Take a Drink: every time a protester doesn’t listen to reason
Take a Drink: for every Bruce Springsteen song
Pour one out: every time the system fails
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Issac) is an up and coming Councilman in Yonker’s New York. In the late 1980s, Yonkers was beset by a major controversy involving the city’s long-running courtroom battle against the integration of public housing. The prospect of having mostly-African American welfare recipients moving into middle-class, historically white neighborhoods has cut a deep divide into the city. Seizing an opportunity to gain a quick pathway to power, Nick declares himself a candidate against the incumbent mayor, voicing support for the opponents to forced community desegregation.
He soon wins a suprising victory, becoming Mayor of a major city at the age of 28. Meanwhile, Federal Judge Leonard B. Sand (Bob Balaban) has had enough of the delays, and issues a ruling forcing the Council to deliver a working plan, under threat of massive, bankruptcy-threatening fines against the city. The newly elected Mayor Wasicsko must confront the realities of the situation, and soon struggles to appease his supporters and still keep the city alive. He’s created enemies on both sides of the issue.
The Wire creator David Simon, alongside screenwriter and journalist William F. Zorzi, has put together a sprawling mini-series which deftly brings to light important sociological issues while also telling a compelling story. Much like Treme, Show Me a Hero can be seen as a spiritual successor of The Wire, but while familiar territory is explored, it is done without feeling overused. Owing to the strict 6-episode length of the series, the pacing is faster than that of The Wire, and focuses on fewer characters.
The series still manages to follow characters from multiple walks of life as they experience the housing crisis. Besides telling the tragic story of Mayor Wasicsko, Show Me a Hero also follows the lives of several tenants of a housing project, a handful of protesters fighting the integration plan, and various lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, and members of the media, all as they observe the situation from their point of view.
Oscar Issac proves that he’s one of the most important up and coming actors in his role. As Mayor Wasicsko, Issac successfully conveys the stresses of making alliances without considering the long-term side-effects. While Wasicsko is ultimately well-meaning, his behavior grows increasingly erratic as he fights hard to keep a political career in a city that has grown hostile to him.
The only real weakness in the series is in a few of the ancillary characters whose development isn’t as strong as the principal cast. A few story arcs feel unresolved, or at least lacking in their ultimate resolution. This is particularly the case of a few of the characters from the housing projects, who the story concentrates on less in the last few episodes. This is a minor dramatic flaw, and I imagine mostly caused by the limited nature of the series. Perhaps if the producers had the funds for another 3 or 4 episodes, the show might have fixed these issues. I’m certain that while HBO respects David Simon’s work, they also took into consideration the fact that all of his major series have had weak ratings.
Show Me a Hero is a forgotten saga from the American Civil Rights struggle, and also a tragic true story about the cost of fighting an unwinnable war.