October 6, 2022

Here comes a show that reminds me that something “based on a true story” can still be great. A work that rises up to the challenge of the material it’s working with to tell a story that’s still incredibly relevant today.

Here comes a show that reminds me that something “based on a true story” can still be great. A work that rises up to the challenge of the material it’s working with to tell a story that’s still incredibly relevant today.

In the late 80s a Federal Judge ruled against the city of Yonkers, New York in a case on the desegregation of public housing. He mandated that 200 units of scattered-site public housing be built on the east side of Yonkers, the primarily white and affluent side of the city. Nick Wasicsko ran for mayor and won solely on the platform of opposing the new housing. However, by the time he won, the city’s appeal had failed in court, leaving the city with no legal recourse. Facing an irritated and fed-up judge, Wasicsko now became an advocate for the housing. He did this at opposition to very hostile housing leaders opposed to the desegregation, and a city council unwilling to oppose them, despite being faced with fines that would bankrupt the city, contempt of court, and possible jail time. Show Me a Hero tells the story not only of Wasicsko and this monumental case, but also (In true David Simon form) of the families who lives were changed by it.

The Six episode mini-series is directed by Paul Haggis and written by David Simon and William F. Zorzi. Zorzi worked with Simon on The Wire, and it’s that show this series resembles the most. The Fitzgerald quote the title comes from, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy,” totally fits in line with Simon’s sensibilities that he has so firmly demonstrated in his work. There aren’t heroes and villains, just flawed people. Some more so than others.

Wasicsko, played by Oscar Isaac, does the right thing, or rather fights the right fight, but not because he believes in it. He’s a politician through and through, he runs against the housing because he realizes that’s his ticket to victory, and then supports it because it’s the law and he doesn’t want the city to go bankrupt.

However, while Wasicsko is at the center of this story, it’s not just about him. A lot of time is spent on a lot of other characters, and sometimes it’s not clear why, but by the end it all fits together. Every part of the story matters for the whole, and together they make a complete picture of this event.

The show is about selfishness, segregation, and flawed people. It’s a great six hours of television.