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Series / Treme

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"Won't bow, don't know how"

"Play for that money, boys, play for that mother-fuckin' money."

David Simon's followup to The Wire which garnered just as much critical love right off the bat.

Beginning three months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the series follows several residents who are struggling to put their lives back on track, particularly centered around the titular neighborhood (which is pronounced "tre-may"). Ladonna Williams tries to keep her bar running while searching for her brother who has been missing since the hurricane. Her ex-husband Antoine Bastiste plays his trombone in any gig he can find to stave off poverty for his new family. Civil rights lawyer Toni Bernette helps Ladonna in her search, while her husband Creighton vents his anger at how the crisis was mismanaged at anyone who crosses his path. Alternative DJ Davis McAlary is enraged at the changes his station has been forced to make, and his "friend with benefits" Janette Desautel runs a high class restaurant on dwindling funds. Albert Lambreaux is driven to return to town to resume his position as a Mardi Gras Indian Chief, but faces opposition from both members of his tribe and his own children. Street violinist Annie faces the dissolution of her relationship when her boyfriend Sonny becomes envious of her superior talent.

Season Two skips ahead several months and begins on All Saints' Day 2006. More than a year after Katrina, more and more people are returning, but unfortunately this includes a good deal of criminals, plus one new major character in Nelson Hildalgo, a Texan with a very vaguely defined job who's looking to make some money off the rebuilding efforts.

Despite the show sharing several similarities with Simon's previous opus (wide-ranging cast of characters, brutally realistic stories, and a complete lack of artificial music), it distinguishes itself with a far more optimistic tone. Despite the bleak circumstances for many of the characters, they mostly hold onto hope that things can improve and the city can regain its former greatness.

Has a Character Sheet that needs more love.

