Review: Treme on DVD

There is a series in my local paper about how the new Chief Planner has a wonderful vision for her role with the city of Canberra. The interviewer is a local architect. The piece reads as a conversation between two people who have no idea how patronising their comments are towards residents. It reminded me of one of the themes that David Simon‘s had structured into his TV series TREME.


So many planners throughout Australia have developed a seemingly well-informed view of how planning and development should happen. If you were to listen to their carefully crafted words, it would be easy to believe that the planning and development happening in your suburb or city must be wonderful and you must appreciate that it is being done with your needs as their priority.

Yet, when you look out your window, walk your suburbs and travel into the CBD, there is nothing but badly design housing and commercial buildings spreading like a virus through all out settlements. Surely these people in charge of planning within your local government and their colleagues in the development business cannot be getting it so wrong!

At the time of writing I have seen the first two of this series, and am keenly waiting the next two, although noting that the last of TREME will be only five episodes, not ten.

TREME is about a city that the government ignored and continues to do so. TREME is about people attempting to take control of their local environment and dealing with a huge level of issues and problems. As the story unfolds it is also about how the planners and other shonky players are trying to take control of the re-development of the city and how their ideas and motives do not match with the actual residents of the city. Sound familiar?

In TREME, Hurricane Katrina has come and gone and those people who remain are dealing with the rebuilding, not just of the city, but of their lives and their culture. This is an amazing story about communities and their cultures. It is also about music, food and everything else cultural that this town is imbued with.

David Simon has crafted the stories around factual events. The characters and their intertwined stories develop slowly and apparently this has not been satisfactory for many in the US as they want more fast paced story lines. In this case, the character development is really worth the journey for the viewer, that’s you and me. The people of New Orleans have given this program the thumbs up. They like what it is trying to say.

There’s lots of music. There’s hoards of real-life musicians in roles. I spotted many and I am sure there are many others. I knew nothing of the Mardi Gras Indians before seeing this program. I now know a lot more. I now buy New Orleans music. I have bought more of Dr John. Steve Earle was already on my lists and I can say he was great in his special role.

I remember after the first series, that I wondered if this should be compulsory viewing for planning and development agencies so that they may come to understand something of real community engagement. That would mean that planners and developers would have to be capable of seeing the issues of redevelopment through the minds of those that have the highest personal investment in seeing that development and planning could deliver resilient, healthy and engaging sustainable settlements not only for the present but for future generations. Sadly, I suspect that is not going to happen.

I suggest to everyone else, get hold of the DVDs of TREME and enjoy.

Recommended: Rating 10/10

┬áHere’s the link to David Simon’s Blog

and for an interview with David Simon:


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