Series Review – “Show Me a Hero”

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*this review is part of the “now streaming” series of reviews. “Show Me a Hero can be viewed on HBO GO*

Rated “R” version of Parks and Recreation.

“Show Me a Hero” should NOT be as good as it is. Seriously. It’s a show about a housing crisis in an virtually unknown city in New York. It’s filled with city council meetings and court sessions. Housing and governmental jargon flies everywhere. Yet, on the strength of it’s acting, direction, and script, it rises above and turns in a completely engrossing drama.

“Show Me a Hero” is a six-episode miniseries that revolves around the housing controversy in the city of Yonkers, NY in the 1980’s and 90’s. The city has put all of its public housing in one place, and the Federal government has accused them of segregation. The city is issued an order to desegregate and build public housing in the more wealthy, white areas of the city.

Sounds like a droll affair, right?

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From the first 5 minutes, we are sucked into the small but intense world of Yonkers in the late 20th century. Trust me, you will get caught up in all of the city government drama, and you won’t want to stop watching.

The show is perfectly bingeworthy. It is made up of 6 one-hour episodes; I watched it in three nights, 2 each night. Or you could do 3 episodes for 2 nights. Or 1 a day over the course of a week. Or, if you have 6 hours to kill, just watch it then. My point is, you will probably finish it quickly.

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Oscar Isaac turns in an incredible performance.

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(dreamboat much?)

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if you caught the Golden Globes last week, but if you did, you probably skimmed over Oscar Isaac winning the Award for Best Actor in a television miniseries. Who cares about that award, right? I didn’t.

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Oscar Isaac has really sprung into the mainstream in the past few years with performances in films such as the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis”, the 2015 sleeper hit “Ex Machina”, and “Star Wars: the Force Awakens”. He has also been cast as Apocalypse in this year’s “X-Men: Apocalypse”. The Julliard grad is one of the most talented actors around, and he shows it.

While the show is about the city of Yonkers, it is really a character study about Isaac’s character, Nick Wasicsko, the youngest major-city mayor in the country at the time. Isaac spearheads dialogue-ridden scenes that would probably fall apart if not for his nuanced acting.

That’s not to take away from the rest of the cast, though. Many of the supporting characters are fairly two dimensional, but are raised by committed performances from the impressive ensemble that includes big names (Jim Belushi, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, Catherine Keener) and relative unknowns (Natalie Paul, Ilfenesh Hadera, Dominique Fishback, and Latanya Richardson).

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Show Me a Hero, and I’ll Write You a Tragedy.

This F. Scott Fitzgerald is the basis of the show. None of the characters are perfect. Nick, the main character, does a lot of things out of selfishness, spite, or for political gain. Mary, the almost-racist-but-not-quite old white lady, has a revelation and turns around to support the cause. The only truly evil characters are the minor characters, like Hank Spallone, and the ungrateful, racist, mongoloidal (is that a word) citizens of the city of Yonkers.

Seriously, you will come to hate those people so much. They are why I call the show “the rated “R” Parks and Rec”, because a city government is trying to get things done and they just sit there, yelling, and really have no idea what is going on.

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Jesus H. christ, people.

The show (spoiler alert, but not really) doesn’t have a completely happy ending. It goes to show that all choices have consequences and that nothing is set in stone.

It examines racism and the effects it has on people in a very real way. While it was the white folks who were scared of black people moving into their neighborhoods, the completely innocent people who move into the public housing are terrorized by whites. Nick receives death threats, and the whole city is in turmoil. It is an intense, honest, and compelling story.

WATCH THIS SHOW

That’s all I have to say. You’re almost guaranteed to enjoy it. You might even learn something, too. Perhaps about the defensible housing theory, Yonkers, or even yourself.

“Show Me a Hero” was pretty under-the-radar and didn’t get much viewership, but it deserves primetime ratings. If you don’t have HBO GO, I would highly recommend getting a subscription (you can watch everything HBO has ever produced, like the Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and the Wire). HBO typically puts out good-to-great-to-iconic content, and “Show Me a Hero” is no exception. It is a terrific piece of storytelling and can compete easily with the heavy hitters.

Watch this show.

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