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On The Tube

‘Treme,’ a last jam

11/27/2013

TVThe final run of “Treme” (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO) begins with Barack Obama’s election in 2008. We see a clip of Obama alluding to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” in his acceptance speech, and that song becomes a leitmotif in the episode.

The New Orleans neighborhood of Treme has certainly seen its share of changes since Hurricane Katrina, and more are on the way. On a personal level, Davis (Steve Zahn) struggles with his band, Janette (Kim Dickens) opens a new restaurant, LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) deals with divorce and Terry (David Morse) settles into a life with Toni (Melissa Leo). In the larger community, corporate interests threaten the Crescent City’s fabled music clubs.

This show’s achievement is in mirroring New Orleans’ distinctive rhythms. Don’t look for tight plotting here — the series rambles like a big ol’ jam session. This week’s episode takes its sweet time, hanging out with the characters and savoring the musical performances. One scene consists solely of Davis sitting in his car and listening to a new album.

The scene has little significance to the plot, but who cares? There’s nowhere you’d rather be than inside that car, nodding your head along with Davis.

 

‘Great Performances’

Friday, 8:30 p.m. (PBS)

Couldn’t scrape together a few thousand dollars for tickets to Barbra Streisand’s 2012 concert at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center? How about seeing it for, oh, nothing? “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn” gives us the best seat in the house for this most wonderful evening, in which Streisand reminisces about her childhood and sings songs by her favorite composers.

“Sings” is a bit of an understatement. With an expressive voice you wouldn’t expect from a 70-year-old, she gives “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “Didn’t We” the Streisand treatment — ‘nuff said. Between songs, she’s funny, charming and often emotional. When the orchestra begins a number, she closes her eyes and sighs, as if trying to melt into the material.

The highlight is a heartfelt version of “The Way We Were,” dedicated to her late friend Marvin Hamlisch. By the end of this one, you’ll be melting, too.

 

‘Christmas in Conway’

Sunday, 8 p.m. (ABC)

This Christmas movie is a queasy mixture of cutesiness, fake Southern accents and death. A nice nurse (Mandy Moore) with a bad boyfriend moves in with a grumpy man (Andy Garcia) and his terminally ill wife (Mary-Louise Parker). You see where the plot is headed in the first few minutes: The man will become less grumpy, the nurse will shed the bad boyfriend for the good guy doing yard work next door and the wife will have the best Christmas of her life.

The pianist and guitarist on the soundtrack, however, must think we’re not smart enough to get all this. They provide sledgehammer musical cues for every emotion.

“Christmas in Conway” is lucky to have Moore, Garcia and Parker, who bring loads of charm to this unpromising material. Parker, in particular, might be the most appealing terminal patient in TV-movie history. I wish the pianist and guitarist would keel over instead of her. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

Barmuda