Blu-Ray Review: Underappreciated First Season of HBO’s ‘Treme’

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CHICAGO – Is it unfair to say that “Treme” is to “The Wire” as “John From Cincinnati” was to “Deadwood”? After David Milch’s brilliant Western came to an end, fans eagerly anticipated his follow-up and, almost immediately, spat it out like an undercooked Chicken McNugget. It lasted only one season. Well, “JFC” wasn’t really that bad (and deserved more time to find its feet). It’s a matter of expectation based on previous accomplishments. Not everything can be “Deadwood.” And we shouldn’t have expected “Treme” to live up to “The Wire,” one of the best programs in the history of the medium. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

It was unlikely that it ever could have. And yet there’s enough to like here that the people who have written it off entirely should take another look. Yes, the first season, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, can be frustrating, but the show has moments of brilliance and it’s not out of the question that it could find itself and become more consistent in the upcoming season two. Let’s not dismiss a program with an ensemble this talented and a writing staff that should have a shelf filled with awards just because it seems to still be finding its voice.

The key to “Treme” is the ensemble and the characters they fully embodied every week. Steve Zahn’s self-righteous disc jockey, Wendell Pierce’s drifting trombone player, the street musicians struggling to make it, Kim Dickens’ troubled bar owner, John Goodman, Khandi Alexander, Melissa Leo, and many more. If there was an Emmy Award category for Best Ensemble, “Treme” would certainly have to be a frontrunner. The first season seemed to drift a bit from concrete plotting, like a piece of Cajun music riffing for a bit too long on the same drum beat. It lacked an urgency that is there in the best programming, but the key to this show isn’t plot twists or dramatic revelations. It’s in spending time with complex, well-written characters.

Treme: The Complete First Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 29th, 2011
Treme: The Complete First Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 29th, 2011
Photo credit: HBO

The ten episodes of the first season of “Treme” are presented on four Blu-ray discs, minimizing compression and creating a stellar HD picture. After years of disappointing in the special features category with their TV releases, HBO has turned a corner in that department. “Treme” is filled with excellent bonus material including informative commentaries and making-of featurettes. I think history will be kinder to “Treme” than “John From Cincinnati.” Like the city it so beautifully chronicles, sometimes the things most worthwhile take time to come to life.

Special Features:
o Down In The Treme: A Look at the Music and Culture of New Orleans
o The Music Of Treme
o The Making Of Treme
o Treme: Beyond Bourbon Street
o 5 Audio Commentaries
o Music Commentaries

“Treme: The Complete First Season” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 29th, 2011. It stars Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, and Steve Zahn. It was created by David Simon & Eric Overmyer. content director Brian Tallerico

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