Treme returns for its third season, captuing the way life riffs on itself.

Image from season 3 of Treme.

[Updated] In my interview Saturday with Eric Overmyer, he referred to Treme as sui generis, and it is in ways he discussed and ways he didn't. Its merger of the real and fictional is likely unprecedented, as is the extensive use of music. But it's also hard to think of a show that included its producers' affections so baldly. Musical acts, for instance, are written into the show because Overmyer and David Simon like them, even if the fit is awkward. That means that while the usual show-oriented considerations go into story decisions, their interest in the city's Vietnamese community and their favorite bands factor in too. That may not make for what is conventionally considered the best television, but it makes for personal television, and that is certainly rare. For me, that's part of its power. Even when the show gets a moment wrong for me, it gets in right for them, and that matters.

Fortunately, season three starts on the right notes. Nothing rang false for me and a lot rang very right. Perhaps because the show has two seasons done, this season starts less like an event and more like a resumption of a number of stories. By now, Treme has enough history for scenes to have the sort of resonance that happens in real life when events start to riff on themselves. Antagonists from the past reappear as comic relief. Moments echo other moments with revealing differences. This time last season, Albert Lambreaux was distant and seemingly uninterested in Delmond's music when it comes on the radio. This time, he's ecstatic and obviously proud for himself and Delmond. Season one started with Antoine Batiste arguing with a cab driver before joining a second line, and he starts this season in the same place. Those similarities provide the backdrop that makes the diferences stand out, just as they do in life.

Notes:

- Two predictions: Starting midway through last season, I thought Davis and Annie's relationship was doomed. Still think so. I also think LaDonna's going to run into zoning issues this season or next. In her casual decision to start presenting live music to help out slow nights, we see the unthinking way clubs that don't have proper permits or zoning become live music venues that eventually end up with drama.

- Annie T's band is the Red Stick Ramblers. The song "Is That All You've Got" was written by Steve Earle, whose Harley was Annie's musical and lyrical mentor.

- The band outside the coffee shop is Hooray for the Riff Raff.

- Two poindexter moments: I'm sure everybody at WWOZ cringes to watch Davis change his relationship to the microphone while cueing a CD and talking. That would sound like hell. Also, the plaque Davis points to outside the laundromat that was once the home to J&M Studio wasn't hung until 2010. 

- Anthony Hemingway directed the episode, and his depiction of the brass band sequence in the club is as visually exciting as the performance.

- After watching Jon Seda's Nelson Hidalgo lead a largely charmed life last season, it's interesting to watch him struggle to find his place in the city in this episode.

- Line that hasn't gone away: "Anybody had complaints about music in the Treme, they're in the wrong place altogether" - Antoine Batiste.

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Updated Sept. 24, 1 p.m.

In the original text, I had "F&M" as the name of the studio instead of "J&M." The text has been changed to reflect the correction.