Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tremé Season 3, Episode 1: "Knock With Me - Rock With Me"

Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to post in-depth about the season premiere of Tremé, but Sepinwall gives a nice summary of what makes this series great in his review of the new season. Some particularly choice excerpts:
"Tremé doesn't bend to the demands of the market. It's a show about New Orleans and jazz, a city and an artform that are distinctly American but have both been half-forgotten. Its priorities are character, music and local color, with plot waaaay down the list."
"The performances... are so good that the characters can drive the series whether their stories are big... or small. The music is so well-chosen, and eclectic... that the show can get away with pausing the (minimal) action several times an episode just to let us enjoy the performances. And the sense of atmosphere and local color is unmatched among any show in recent memory."
"The longer you get to know the people on a character-based show, the more their stories come to matter, so that even small changes... have tremendous weight."

There's no other show like it on television, and I'll be happy to spend 10 more hours with it. I might try a few more recaps as the season goes on.

Okay, I lied. Here are just a few thoughts:

- I know of no other mediated experience that recreates the thrill of listening to live music better than this show. The power of the performances on Tremé are one of the reasons that I have the patience for them. On other shows, I'd be itching to get them over with, but the music - and the characters' passion for it - is so palpable that it becomes imbued with a heightened sense of liveliness. Good thing too, as music is such an integral part of the show; it is so important to the characters that show must respect it, embrace it, relish it.

- Davis, Davis, Davis. I've always had a soft spot for him. His glaring failures, missteps, and idiosyncratic personality tics are often played for laughs (and it works, at least for me), and it makes those moments in which he succeeds all the more impressive and heartwarming (like his relationship with Annie). This week, he leads an appallingly underwhelming cultural heritage tour full of nothing but sites that have been torn down, re-purposed, or closed in the wake of the storm, and he is abandoned by his dismayed tour group midway through. The proceeds are intended to go toward an intriguing cause: a New Orleans jazz opera about life after the storm. Knowing Davis though, his vision will likely be too uncompromising to be successful.

- I continue to love everything related to Delmond and Janette's stories. Their plots are like shows unto themselves (although you could probably say that about each of the main characters), and are oddly similar, each revolving around their artistic expression, one musical, the other culinary. Compromise, satisfaction, creativity, commercial success, and the creative process are interesting story hooks that are rarely told this well.

- I love LaDonna's sass. Khandi Alexander is great.

- Antoine is to Tremé as Norm is to Cheers. Antoine always wears his milkbone underwear in this dog eat dog world. I'll be intrigued to see him get more invested in his assistant director marching band gig.

- Is it just me, or does Sophie's boyfriend seem at least 10 years older than her?

- I like what the show is doing with Sonny, but mainly because I think his boss/father-of-his-Vietnamese-girlfriend is pretty fun (Sonny's still kind of a scumbag). Paraphrasing:
Sonny: "Can I take your daughter to a nice restaurant for dinner?"
Dad: "Of course not. You'll eat with me and the rest of the Vietnamese community just like on all of your dates."

- I loved the scene that ended the episode, where Terry shares a few friendly words with a busker in a crazy getup and a bike bedecked with Christmas-lights. The thoughts in Terry's head are visible on his face: "Only in New Orleans would I have an encounter like this." Likewise, only on Tremé would we get a show as relaxed, laconically paced, and enjoyable as this.

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