6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I know there is only one review posted here of the DVD set since it was released last week (the others were all pre-release comments) and I'm assuming that is because those who have the set are buy watching it. I'm doing a "total immersion" in the set but am far enough along that I can post my review here for those wanting to know if it's worth getting. In a word: "YES!" - though there is one small annoying I'll point out shortly.
If you don't get (or didn't get HBO on cable) you need this set to watch one of the finest TV dramas of last year - and unarguably the best use of music in a TV series. But it, like me, you had the opportunity to see the show when it aired (Season 2 starts on April 24th) you still need this set. Why? Because there are so many layers to what is going on and certain events that occur have their gestation in something that happened in an earlier episode. But more important is the fact that there are commentary tracks to about half the episodes. And not just one, but two different ones. First there are the commentaries by the creators and actors (the pilot episode - longer than others at 77 minutes - is a must listen) and then there is a separate commentary on the music performed. PLUS there is a "soundtrack" option, which you should choose - even on first viewing - which reveals all the music being played or performed. Besides the amazing real-time performances by Kermit Ruffins, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Steve Earle and more! - full versions of classic NOLa records ("Buena Sera" by Louis Prima for instance) are here. I don't ever remember that being done before. So, like me, you may find yourself watching the pilot THREE times and finding something new each time.
The last disc includes some other Bonus features. First is a "making of" which is about 15 minutes ling and is just okay - similar to many other "Making of" featurettes. This is followed by a 30-minute HBO-produced featurette putting the show in perspective with a focus on the heritage of New Orleans - especially after Katrina. Well done. That's it for features.
One other observation: while the director/actor commentaries run completely through an episode the music commentaries don't. There may be periods as long as 10 minutes where there are no comments so you may have to scan ahead a bit during the dialog portions.
I mentioned at the top that there is one annoyance on the set and that is the need for HBO to sell the full video performances that were done for the show. An insert in the package says you can download them on iTunes. But downloading on iTunes means you can only watch them on reasonably small PC screen. HBO would have made this an all time keeper you will return to often if it just included the videos on the DVD - even adding a few dollars to the price. Then you could watch them in all their glory on your TV. The set is still so important that I'm being generous and not deducting a star here. But I sure hope they correct this when Season 2 is released next year. (By the way, if you love this series like I do, you definitely need the companion soundtrack CD!)
So, I'm still only 2/3 of the way through the set listening to the commentaries but that's enough to post my review here. If you love jazz, R&B, brass bands, Steve Earl, Elvis Costello and GREAT drama, this set is for you!
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2010
There really isn't anything else to be said. This is the best TV show or movie ever shot in New Orleans. Ever.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2013
I just finished watching Treme Season One, and in my humble opinion, I just finished watching the best season of television I have ever watched. To really appreciate it, you have to be a big music fan, and a fan of the kind of music that comes out of New Orleans (although that is a broad category), but . . .
This television is unlike any other--ANY other. While it explores dramatic stories, at a measured pace, the stories are not the point. Other episodic television builds stories through moments, but this episodic television crafts moments through stories, and the MOMENTS, and not the stories, are the point--the specific moments in time conjured up by the incredible writers and directors and technicians and musicians and actors--to put you, not only in a place and time created by these artists, but to put you back in a place and time you once knew, a place and time in your life when something special and magical was afoot, no matter where you are from, and no matter who you are.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is an entire new way of making art, using pictures and sound. You can look at great episodic TV like "The Wire" or "The Sopranos" or "Justified" and it's special, and it even breaks new ground, but Treme is a NEW SPORT ENTIRELY. The best parts of Treme are not the dramatic scenes to which we have been building, a la a Tarantino movie (and don't get me wrong, I LOVE Tarantino). The best parts of Treme are the little moments in between, when nothing is happening in terms of advancing the plot. The little impromptu musical gathering in the Steve Zahn character's apartment, for example, is an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT, in which a woman we never saw before and will never see again belts out a tune, unexpectedly well. The plot has not advanced one tiny iota, and you never want that scene to end.
This show should never end, in fact, but it's going to, apparently. Too bad. It is a marvel--a thing of utter beauty--and I am going to make seasons two and three stretch out as long as I can, and then I'm going to go back and watch all of them again. They're not just that good--for a music fan like me, this is the best television that has ever been made, without doubt.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2011
Amazon won't let me tell you what John Goodman's character really screams over YouTube to become a local hero. And it is pretty foul. I mean, what a horrible piece of writing, right? What a despicably uncreative way for the writers to scold government officials for the lack of a federal response to Katrina for so long, and then for all the bungling that came when government agencies did try to do something.
But you know what? It works. It was perfect. It was angry. It was frustrated. It was human. And it makes you, the viewer, think, "What would I do if I survived such a horrible disaster only to see things made worse by massive government corruption?"
