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"Play for that money, boys, play for that mother-fuckin' money."
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.
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."
- Actor Allusion: Creighton disparagingly references The Big Easy, a film John Goodman was in. The writer had actually forgotten this, and at first Goodman was suspicious that it was an insult.
- Actor Shared Background: Lucia Micarelli is a professional violinist making her acting debut as Annie; both started on the instrument at age seven.
- 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.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "What do you do?"
- As Himself / Special Guest: 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.
- 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.
- Author Existence Failure: Writer David Mills died of a brain aneurysm while on set. Mills also worked on acclaimed series like The Wire, NYPD Blue, Homicide and was the creator of the tv series Kingpin
- Also happens in-universe: After Harley is murdered, Annie discovers a large collection of unfinished songs in his apartment, and attempts to finish them herself.
- 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 neer-do-well DJ who, as one of the commentaries points out, has been explicitly banned from at least one bar with a sign saying "If you are Davis Rogan, please leave." It was Rogan who actually wrote many of Davis' songs as well.
- 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).
- The Big Easy
- Book Ends: The season premieres: season one begins and ends with a second line, and in season two it's a kid walking down the street practicing his trumpet.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sofia in season two, though with more justification than most.
- California Doubling: Mostly averted, but the scenes in New York are all faked on sets.
- The Cast Showoff: Wendell Pierce mimed his trombone playing in season one, but learned to play for real starting in season two.
- Catch Phrase: Davis' "Right? RIGHT?"
- 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.
- Death Glare: Ladonna turns this into an art form.
- Determinator: Put any bereaucratic roadblocks in front of Toni, and you'll just make her try harder to get to the truth.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 music is a central theme.
- 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.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": The title and the neighborhood it comes from is pronounced "Tre-MAY", "TRE-May", or "Tremmy" (in the documentary Cutting Loose)
- Annie's first scene features her giving a subtle lesson in how to say New Orleans ("Or-lens," not "Or-leens," as it's sometimes pronounced in songs for a better rhyme).
- Killed Off for Real: Creighton Bernette
- In season two, Harley Watt joins the tally.
- 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.
- Darker and Edgier: The 2nd season, with a major focus on rising crime as more people start returning to the city.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Locked Out of the Loop: In season two, it bizarrely seems like everyone in town except Sophia knows about her father's suicide.
- 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 Sophia passed out in front of him the morning after Mardi Gras. Seriously, it's not.
- 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.
- 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.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: One ad had upbeat music while the camera panned over a devastated row of houses.
- Shout-Out: A friend of Sonny's mistakenly calls Amsterdam "Hamsterdam."
- Suspiciously Similar Song: Annie's first attempt at songwriting accidentally rips off Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
- Ted Baxter: 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.
- Too Soon: There are some folks who've left New Orleans and can not watch the show or anything dealing with Katrina.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Davis again.
- Wham! Episode: "Wish Someone Would Care"
- "What Is New Orleans?" is season two's.
- What, Exactly, Is Your Job?: Asked by Nelson's cousin to him in the season 2 finale. See Armor-Piercing Question.