It used to be the case that the dogged days of summer brought with it a minimal level of televisual entertainment. But nowadays, I feel like between cable, premium and streaming services I am stumbling on enthralling show after enthralling show. So while I am currently eagerly awaiting the series premiere of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead (this upcoming Sunday – yippee!), there is another show in the same time slot competing for my attention.
Actually it is a miniseries – the David Simon (The Wire, Treme) and William F. Zorzi scripted / Paul Haggis (Crash) directed Show Me a Hero. Taking its title from an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote and based on the book of the same name (written by former New York Times staffer Lisa Belkin), this six-parter dramatizes the battle between the federal court system and New York State’s second largest city, Yonkers. For years, the parties were at odds about the court-ordered allocation of low-income housing units in the predominantly white wards of East Yonkers. As the series’ action begins, the city is living under the constant threat of crippling fines and imprisonment of city officials for their refusal to comply with the court order. Add to the mix a close mayoral race, and with it the opportunity to exploit the political and emotional tension of recent events.
The central figure in this saga is a newly-minted 28-year old (young) mayor of Yonkers – Nick Wasicsko (played by Oscar Isaac), who initially ran for mayor on the platform of opposing the desegregation plan, only later to reverse his position; the political fallout can be best described as savage and unrelenting.
In typical David Simon fashion, the overarching socio-political and socio-economic themes of the story are made personal. Presented at a slow, deliberate pace, this allows the audience to connect to and relate to the people on an intimate level, as opposed to a more simplified, generalized caricature often assigned to parties on opposing sides of such an argument.
Two episodes in, what makes the stories and individuals so accessible and engaging are the convincing of the cast – who from the top-down deliver honest, earnest performances.
And talk about the political being personal – while not directly impacted, I was a youngin’ growing up in a neighboring town during this dark mark in Westchester history. While this case and its surrounding politics led me to forever side-eye the city, the feeling was not allowed to fade into the annuls of history. Sadly, to this day, the county, as well as many others nationwide continue to find themselves battling over the same issues presented here – access to sites available for low income and affordable housing units.
The first two hours of Show Me a Hero aired this past Sunday and are currently available OnDemand. The remaining four episodes will air over the next two Sundays in two-hour blocks.
Show Me a Hero is a timely piece of storytelling well told and highly recommended by this blogger.
Photo credit: HBO