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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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TELEVISION

Treme's last jam
The musically rich New Orleans series goes out swinging

<i>Treme</i> rambles like a big ol' jam session.
Treme rambles like a big ol' jam session.
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Treme's final run (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.

Treme'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.

Christmas in Conway
Sunday, 8 pm (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.

Marshal Law: Texas
Tuesday, 9 pm (TNT)

The new reality series invites us to tag along with U.S. marshals in Texas as they track dangerous fugitives. This week, the worst of the bunch is Chance Roach, suspected of shooting people for a couple of dollars to support his meth habit. Roach has a history of escaping from law enforcement -- most spectacularly by running into a random house, kicking out a wall in the attic, and jumping to the street. Nope, this guy won't be easy to catch.

The marshals discover where Roach is hiding and work out an elaborate early-morning raid involving dogs and air cover. A potential problem is innocent bystanders who might get hurt during the scuffle. "Hopefully Roach doesn't do anything stupid," one of the deputies whispers right before springing into action.

Given that Roach is inside doing meth, that's a faint hope. But if there were no stupid criminals, there'd be no Marshal Law: Texas. And Tuesday nights would be a lot less exciting.

Haunted Highway
Wednesday, 9 pm (Syfy)

The paranormal-investigation series starts its second season with "more danger, more terror," according to the promos. I'm not sure how dangerous it really is for Jack Osbourne to visit reportedly haunted locations with a couple of ghost-hunting hotties, but I guess the series gives Ozzie Osbourne's wayward son something to do with himself.

Jack certainly works hard pretending to be scared by an occasional flash of light or an almost inaudible noise. And one of the hotties, Jael, helpfully chimes in with little-known facts about ghosts: "Poltergeist activity usually happens when ghosts are angry." I wouldn't be surprised if they got especially angry when a celebrity's kid comes poking around with so-called high-tech ghost-hunting equipment.

I say "so-called" because it's hard to take some of Jack's gear seriously. At one point he sends a tiny remote-controlled car into a dark room. The car is rigged up to shoot video while playing a song that will rile up the spirits.

Jael said poltergeist activity happens when ghosts are angry. Does it also happen when they're snickering?

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