Every once in a while a TV series comes along that captures its time and place so brilliantly that viewers still recall it with nostalgic affection years later. TREME did that as well as any series this reviewer has ever seen.
The series, which began its story three months after Katrina, begins the fourth season in 2008 and ends with Mardi Gras 2009. Like the seasons before it, these episodes resound with the music of the city, and celebrate its unique food and culture with its tales of one community’s musicians, politicians, artists, chefs, and ordinary citizens.
While it was a challenge to resolve many story lines in just five episodes, the directors and writers did an excellent job, leaving just enough unanswered questions while ending each character in a satisfactory,sometimes sad and sometimes happy manner.
Part of what made this season (and every season, for that matter) of TREME so special was the use of real New Orleans residents as extras. When you saw New Orleans Indians preparing for or participating in Mardi Gras, they were real New Orleans Indians. The musicians in the clubs were authentic to the city and included many legends while the street musicians were real street musicians unless they were major characters in the story. Even the reporters shown interacting with the investigative reporter trying to uncover corruption in the city were real reporters from the Times-Picayune.
Another part was the excellent ensemble cast who portrayed really memorable characters that every regular viewer came to know and care for. These included Clarke Peters as Big Chief Lambreaux; Rob Born as his son Delmond, Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Batiste-Williams; real-life New Orleans musician and activist Wendell Pierce as Antoine Batiste; Steve Zahn as DJ Davis McAlary; Kim DIckson as Jeannette Desautel; David Morse as Terry Colson; Melissa Leo as Terri Burnette; and Lucia Micarelli as Annie Tee.
The series never shied away from addressing the violence that is part of every day life in New Orleans and it does not shy away in this final season either. It stays close to the real stories that continue to play out stemming from the corrupt politics, crooked contractors, inept and uncommitted police department, and level of poverty that exist in the city. But through it all the music, the food, the second lines and street parades, and the many other colorful bits of unique New Orleans culture represent the bright and vibrant spirit of the city and its people.
The commentary provided for the first and fifth episodes is excellent and provides a lot of really interesting information that illustrates even more how the series embraced the city in its very real nature and caught it at its best and worst.
This DVD is essential to anyone who loved TREME and is going to miss it now that it is gone. If you haven’t seen the series, then get the complete series, which is also available now on DVD.