As it has been stated before, HBO has had an exceptionally strong run of shows since “The Sopranos.” One strength all the series have had since then is the ability to not overstay their welcome. “Treme” follows that trend by only having four highly compelling seasons. HBO has previously released all four season separately on Blu-ray, each with their own supplements. Now comes the entire show on Blu-ray with “Treme: The Complete Series”.
I’ll try to keep plot details to a minimum and talk about the show itself as to not give away any spoilers. The beginning of the series takes place three Months after Katrina. As viewers, we are immediately introduced to the city and its people by being immersed into the culture. A makeshift parade has started moving down one of the damaged side streets. People are laughing, musicians have their instruments and are joining in song whenever they can and there is a police presence intermingled. It is a terrific introduction to shows premise and heart.
There are many different and dedicated storylines which interact with each on a casual level. The cast is large with each character given enough screen time for the characters to develop and become emotionally involving. Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) is a roving local musician who plays in various groups at many bars all over New Orleans. He was once married to LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander) and has two teenage boys with her. She is remarried to a nice guy who helps Antoine when he can. We first see him as a down-on-his-luck trombone player wheeling and dealing for discount cab rides.
Then there is Davis McAlary played energetically by Steve Zahn who is a lifelong citizen of New Orleans with a zeal for his city that propels him forward into seemingly endless adventures. He is a small time radio DJ to start and he changes jobs quicker than most people change their socks. He has an on/off relationship with Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens), a local chef who tries to keep her restaurant together after the storm.
John Goodman nearly steals the show as Creighton Bernette, a teacher, writer and vehement defender of New Orleans and its importance to the rest of the nation. His online rants on YouTube reinvigorate his stalled writing career as he becomes the forceful voice of his state by aggressively championing for the city. His wife Toni (Melissa Leo) is an attorney who is instrumental helping LaDonna find a relative in the first season.
There are other characters as well, such as Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) who does not always play by the rules but stands by his convictions in the name of tradition. His costumed parades are colorful and time-honored with a large following. There is Sonny (Michiel Huisman) as the street keyboardist who has some self destructive habits. His violin playing girlfriend (Lucia Micarelli) who is sick of Sonny’s lifestyle and yearns for a better life.
“Treme” covers many issues dealing with the loss and recovery of the region. It strays into political territory lightly without ever preaching or bashing parties directly. Most in the forefront is the waiting of money from the government. There is confusion from the residents on when the money is coming and where it’s coming from. Small businesses such as Janette’s restaruant are waiting on insurance money and constantly live under the threat of closing their doors.
There is also the subject of residents staying after the storm and making a life elsewhere. Several side characters have dispersed to New York City and Texas. Families who lost everything move elsewhere, leaving everything behind. The show explores the police officers who left New Orleans after living in their cars and working 60-70 hour shift. The cops that stayed are often portrayed as arrest-happy and short tempered. We also learn that FEMA is giving money to precincts with the highest arrest rates. “Treme” also is unique in the fact that is mixes real actors with real people. Most notable are the large number of musician characters throughout the city. They are real people with no acting experience, however they hold their own while mingling with the actors and help add a genuine experience to the show.
Often times the show is very dark with a lot of natural lighting. The daytime scenes shine flawlessly with minimal grain and wonderful detail. The nighttime scenes do have a higher level of grain dues to darkness, however, some grain looks added, perhaps for grittiness. Colors from all the various parade costumes are beautifully saturated with no bleeding. It is another top notch effort from HBO.
Music fans and those who particularly like New Orleans jazz will be in auditory heaven. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is beautiful from the first episode to the last. The live performances, which take place in various bars around the city, are authentic and filled with trumpets, trombones, keyboards and violins. Background people talking, distance noises and sound effects all sound real and appropriately leveled.
The extras on the discs are the same as the individual releases. Each one is filled with insightful Cast and Crew Commentaries and Musician Commentaries. The latter extras are interesting as they are told form a more human perspective as they live their craft and were happy to contribute to the series. Behind the Scenes featurettes include topics such as the food mentioned in the show and how it relates to the New Orleans culture and the art seen around the city and in the background. There are also looks into the Katrina event itself and how the city has rebounded.
The main extra in this collection is the bonus disc which contains fifteen music performances ranging from jazz, blues and a little bit of soul. For those who already own the other seasons, this would be the main draw for the purchase of this set. This is pretty much a must have for fans of the show and its music.
“Treme” is a rich and unique narrative story brought to us by HBO with their usual high standards. To see a show that is so geographically centered and completely exploring it’s history, culture, heart, desperation and strength is quite an experience. With all of New Orleans being defined and held together by the music and its people. There is tremendous love to be had in this series. New Orleans has never been a favorite geographical interest of mine but after watching “Treme” I have a much greater appreciation for it. The video and audio are stellar and I recommended this for fans and people who have not seen or heard of it but trust HBO’s quality of storytelling.