HBO’s Series – Show Me a Hero: Parts 5 & 6

Long ago I saw a film called The Way We Were. This was not some small time indie – no this was the full-blown Hollywood love story. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford starred and headlined this film. Though, on its surface, it was a romance between two people, two different people, it was really about all of us. What drove us at a point in our lives when we thought that what we cared most about was all that really mattered. Looking back, the phrase rang true – the way we were.

In Show Me a Hero, the HBO miniseries created by David Simon and directed by Paul Haggis, we sat through the first two-thirds of this six-part series, and watched as what apparently all that mattered in Yonkers, New York, in the late 80’s until 1994, was the color of your neighbor’s skin.

I pointed out the story line switches between seemingly unconnected various minority characters seemed both jarring and unexpected. We were asked to absorb stereotypical characters of the political persuasion, And we were tasked with feeling repulsed by characters who cloaked racism in terms relating to property values.

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It was both difficult and disappointing. I mean it was hard and unsettling to absorb that some Caucasian residents of Yonkers referred to the black people of Yonkers in a variety of unsavory ways: Those people – they don’t want what we want…or they live like animals, or what others yelled from passing cars, N—— go home!

Or politicians who placed harmony in the community well behind grasping and keeping power.

Yeah, then factor in the fact that much of this was set in City Hall meeting rooms, bars, court rooms, judges chambers, or in the streets. As well as the homes of the pols, the white majority, and the black minority.

Nick Wasicsko was a City Council member, a lawyer, and a former cop, who ran on a platform opposing the federally mandated housing, got elected Mayor of Yonkers. But once in office, he saw that opposing Judge Sand would be both impossible, and cost prohibitive. So he switched gears and eventually plans were not only submitted and Yonkers was going to put in 200 units of low-income housing.

But things were far from over. Another City Council Member, One Hank Spallone, who had always been against the housing, vowed to continue to fight. So he won the next Yonkers Mayoral election. Mayors in Yonkers serve only two-year terms. Spallone was in and Wasicsko was out.

But Spallone was destined to be unable to overturn or overcome the law. So construction began.

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Narcos: The Brand New Original Series from Netflix Begins Today

From the 1983 film Scarface:

Tony Montana: In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.

From the 2015 Netflix Original Series Narcos:

First they get the coke. Then they get the money. Now the Columbian cartel wants the power. Let the drug wars begin.

From The Godfather:

Don Corleone (talking to Johnny Fontane, the singer/actor) : You look terrible. I want you to eat, I want you to rest well. And a month from now this Hollywood big shot’s gonna give you what you want.
Johnny Fontane: Too late. They start shooting in a week.
Don Corleone: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

From the 2015 Netflix Original Series Narcos:

Escobar: I am Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. I make deals for a living. You decide… plata or plomo…

Yeah, Pablo Escobar’s idea of making an offer no one could refuse was to say Silver or lead. While those three words don’t have the same amount of actual menace as did The Godfather’s offer – either your signature or your brains will be on this contract – it was certainly clear to any one who was told this by Escobar that if they made the wrong decision, it would be their last decision. Period.

Netflix has release all 10 episodes of the Original Series Narcos today. At this point I’ve only watched the first episode, so this post will serve as a more of an introduction then a full-bodied review.

This a tale of every increasing mounds. One is the mounds of cocaine. When a chemist/crook named Cockroach somehow survived the death squads of Pinochet,

he crawled out of a mass open grave unscathed. He washed up in the jungles of Peru, and began an operation of making cocaine. But the demand far exceeded the amount of the drug that he could actually have smuggled out in small cars, hidden in the spare tires.

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A Company Man

Q: What does your job include?

A: 70 hour work weeks.
Plenty of travel – you’re always on the road.
Constant job stress.
Opportunity for advancement.

Q: What about you and your work:

A: I’m a company man like any other. I ride the same subway to work as you do.
Except that my company is rather special.
I’m currently on assignment commissioned by a V.I.P.

Q: What do you do?

