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Treme (2010-2013, Michael Huisman, Melissa Leo)

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Drama series Treme follows musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians and ordinary New Orleanians as they try to rebuild their lives, their homes and their unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane and levee failure that caused the near-death of an American city.

‘New Orleans is a city which lives in the imagination of the whole world,’ says Overmyer. ‘We wanted to capture something authentic about it, as its people struggle with the after effects of the greatest calamity to befall an American city in the history of this country.’ Simon adds, ‘What happens in New Orleans matters. An ascendant society rebuilds its great cities.’

TREME begins in fall 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina and the massive engineering failure in which flood control failed throughout New Orleans, flooding 80 percent of the city and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents. Fictional events depicted in the series will honor the actual chronology of political, economic and cultural events following the storm.

‘As much as possible, we’re trying to show fealty to the post-Katrina history,’ Overmyer notes. ‘New Orleanians have had their lives transformed by the storm and its aftermath, and we want to be careful in our presentation of that.’

Simon adds that viewers familiar with ‘The Wire,’ the previous HBO drama on which he, Overmyer and fellow executive producer Nina Noble labored, should not expect a similar drama set in another city.

‘In some fundamental ways,’ he says, ‘TREME is centered on the ordinary lives of ordinary people. It is political only in the sense that ordinary people find themselves dealing with politics in their own lives. That said, New Orleanians – those who have been able to return, especially – are passionate about their city.’

The drama unfolds with Antoine Batiste, a smooth-talking trombonist who is struggling to make ends meet, earning cash with any gig he can get, including playing in funeral processions for his former neighbors. His ex-wife, LaDonna Batiste-Williams, owns a bar in the Central City neighborhood and splits her time between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where her children and new husband have relocated. Concerned over the disappearance of her younger brother David, or Daymo, unseen since the storm, LaDonna has turned to a local civil rights attorney, the overburdened and underpaid Toni Bernette, for help. The government’s inconsistent and ineffectual response to the devastation has spurred Bernette’s husband Creighton, a university professor of English literature and an expert on local history, to become an increasingly outspoken critic of the institutional response.

Treme resident Davis McAlary, a rebellious radio disc jockey, itinerant musician and general gadfly, is both chronicler of and participant in the city’s vibrant and varied musical culture, which simply refuses to be silent, even in the early months after the storm. His occasional partner, popular chef Janette Desautel, hopes to regain momentum for her small, newly re-opened neighborhood restaurant. Elsewhere in the city, displaced Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux returns to find his home destroyed and his tribe, the Guardians of the Flame, scattered, but Lambreaux is determined to rebuild. His son Delmond, an exile in New York playing modern jazz and looking beyond New Orleans for his future, is less sure of his native city’s future, while violinist Annie and her boyfriend Sonny, young street musicians living hand-to-mouth, seem wholly committed to the battered city.

As the story begins, more than half the population of New Orleans is elsewhere and much of the city is wrecked, muddied and caked in mold, while other neighborhoods remain viable. The tourists have yet to return, the money that follows them is scarce, and residents can take solace only in the fact that the city’s high levels of crime have migrated to Houston and Baton Rouge. And for those returning, housing is hard to come by, with many people waiting on insurance checks that may never arrive.

production details
USA | HBO – Blown Deadline Productions | 60 minutes | Broadcast from 11 April 2010 – 29 December 2013

Creators and Executive Producers: David Simon, Eric Overmyer
Executive Producers: Anthony Hemingway, Carolyn Strauss, George Pelecanos, Nina K. Noble

cast
Michiel Huisman as Sonny
Melissa Leo as Toni Bernette
Wendell Pierce as Antoine Batiste
Rob Brown as Delmond Lambreaux
Julie Adams as Steve Zahn as Davis McAlary
Gary Grubbs as Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Batiste-Williams
Chris Coy as L.P. Everett
Kim Dickens as Janette Desautel
India Ennenga as Sofia Bernette
Lucia Micarelli as Annie Talarico
David Morse as Terry Colson
Clarke Peters as Albert “Big Chief” Lambreaux
Jon Seda as Nelson Hidalgo

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