David Simon specializes in much watch television. Not only do his efforts consistently maintain captivating stories, but they tend to bring glossed over social issues to the forefront in a brutally realistic way. ‘Show Me a Hero’ is such a miniseries.
The new series focuses on the brutally true story over the fights for public housing in Yonkers, New York. Set in 1987, this semi period piece is easily the most accessible of Simon’s work, and despite its being set in the past it is also fairly timely.
The idea behind the fight for public housing is simple enough to almost seem a truism. People need safe and comfortable places to live. The difficulty is balancing the needs and wants of all of the different people. Those who have homes want to keep them and keep their value up. Those that don’t just want a place to live. The government is often stuck somewhere in the middle trying to manage its constituents best interest.
In ‘Show Me a Hero’ we meet Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Issac) the country’s youngest mayor, freshly elected in Yonkers. His new position and responsibilities quickly show him to be drowning in naivety. He was mainly elected by a white middle class that has been fighting as hard as possible against the creation of a public housing option for the poorer and largely minority based classes. Eventually a resolution is reached and the public housing is built, which creates the bigger problem of how the community will form its new identity as everyone learns to live together.
Housing regulations, campaign laws, and the like are not great television, but Simon manages to draw attention away from the more tedious aspects with enthralling human elements to the storytelling. There is heartbreak and personal maladies that give an unfortunate story a strong human face. Simon illustrates how much the public housing fight mattered because of the toll it took on the people involved. ‘Show Me a Hero’ is everything good television should be. The only thing bad about it is how shockingly relevant the racial tensions portrayed still are.