Deceits large and small

This is what I have always thought about Americans: When the camera and the microphone are put away, they start talking like everybody else.

When the cameras are on, you get something like this line of dialogue from new series Treme: "Say bra, you was gonna have Shorty kickin' with ya."

When the cameras are off, I believe it would come out more like: "Excuse me chum, my friend Shorty was going to spend some time with you".

I can't help feeling it is a deception on a massive scale.

My suspicions will have to be put aside this week, as most fare on the unmissable SoHo channel is from that place where they speak like that.

This Thursday at 9.30pm, Treme continues what is admittedly a harmless deception.

Treme is a drama series that takes its name from a neighbourhood of New Orleans, where the accents are so strong one has to listen closely to make sense of it all.

But the effort is worthwhile.

The series goes back to a time three months after Hurricane Katrina, as residents try to rebuild their lives.

Treme loudly sings quality (and the music is excellent) from the opening credits, beginning with some stunning close-up imagery of the people and the city.

Everyone lives with frustrating deprivations - broken possessions, mud-filled homes and knee-deep rubbish - which litter the storylines as they unfold.

Not only the personal is developed in Treme; the political also rears its head.

The wonderful John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou) plays Creighton Bernette, an English teacher at Tulane University who specialises in expletive-fuelled media interviews about the man-made aspect of the tragedy, with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Government looming large in his sights.

Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) is a trombonist constantly hunting for his next gig, LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander) runs a tavern and Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) is an extremely annoying DJ and musician.

Treme has the very best of pedigrees. I have banged on at length about The Wire, another excellent drama that SoHo is so decently bringing back. The Wire, of course, can be traced back to Homicide: Life on the Streets, a stunningly good crime drama which aired in New Zealand more than a decade ago. Treme's writing team of David Simon (a Baltimore Sun journalist who worked on the city desk for 12 years) and Eric Overmyer first worked together as writers on Homicide, then collaborated on The Wire.

Actors from both feature in Treme.

Remarkably, and for no immediately apparent reason, Elvis Costello turns up in episode one.

What more could you ask?


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