3 Reasons HBO's Post-Katrina Drama Treme Might be Better Than Celebrity Apprentice

Sunday night is a crucible of precious moments in the American household: the prayers have been recited, the barbecue has been refrigerated, and Dad wants to settle in for a light night of Cyndi Lauper yelling "Muggles and Wiz-zuhds" at scared preteens. Still, HBO's debut of Treme (a new drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans and conceived by The Wire's mastermind David Simon) may give you reason to stay up past -- or perhaps even skip -- The Donald's frosty finger wags. Here are three of its most compelling features:

1. A slightly superior cast

John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Khandi Alexander, and Steve Zahn don't have to do anything like run a diner for two hours, but their unforced resilience amid a politically charged, musically alive, subtly intellectual cityscape make Treme a poignant examination of conscience and unstereotyped humanity. Within the endless detritus that lines New Orleans' stained boulevards, we view the characters as transmitters and protectors of the city's otherworldly aura. The cast of Celebrity Apprentice rarely seems as unified. For one thing, Victoria's Secret model Selita Ebanks is too darn quiet for such an attractive girl, but she's still a little overly confident? (Not "cocky." That's not the word, but it's for sure getting there. )

2. Its emotional landscape allows music to pipe through in Vesuvian triumph during the show's most vivid moments.

The lively song to Treme's stark world persists despite a somberness that often creeps into frame. New Orleans' literal tunefulness is paid tribute to through local musicians, a cameo from Elvis Costello, and the edifying jazz associated with the historical Treme neighborhood (pronounced Truh-MAY). If a cast member ever bursts into a grating rendition of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" in the middle of a diner challenge, it would be for only profound reasons, ones thus far unknown to this reviewer.

3. There is no annoying secretary who waves at the eliminated contestant, like on Celebrity Apprentice.

That is my least favorite part of Celebrity Apprentice. If Darryl Strawberry or Rod Blagojevich just had to enter an empty elevator and descend back into the street sans a wave to a secretary, it would be more effective. It's like Donald Trump needs us to know he's powerful, and that's why he has a pretty typist on screen. Stop compensating, Trump! You've got the woolly coif to intimidate us for years.



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