Tropes associated with Treme:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • The production team has publicly stated they hope locals take any inaccuracies this way. It hasn't worked out 100% - see Reality Is Unrealistic below.
    • The example offered by producers is Janette serving a Hubig's pie to Creighton in the pilot. At the time, Hubig's was still closed, meaning either it was a pre-Katrina (stale) pie, or, in David Mill's words, "a magic pie."
  • An Aesop:: Albert's story in the first season focuses on the public housing issue. National leaders continue to advocate demolishing all of New Orleans' public housing projects, public hospitals, and public schools, many of which are the only buildings that didn't flood, since they were the first public works projects of the New Deal, in order to ensure that certain elements stay away from the "new" New Orleans; Albert objects.
  • After the End: The series starts a couple months after hurricane Katrina.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Davis comes from an extremely upper crust family descended from Jefferson Davis and at least his mother is still quite racist.
  • Amicable Exes: Antoine and Ladonna, at least most of the time. Antoine even acknowledges that her new husband is probably a better father for their sons than he could be.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • "What do you do?"
    • When Davis takes a job as a tour guide, he finds himself forced to admit how many of the important places in the city's history have been torn down. Finally someone in the group asks him "Do you people preserve anything important?"
  • As Himself:
    • Many New Orleans musicians guest star as themselves.
    • Former New Orleans city councilman Oliver Thomas plays himself, all the way up to the part where he's indicted of corruption and resigns, and even when he's in prison.
    • Restaurant Critic Alan Richman also plays himself in Season 2, and his scathing review of New Orleans cuisine is featured. Fair play to him, he allowed David Simon to have Janette the chef throw a drink in his face.
  • Author Appeal: Inverted in the case of Anthony Bourdain, who has made appeals to write for the show, and finally got his wish with a story co-credit in Season 2.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop:
    • The NOPD does not look very good in this series, though given the creators' pervious work, the subject was bound to come up. Offenses include brutality, stealing property, and attempted bribery. Even before Katrina, this sort of behavior was far from out-of-character for the NOPD. Several characters say as much throughout the series. New Orleans natives might say this is Truth in Television.
    • David Morse's character, an 8th District watch commander, seems to be set up as the exception that proves the rule. (Although this being a David Simon production, something terrible could always happen.) This is also Truth in Television, as the 8th District covers the French Quarter and NOPD makes an effort to staff it with competent, honest cops.
  • Based on a True Story:
    • In addition to the Real Life musicians, at least one character (John Goodman's professor Bernette) is based on a real person.
    • Also subverted; fans speculated that Sonny and Annie were based on a real musician couple who broke up a few months after the hurricane, followed by the man murdering the woman and then jumping off a hotel roof a few days later. The producers have thoroughly denied it, and the real event is mentioned in Season Two.
    • Davis is based partly on Davis Rogan, a ne'er-do-well musician and DJ, and much of Davis' life — his chequered employment history, his songs, his banishment from local bars — is taken directly from Rogan's. Rogan's friend Simply even appears as Davis's friend Simply. (For bonus recursion, Davis Rogan appears as himself in several scenes.)
  • Berserk Button: The British TV reporter pushes Creighton's when he insults New Orleans by calling it a provincial city with outdated musical tastes. His microphone ends up in the river (and his camera almost does too).
  • Big Applesauce: The narrative switches away from New Orleans sometimes, as a few characters work and/or reside in New York for a while.
  • The Big Easy
  • Bilingual Bonus: French, Spanish, and Vietnamese are all used to provide extra plot and/or gags.
  • Black Sheep Hit: Davis considers the in-universe song "The True" this. Nobody really agrees with him.
  • Book Ends: Done with some season premieres and finales:
    • Season One begins and ends with a second line, and in Season Two it's a kid walking down the street practicing his trumpet.
    • In Season Three, we start with musicians being arrested for an unauthorized tribute concert. At the end of the episode they do it again, and this time the cops act as their escort.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sofia in season two, though with more justification than most.
  • But Now I Must Go: Terry leaves New Orleans in the finale after rationalizing he's burnt a big bridge. As he drives away from Louisiana, its music radio station becomes garbled, marking the sad end of an era.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': After two fellow musicians become popular after being (not really) arrested for an unpermitted parade, Antoine tries to get arrested at a follow up event. The police show up, but this time they're there to escort the musicians. Even worse, Antoine WAS arrested right after the first parade, but nobody saw it happen.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Davis' "Right? RIGHT?"
    • "Fuck me! Fuck me!" for Jeanette.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In Season One, Davis demonstrates remarkable knowledge of wine when he steals some from Jeanette's restaurant. In Season Four, he spends some time working as her sommelier.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Creighton's first YouTube video. Sofia later takes inspiration from him.
  • Cool Loser: Davis thinks he is this, when he's probably the latter.
  • Cultural Posturing: While many regard their city as a shining example of historical and cultural riches, Davis brings up the subject quite often, even with his neighbours, who unbeknown to him are also native of New Orleans. Creighton is also very vocally proud and touchy of his heritage.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 2nd season, with a major focus on rising crime as more people start returning to the city.
  • Death Glare: Ladonna turns this into an art form.
  • Determinator:
    • Put any bureaucratic roadblocks in front of Toni, and you'll just make her try harder to get to the truth.
    • Davis' relentless moxie makes up for his lack of talent, more or less.
  • Died During Production: Happens In-Universe after Harley is murdered, when Annie discovers a large collection of unfinished songs in his apartment, and attempts to finish them herself.
  • Dramatic Irony: Some characters in the Season 1 finale flashback —particularly Davis and Creighton — discuss that the Katrina will amount to nothing or won't affect the city, as it's usually the case with most hurricanes.
  • Driven to Suicide: Creighton. Especially brutal as we're given a tour of all the warning signs that none of the other characters notice before it actually happens.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Davis was named after his ancestor Jefferson Davis; he tells people it was actually for various celebrities like Sammy or Ossie.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Mentioned when Sonny takes a gig in Texas; it turns out some things are small in Texas.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: "I think he just called you a motherfucker in Dutch."
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: By Season Two, the show's scope is so wide that most characters only get two or three scenes an episode.
  • Friends with Benefits: Discussed by Davis and Janette. She looks down on this kind of relationship, but Davis remarks the friendship part is the important one.
  • Finale Credits: See also Silent Credits.
  • Henpecked Husband: Antoine frequently considers himself to be this to Desiree, but as he's frequently unemployed and sleeps around a ton, her nagging of him is actually pretty reasonable.
