Pronounced ‘truh-may’, Treme is a series about the New Orleans district, looking at how its inhabitants coped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Set in three months after the storm hit, the series faced plenty of scepticism when plans were first announced, with concerns over insensitive timing from those who felt the wounds were still too raw. Luckily, the project’s creators, David Simon and Eric Overmyer, have significant experience in tackling gritty dramas loosely based in reality, having worked together previously on The Wire.
Why should we tune in?
Entertaining, insightful and moving, they’ve taken pains to show the ‘real’ New Orleans, balancing light with dark, from its historic, musically-rich history steeped in African-American and Creole culture to its crime-stricken neighbourhoods. Emmy Award winner David Simon, the show’s co-creator and writer, describes it as the story of ‘how a group of residents rebuild their lives through the enduring music and cultural traditions that make them, and the city, so unique’. It’s as much an education about the impact of the disaster on thousands of lives as it is a piece of prime-time entertainment.
Will we recognise the cast?
Wendell Pierce, best known for his role as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire, plays Antoine Batiste, a trombonist constantly seeking out the next big gig; fittingly, Pierce is actually from New Orleans. Other characters include Davis McAlary, a part-time DJ and musician played by Steve Zahn (Management, Sahara) and LaDonna Batiste-Williams, landlady of a tavern played by Khandi Alexander, best known as Dr Alexx Woods on CSI: Miami. And thanks to his infamous girth and booming tones, John Goodman is a conspicuous presence as Creighton Bernette, an English teacher at the New Orleans Tulane University.
What should we look out for?
Music, specifically jazz, is symbolic in the show, used to convey the resilient, optimistic nature of the characters and the vibrant spirit of the city as it tackles the enormous obstacles to restoration. Over the past century, New Orleans has given birth to some of the greatest musicians of all time, including early jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton and the legendary Louis Armstrong, pianist Fats Domino and rock ’n’ roller Frankie Ford, right up to the rappers of today, including Lil Wayne. And though the overall tone of Treme may be sombre, glimmers of comedy and some excellent music are bound to make this the must-watch show of the season.
Season one of Treme airs every Saturday at 9pm on Showseries.
Treme in figures
Year in which the Treme pilot episode was commissioned.
Viewers who tuned in to watch the show’s premiere in the US.
Date on which Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana.
The total area covered by the real-life district of Tremé.
Percentage of New Orleans city left flooded after the hurricane.
Value of damage to properties caused by Katrina and the subsequent flooding.