A: I work for a contract killing company. I’m an assassin.

Of course this interview never happened. It is just my idea and my choice as to how to best start this review. The film is called A Company Man. It is from 2012 and it is out of Korea.

If ever a film deserved to be categorized as an action thriller – this film is more than deserving. Yeah, it is about an assassin. Now I am fairly certain that becoming a hitman was never ever on my list of dreams jobs, and I think I can confidently say the same for you.

Yet, in this film, we learn that many who dreamt of exactly that are employed at this company. On its surface, it is a metals shipping firm – NCM – New Continental Metals.

Once your ID card gets you through the building security, you follow the throngs and take an up elevator. Not quite up to the clouds, but definitely high up in a downtown business high-rise. There’s a receptionist, and the office and work stations are through those doors. The men wear suits, starched white shirts, with ties, and the women are equally professional looking. They work in large cubicles, and their desks contain stacks of printouts and multi-screen computers.

Just like mine did, and I worked in financial services.

But there’s a secret sliding panel behind a particular copy machine which leads down some steps to the company core. Really, this is where the dark side of the operations division is housed.

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Public Morals – New TNT Series: Episodes 1-4

Public Morals is the new flagship of the TNT network. Created by Edward Burns, starring Edward Burns, and written by Edward Burns are what the headlines about the show trumpet. Set in the early to mid 1960’s, the is the story of a particular NYPD police department – the Public Morals Division.

laid back and affable but deadly serious

laid back and affable but deadly serious

These cops know all about the laws against prostitution and gambling, public intoxication – crimes yes, but in their eyes, these were crimes without victims. People everywhere want to have fun, and the Public Morals division, as they said, were not there to either prevent, or eradicate these activities.

Rather they were their to manage these activities. As had been done for a hundred years. As Burns’s character, Detective Terry Muldoon would say:

Think of us as landlords. If you want to do business, you’ve got to pay the rent.

What they called rent was actually something else. There were no checks changing hands. There was either cash on the barrel head or the barter system. They’d bust a high stakes poker game, and keep the money on the poker tables while sending the players home with a warning.

Talk about money for nothing.

Or they might get comped at the Russian Tea Room because they made sure the hookers working the streets on the West Side steered clear of that particular section of West 57th Street. Ditto for the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South when they made sure that bookies did not set up shop and do business at the hotel’s bar.

So who were these coppers?  The main two were Terry Muldoon (played by Burns) an Irish cop who was the son of an Irish cop. He still lived in the same Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood where he grew up. He was married and had three kids. Yes, the apartment he and his family lived in was small, and cramped, and despite his wife’s protests about the dangers of city living, they stayed put. Clearly Terry Muldoon kept most of his off-the books activities from his wife.

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Show Me a Hero: New HBO Series from David Simon – Episode 1.4

By now, after watching the first 2/3rds of HBO’s Show Me a Hero, I think I am more accustomed to the show’s beats and measures. This must be the case as in my review of the previous segment, I took pains to point out that the switches in the story flow were somewhat jarring and that’s aside from being unexpected. But if you are ready for them – then we must get to talking about things like predictability.

And speaking of predictable – the show has gone way too far in the direction.

Of course Mayor Nick Wasicsko was defeated in the election for his second term. Of course his opponent, the gas-bag otherwise known as Hank Spallone, was the new mayor elect. And to the surprise of no-one, except those who voted him in, Spallone who had campaigned on a platform/vow to fight the housing initiative all the way to the Supreme Court, would be unable to deliver.

As Nick Wasicsko had said – The Supremes had already ruled against both hearing appeals and overturning lower court decisions. But Nick’s words fell on deaf ears of an electorate that was more than willing to elect some one who said what they wanted to hear. Even if he was just mouthing empty promises and platitudes.

When Mary Dorman asked Spallone – what’s the difference between you and Wasicsko, all Spallone could do was to say, Come on… Mary…you know me…!