  • Honor Before Reason: Albert. "Won't bow! Don't know how!"
  • Hotter and Sexier: Season 3 noticeably features more skin and sex scenes than the previous two.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Davis speaks out against the gentrification of his neighborhood, but quickly changes his tune when it results in a pair of strippers moving in across the street.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans:
    • Not always, obviously, but preparations for the parades, and music in general, are central themes.
    • And much of the first season leads up to Mardi Gras 2006 near the end, then continues to St. Joseph's Day. The show is realistic, though, as festivities and preparations begin (and are shown) in January.
  • Knight in Sour Armor:
    • Creighton knows too well how bad New Orleans has it, and still calls it the greatest city in the world and wouldn't live anywhere else.
    • Albert is this to a lesser extent.
  • The Last DJ: Davis plays this to a tee.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: Compared to The Wire. Then again, the same can be said of Dante's trip through Hell.
  • Lingerie Scene: Downplayed when Sofia has passed out from drinking too much during Mardi Gras and pukes on her shirt. Davis takes her home, takes off her shirt to wash it, and lets her sleep on his couch wearing just a bra and jeans. The scene is not played for fan service or sexual innuendo. Not even Annie takes it as that when she walks in on them.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: In Season Two, it bizarrely seems like everyone in town except Sofia knows about her father's suicide.
  • Meaningful Echo: David Simon works in quite a few of the most famous lines from The Wire. Examples include Davis saying "and all the pieces matter" and Terry saying "the game is rigged" in Season 3.
  • Mood Dissonance: Exemplified in the opening titles; the upbeat song plays over images of people partying and enjoying New Orleans culture — as well as harrowing images of the storm's destruction and the terrible aftermath, including a ton of artistically-rendered mold. The lyrics itself seem to drive the point home:
    We're all goin' crazy / while jammin' and havin' fun!
  • Mood Whiplash: It's in the blood of New Orleans that its inhabitants will always find the time to cheer up and celebrate during the direst circumstances, come hell or high water. Not being able to would be the biggest of the tragedies. Second line funerals are a prominent example.
  • Motor Mouth: Davis.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • Again, Davis. Or so he thinks, until he ends up getting the crap kicked out of him by someone who overheard him. Ironically, in the scene where he gets punched out for this he was quoting Antoine word for word rather than throw it around casually.
    • Delmond is offended by New Yorkers saying the same negative things about New Orleans that he always does. "I get to say that. They don't!"
  • Not What It Looks Like: Davis says this when Annie walks in on him sitting in a room with a shirtless Sofia passed out in front of him the morning after Mardi Gras. Seriously, it's not.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The people in charge of the various police departments really don't want to admit that they've potentially lost and/or are wrongfully incarcerating people thanks to the post-Katrina chaos. Toni even points out that they get more FEMA funds the more prisoners they house,so they're incentivized to bury her requests in red tape.
  • Once a Season: A Mardi Grass episode, which needless to say it's some Serious Business. The Creightons will loop Professor Longhair's Go to the Mardi Gras.
  • Persona Non Grata: Davis is told to behave by a bartender, otherwise they'll put back again the sign "If your name is Davis McAlary, please leave."
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Davis.
    In my soul I'm a twenty-two-year-old thug from the Magnolia, twirling g-packs and cutting motherfuckers with my flow! I'm pure pale nastiness, so back off of me, bitch!
  • Protest Song: Davis' "Shame, Shame, Shame", a Hail to the Thief about George W. Bush (with a jab or two at Barbara Bush as well).
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Albert Lambreaux seems to command respect from the neighborood and isn't above beating two-bit hoods within an inch of their life. He also prances around in an ostentatiously garish feather costume every year.
    LaDonna: You very handy, Mr. Lambreaux.
    Albert: And pretty, too!
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: When Sonny ends up working on a Vietnamese fishing boat in season 2 and beyond, and the crew speaks Vietnamese (which he doesn't understand), it's never translated into English, unless it gets translated for him. Ditto with any of the other languages spoken on the show, like French.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The commentary on the pilot has David Simon discussing how some locals criticized the show for a shot of the Superdome which showed an undamaged roof, despite the roof having been repaired by the time the show starts. This is because the repair in place at the time of the pilot was very temporary. Local viewers are recalling the much longer permanent fix that was done after the pilot.
  • Recognition Failure: Kermit mistakes Elvis Costello for a music critic for the Times-Piyacune.
  • Running Gag: Antoine never having cab fare.
  • Scenery Gorn: Plenty of beautifully filmed shots of damaged houses and piles of debris.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One ad had upbeat music while the camera panned over a devastated row of houses. Also, the opening titles themselves.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A friend of Sonny's mistakenly calls Amsterdam "Hamsterdam."
    • Annie stumbles upon an episode of Generation Kill. Doubles as a minor Celebrity Paradox, as Cpl. Person is heard offscreen and is played by one of Janette's roommates.
  • Silent Credits: It is included as a Finale Credits as a tribute to the musical and cultural community of New Orleans, and also one to writer/producer David Mills, who died on set late in production of Season 1.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Davis likes to pretend that he is really hip and a great musician when in reality he's just a DJ on a local radio station.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Wire. It keeps the show's general style and format (large ensemble cast, interweaving plotlines, etc.) but takes place in New Orleans instead of Baltimore, and widens its scope beyond the world of crime and law enforcement.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: In-universe. Annie's first attempt at songwriting accidentally rips off Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
  • Turn in Your Badge: Subverted when Terry Colson quits the NOPD by turning in his gun, badge and ID.
    Desk cop: ...I just take your form and your badge. The rest of this shit goes to the gun range.
  • Verbal Backspace: Davis meets Elvis Costello at a Kermit Ruffins concert, and tries to convince him that he taught Kermit everything he knows. When Elvis looks unimpressed, Davis adds "...about Keynesian economics", which earns him a laugh.
  • Vice City: Discussed by Lt. Terry Colson.
    Terry: I've come to believe that there's a big difference between vice and sin. New Orleans gets it. The rest of the world... Well, vice... you know, vice, it's human. It's one drink too many. It's an illegal smile in a coat pocket. It's a bet on a wrong horse. It's a wrong prick rubbing against a wrong piece of ass. Sin is those bodies over in Central City, the ones that we just keep rolling up on and doing so goddamn little about.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The show assumes a basic familiarity with New Orleans culture, or a capacity to pick up on things quickly after being thrown straight into the deep end, David Simon-style. Lesser viewers would be confused as to why African-Americans dance around in Indian costumes and why everyone locksteps during funerals.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Wish Someone Would Care".
    • "What is New Orleans?" is Season Two's.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Asked by Nelson's cousin to him in the Season 2 finale. See Armor-Piercing Question.