You might think this series is all about the city and the aftermath of the disaster. But you would be wrong. It's all about the characters and how they go about their lives. They're fighting every episode to get some help, to improve their lives, to improve the lives of others or just return to where they were before all hell broke loose. And it's captivating. The characters reel you in to their special little corner of the world and make you almost wish you were right there with them trying to make that corner special again.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2011
Having lived in New Orleans, I have to say that this show captures the spirit and the different cultures within the city. Love this series. Pray for recovery: it is still needed.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2010
Treme (Season 1) was the best thing on TV while it was in season. I was glued to the TV every Sunday night.... ready to catch the next episode.
Top to bottom, front to back, a great job on making a TV masterpiece. How this series garnered ZERO emmy nominations is absolutely beyond me. Those that are responsible for the lack of recognition should be moved as far away from the emmy ballot box as possible.
But those are just phony, popularity contest awards anyways. What counts is that this is one helluva show. Those that weren't lucky enough to catch it on HBO should buy this immediately.
Can't wait for Season 2!!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2011
Those looking for David Simon to follow up the Wire with a similar crime related series would be bitterly disappointed; those alternatively looking for one of the best American dramas in recent years from the superb HBO stable then the "eagle has landed". The series is essentially a love letter to the shattered city of New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. It certainly is an indictment of the Bush administrations gross mishandling of aftermath and like Dave Edger's recent book Zeitoun there are times when "Treme" makes you literally fume at the debacle that followed infused by racism. In particular the spectacle of a largely poor black community "left behind" and an incredibly nervous and paranoid Police force.
But if your singular interest is examining the wake of the unmitigated disaster, which is Katrina, then Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke" should be your port of call. "Treme's" landscapes are far wider and it aims to capture the essence of New Orleans by tapping into traditions of jazz music, culture, carnival & Mardi Gras, language, cuisine and particularly the sheer bloody minded resilience of its residents. Like all David Simon scripts it builds slowly but surely until the characters hold your attention in a vice like grip. "Treme" is the district epicentre of New Orleans jazz and around that culture are woven human stories of resettling in the destroyed city, people seeking lost relatives dispersed across the USA or eking out a living as the city attempts to recover. Music is at the heart of the series and Treme is not afraid to stop the story and introduce a jam session or a carnival band. Thus you have highlights such as a great version of "My Indian Red" led by the great Dr John; the fabulous Kermit Ruffins playing "Skokiaan" in another episode and a soundtrack jam packed with great music. Throughout we also have the appearance of stellar musicians like Steve and Justin Townes Earle, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. In sense who are we to argue with HBO claim that Treme sees "one of the best organic uses of music in a series".
The characters at the heart of the series are drawn from "Wire" stalwarts like Wendell Pierce who plays the colourful local musician "Antoine Batiste" and Clarke Peters who plays the chief who leads one of the exotic Mardi Gras "Indian" tribes with their mix of African/American/Indian traditions feeding into the glorious city Carnivals. These resume three months after Katrina but with them re-emerge problems of gang violence and crime. The there are a number of other key characters namely John Goodman's angry Professor Creighton Bernette whose epic foul mouthed tirades against George W Bush are oratorical fireworks as he reminds the President "You rebuilt Chicago after the fire you rebuilt San Francisco after the earthquake". Then there is Gonzo DJ Davis Mclary played by Steve Zahn. I have to admit that in the first couple of episodes I disliked this character but stick with Zahn since his anarchic portrait of the passionate Bohemian New Orleans resident "who wants his city back" grows to be one of the series best. Equally the redoubtable Khandi Alexander who plays the tough bar owner LaDonna Batiste-Williams also in a desperate search of her "lost" brother is superb throughout.
"Treme" is unique series and one that invest enormous and intricate detail into its warm and diverse set of characters. It is New Orleans Cajun culture writ large with its nuances, colour and language are at the heart of this show. At the opening point of one of his Internet rants "Creighton Bernette" proclaims "yes we are still here". At this moment you feel the pain and the passion in his words and fundamentally its channelling that same pain and passion for this historic, flawed but vital city into the medium of TV that gives "Treme" its big beating heart.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I became a fan of this series and watched each episode with tremendous anticipation. The series is a tad thin on narrative but very strong on character. Narratively, in fact, very little happens on the show. What we get instead is a deep, finely grained exploration of the lives of a number of vividly conceived characters (many of them played by actors familiar from THE WIRE) and a beautiful evocation of a deeply wounded city trying to recover from the damage inflicted upon it both by hurricane Katrina and the failure of the government to help rebuild it.
This is one of the finest and deepest ensemble casts on television. There is no real star but instead a number of equally fascinating characters who help hold the show together. The lack of obvious lead characters is especially felt in the Pilot, where it isn't at all clear who the ongoing characters on the show are (except in the cast of well known actors like Steve Zahn, John Goodman, and Kim Dickens, as well as those from THE WIRE).
