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“Accentuate the Positive” — Treme Returns!

April 27th, 2011

It’s been a long wait since last summer, but one of my favorite series from 2010 finally returned with new episodes this past Sunday night — David Simon (The Wire) and Eric Overmyer’s Treme!

Season two picks up about six or seven months after the events of the season one finale.  It’s been fourteen months since Hurricane Katrina, but the city of New Orleans and its denizens are still struggling to get back on their feet.  Many who left the city after the flood have returned, but so too have many additional problems — including a sharp uptick in violent crime.

“Accentuate the Positive,” the season two premiere, is a leisurely paced re-introduction to the series and its large cast of characters.  There are no earth-shattering developments or plot twists in this episode, but I adored the gentle way we’re dipped back into the experience of life in New Orleans.  You’re got to pay attention to keep up with everything, as the show is constantly cutting from one location to another and from one character’s story to the next, but it’s all very skillfully put together.  Watching the episode unfold, we can see the interconnected fabric of the lives of all of these struggling men and women. Sure I want to have seen more of every one of these characters, but we’ve got the rest of the season for that!  And it’s a testament to how well-written and well-performed the show is that there wasn’t a single character or story-line that I felt was a waste of time, resenting the time that we could have spent following another character.  No, every one of these characters could be the lead in their own show, and that’s a key ingredient to the success of this ensemble.

I wrote, above, that the characters are “struggling,” and sure enough they are — pretty much everyone one of them.  But as with season one, this episode manages to remain fairly up-beat and full of life, despite the heavy subject matter.  There’s humor to be found, and joy, amidst the heartbreak.  That balance of tone is one of the reasons I love this show so much.

And, of course, there’s the music.  This episode was packed to the gills with amazing music of all styles and types.  It’s the music that the makers of this show use, primarily, to set the scene and to illustrate for the viewer the changes in location.  It’s an extraordinarily clever approach, and I’d say it’s become this show’s trademark.  It’s the music, as much as the plot developments or the character arcs, that propels Treme along from start to finish, and it provides an endlessly rich backdrop for the unfolding stories.

If you’re not watching this series, now is the time to start.  I’d say it’s the best show on television these days.  Give it a try!

(Click here for my review of the Treme series premiere, and the season one finale.)

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