the [mainstream] networks, but if I’m going to be on TV I’d want it to be something on HBO.”

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