I suspect that this show is going to have viewers of the DVDs fall sharply in two camps. One camp will proclaim it the greatest show on TV (I would rank it about 8th or 9th of the various shows that I watch, well behind series like MAD MEN and CAPRICA and BREAKING BAD and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS), while a second group will be perplexed and express how boring them found it to be. I think the lack of a deep narrative keeps it from being either among the very best shows on TV (and definitely not as good as David Simon's previous two series, THE WIRE and HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET), but I think that those who don't recognize how outstanding the show is at developing character. I passionately recommend this show to anyone who loves carefully written, well acted television.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2011
Treme is for anyone who has been to New Orleans, who loves jazz, modern jazz, rock, folk, Cajun and other music. Each episode, in the fore and background show the diversity of America as seen in New Orleans, from Indian Chief to Second Line walks to the cemetery and back. Culture, Pride, Music, History, Food: it is the story of New Orleans but of you also, and your life. At the end, one character tries to explain why to live in New Orleans by making marking the best of everything that is New Orleans. "Po-Boy isn't a sandwich!" he says in outrage to the claim that NY has sandwiches also, "It is a way of life."
For all those who have been beat down by nature, by the twists and forms of government, by addiction or the exhaustion of day to day living, this series is your song. In showing how five, eight, ten people of different social status, different backgrounds all `get by' in the aftermath of disaster you will see your darkest hours reflected. But also, you will see the day after.
For music lovers, this series is as good as a box set of the best musicians in concert. Each episode has not one but up to a dozen real musicians, under the real name, performing. One character, playing a `bone' (trombone) player of higher but not top name grade shows how much live music is part of New Orleans.
At a time when series like Human Target have cut the live orchestra and replaced it with the inexpensive `needle drops' to see so many musicians, cooks, all `play for the money' makes me feel this series, like New Orleans is a rare gem which may be lost. Play on.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2011
At this point of writing, we have only had the first 4 episodes of 'Treme' shown here in the UK, so my review is based on this, rather than a complete 'product review' of the entire series and/or box set, as such. However, this is one of the few recent television series that I cannot wait for the next episode to be shown (the other being the excellent Danish thriller, 'The Killing', though I digress).
So far, 'Treme' is as artistically rich as anything I have seen from HBO and the series producers and associated team have raised the creative bar to a very high level indeed, taking on the historically and ethically complex 'story' of post-hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, as seen by way of multiple, often coinciding, and wonderfully drawn, diverse, characters. It immediately engenders a deep sense of 'integrity' throughout.
The deeper social and moral aspects within the unfolding narrative of each episode of 'Treme' put me in mind of the issues found in many of John Sayles' films, and the varying perspectives of all the central characters segue seemlessly from one narrative thread to another. Indeed, apart from the moral 'preaching' seen in John Goodman's brilliant character, the university lecturer, 'Creighton Bernette', 'Treme' is not simply didactic concerning the way in which the social effects of this disaster are presented, rather it 'moves' with a deeply rich sense of 'life force', fun and momentum, that dynamically shifts and turns rather like the creative spirit that underwrites this drama: the (jazz) music! The opening scene of a saxophonist fitting a reed in the 'pilot' is pure gold!
Indeed, if you like jazz, R&B, Blues etc, then this is a very important series, and is 'hardcore' in this respect, introducing great musicians who appear - (though don't always perform, sadly) - including: altoist, Donald Harrison; Elvis Costello, and the genius that is pianist, McCoy Tyner, to name but three. The use of soundtrack throughout is fantastic, and a multiple perspective scene towards the end of the 'pilot' in which Steve Zahn's outstandingly portayed, some-time musician/DJ, 'Davis McAlary' plays Louis Prima's, 'Buona Sera', is as rich and evocative as Scorsese's or Tarrantino's use of music in cinema. Outstanding!
Steve Zahn's performance has an energy and depth that is truly Oscar-worthy and he is arguably one of the great actors of his generation. He absolutely 'nails' the character of 'Davis' and gives me goose-bumps whenever he appears on-screen given his vitality and the way in which he portrays this mercurial, self-centred, 'know-it-all' character who's 'always right', though appears constantly to walk a see-saw between material and artistic success and failure! There is also something deeply Shakespearean about his character within the overall scope of this drama that is at once deeply mischievous like Puck, and yet also inhabits the different social realms rather like 'Feste' in 'Twelfth Night' by way of his incisive wit and musical 'talents'.
The rest of the cast is wish-list stuff, including: Melissa Leo; Wendel Marshall et al and the excellent (and perhaps underrated) David Morse, to name but a few.
I cannot praise this series highly enough and only hope that it continues to flourish as well as it has started: a deeply poignant reflection given the specific context in which this series is set, and the wider and tragically sad disasters that the World has most recently seen.