TV Review - Show Me a Hero

This HBO miniseries aired August 2015 in six parts. It was based on the book by Lisa Belkin, a former New York Times reporter. It was written by David Simon, the creator of HBO's The Wire. It was directed by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis who wrote Million Dollar Baby (2004) and who directed Crash (2005). It's about an issue that affected Yonkers, New York, in the late 1980's and early 90's. Yonkers is a city north of the Bronx that is divided by the Saw Mill River into an east side and west side. East Yonkers is predominantly white and more wealthy than West Yonkers, which is predominantly black and Hispanic.

The NAACP was involved in a federal lawsuit that moved the court to order Yonkers to desegregate its schools and housing. The city resisted until eventually the court had to threaten with heavy monetary fines. The city council was split on what to do. Some wanted to take the fines, possibly bankrupting the city, after the white citizens protested loudly. This series follows the political operative at the center of this issue, one of the white citizens, as well as various black and Hispanic families who are going to be affected by the court order.

Golden Globe-winner Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ex Machina) stars as Nick Wasicsko, the youngest-ever mayor of a major American city. Nick became the mayor of Yonkers at age 28. He campaigns on fighting the court order but then sees that the economic threats are too much and he has to be pragmatic. Unfortunately, he incurs the wrath of the white citizens who protest vehemently.

A lot of the series is Nick becoming more and more frustrated about this issue as he is caught between the protestors and even fellow politicians who don't like that he's changed his mind and wants to go along with the court order. By "Part Three" however, Nick's frustrations have been beaten to death. Yet, his issues are dragged out for three more episodes when doing so feels completely unnecessary.

It's great that each episode features glorified vignettes of the various black and Hispanic families, as they struggle to live. They deal with the typical, socioeconomic problems of poor minorities. Unfortunately, the series disproportionately balances these characters with all the political stuff. Quite frankly, there could have been less of Nick and his campaigning and political manuevering.

Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich and Capote) is great as Mary Dorman, one of the white citizens who protests at first but then slowly comes around to helping the desegregation. Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2 and Chocolat) is also great as Hank Spallone, one of the fellow politicians who opposes Nick, and Winona Ryder (Black Swan and Edward Scissorhands) is good as Vinni Restiano, one of the fellow politicians who supports Nick.

Those performances are fine. It's just I got bored with a lot of the Nick campaigning by "Part Six." A lot of it could have been removed. Of the younger actors, Dominique Fishback who plays Billie Rowan is a standout.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 6 Eps.
Available on HBO Now, HBO Go & DVD.


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