LUMPENPROLETARIAT—It is, indeed, appalling how large a percentage of our incomes some of us spend on cable television. But, at least, there are some perks. Show Me A Hero is one of them. This new mini-series starring Oscar Isaac with Jim Belushi, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder and various other notable actors is a fascinating view of urban economics and politics.
Show Me A Hero on HBO (start date: August 16, 2015)
TAKE ON TELEVISION—(14 AUG 2015) “Welcome to Take On Television. I’m Andy Bienstock with Dave Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun. Dave, starting on Sunday night on HBO, a new series from David Simon.”
DAVID ZURAWIK: “Yeah, Andy. And it’s far and away the best production of the summer. I think it’s one of the best productions I’ve seen in years on television—period. It’s called Show Me a Hero. It’s a six-hour mini-series the next three Sundays on HBO—two hours a night. It’s really outstanding work. It’s written and executive produced by David Simon and Bill Zorzi, both of whom had been [Baltimore] Sun employees. And it’s directed and executive produced by Paul Haggis from [the film] Crash, who’s outstanding—great, great talent.
“It covers a desegregation battle in Yonkers, New York, a city of about 200,000 north of New York in 1987. It started in 1987. This mini-series covers 1987 and 1993. It’s based on a non-fiction book by then-New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin. And it’s a terrific, a really outstanding book. They went and re-reported it. They did the story.
“It follows a young, on-the-rise, elected official in Yonkers named Nick Wasicsko. And he’s played in this by Oscar Isaac. You may not have heard of Oscar Isaac. He is outstanding—honestly. An Emmy doesn’t even seem good enough for the performance he turns in as the city councilman who becomes mayor at 27, the youngest mayor in a mid-to-large American city. But, then, there’s a desegregation lawsuit from the NAACP and the Justice Department, that aims only, really, to build 200 units of low-income housing in the part of Yonkers, that was predominantly white. He is chewed up in this battle. His career is shredded. His life is disrupted. It’s a great story.
“In addition to his story and the desegregation narrative, two of the major story lines, you have stories of four women of colour, who are trying to move out of really bad low-income housing into these new units. They’re hoping to move into these new units. The new units are the promised land for them. The way they juggle these story lines is fantastic. I think a lot of that, of course, is the script. A lot of it is also Haggis. But this is—you know—the title is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous saying: Show me a hero; and I’ll write you a tragedy. I’m not gonna give any spoilers. It’s a tragedy in the end, but it’s one of the richest productions I’ve seen. And it speaks to post-Ferguson, post-Freddie Gray America like nothing else in American art.”
ANDY BIENSTOCK: “Show Me a Hero starts Sunday night on HBO. That’s Dave Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun. And I’m Andy Bienstock for Take On Television on WYPR.”
Transcript of WYPR radio broadcast by Messina
THE BALTIMORE SUN—(14 AUG 2015) When David Simon first contacted William F. Zorzi in the fall of 2001 about the book “Show Me a Hero,” Simon’s former Baltimore Sun colleague says he was mainly annoyed.
“I was on the desk and on deadline at The Sun,” said Zorzi, who was then working as an assistant city editor.
“Could you [expletive] call at a more inconvenient time?” he remembers asking Simon, who had already left the paper to write for television. “Clearly, you’ve not been doing this very long or you’ve forgotten what it was like.”
But when Simon called back three weeks later, Zorzi still had not read the book. He couldn’t even remember the title.
“Well, you better read the [expletive] thing,” Zorzi quotes Simon as saying after he repeated the title, “because we’re going out to HBO in three weeks.”
Not only did Zorzi read journalist Lisa Belkin’s non-fiction book about a community-wrenching housing desegregation battle in the late 1980s in Yorkers, N.Y., he came to live it for the next 13 1/2 years.
The veteran political reporter quit The Sun in 2002, went to Yonkers to “re-report” the book, and has been working on the project on and off ever since. Off includes three seasons on Simon’s “The Wire” as a writer, including the final year of episodes in which he also played himself onscreen as a Sun reporter named Bill Zorzi.
The result of that kind of commitment shows in virtually every frame of this six-hour HBO miniseries that speaks to our post-Ferguson-post-Freddie-Gray America like no other work on TV — or in any other form of art so far.
Learn more at THE BALTIMORE SUN.
Also see this related Lumpenproletariat.org article:
[12:45 PST 17 SEP 2015]
[Last modified 10:25 PST 18 SEP 2015]
[Thanks to brother RDM for screening this for me; and, priorly, to Democracy Now! for sharing this with non-HBO-subscribing people.]