Back in the world of the side stories – Billie Rowan met the guy, John Santos, and partied. And got pregnant. He of course, was far from being a beacon of truth and honesty, ended up in jail on a robbery charge.

Doreen, the one with a little baby and a dead husband became a crack-head. And worse, because even when she hadn’t any money, she got the rock by going around the corner with the dealer.

The lady whose vision was failing, Norma, was finally able to get an in-house aide to come around, paid for of course by the city’s social services – but the girl was scared of the project and the scary people who lived there. She would not leave until Norma’s adult son arrived home to walk her out of the building.

Carmen Febles, the young Dominican woman who left then returned to New York, to work and earn a living, was finally able save enough money to fly her kids back to New York. Her story has success written all over it. That’s got to mean, she’ll be a part of the tragedy that has yet to happen.

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Murder in the First: Number Thirty Nine – Episode 2.12 – Season Finale

Season Two of Murder in the First concluded tonight. This is more of an overview than a review, so If you’ve not watched the closing episode yet – you’d be best served to skip this piece now. However if you have seen it, the read on.

Captain Ernie Knubbins (played by John Cothran) – The Headman – straight out of left field. Maybe it would be better described as straight out of McCovey Cove. Yeah, I was wrong about Koto. But just because I was wrong, doesn’t mean they did a good job.

I mean they dragged it out for so long, right up to having someone stand with his back to us, that would be Officer Leo, before he steps aside to reveal Knubbins.  Even with the SFPD finest detectives on the case, the case was really cracked by the techie, Kami Keefer, played by Camille Balsamo.

Then, in the interview room, with Knubbins giving his ‘hypothetical perspectives’ – are you kidding? Last year’s Warren Daniels would have never permitted it. The sole reason was to ‘explain’ everything to us. If this had been Perry Mason we might have called it a court-room confession. Instead we;ve been asked to settle for an interrogation room non-denial denial.

Dustin Maker got himself a lengthy stretch on San Quentin’s Death Row. As if anybody cared. I’m still kind of pissed about the entire bait and switch aspect of Season Two of Murder in the First. I’m thinking too bad the coppers didn’t take out Maker and Rentman. Right in the first episode.

You start with two high schoolers shooting up a bus filled with their classmates and then that turns into the chum to attract the viewers because the real story has nothing to do with that.

Personally, I sure hope that Maker and his attorney aren’t back with their appeals. Geez – Maker breaks down in tears again? Bochco what were you thinking? He confessed – he said he wanted to die. So why was he crying? And while I like Laila Robins as an actress, her role as an about to be divorced defense attorney was really a non-factor.

Neither Molk, nor Junior, nor Alyssa died. But what happened to Alyssa? I thought I heard that her request for immunity had been granted. Why was that? And even beyond that why does Molk want her. She cached money for the Headman. What did she do, take the money from the safe and make another dead drop? Or if Knubbins had access to her apartment – why would he leave her alive?

Sugar Cascade and Raffi Veracruz. Now that was well concealed despite the clues we got back in Raffi’s apartment weeks ago.. In the finale, there was a brief scene in the coffee shop where Raffi seemed to be struggling with herself. Some song and dance about being true to herself and doing her job. All English could do was to tell her she’s a good cop, and we need you on the job. And from there Sugar and Raffi ended up in Tahiti looking they were were in a Corona beer commercial.

That is after they did a number on we viewers with a different victim, in a white long sleeve tee , similar to what Sugar wore in his last scene in the Cadillac Escalade that ended Episode 11, with this new vic lying facedown in a dumpster. Clearly that was meant to fool us – especially after Fatty B told Andy Chan whether I killed Sugar or not – don’t matter – he ain’t coming back.

So they both survived. Wonder how that was reached conceptually – because it still makes no sense. If Sugar was skipping town, and knew that Fatty was going to try something – why would Sugar let Fatty live. I guess it goes back to their ties over the years in Portrero.

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Show Me a Hero: New HBO Series from David Simon – Episode 1.3

Where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna hide
When the people find out
That you lied?

Those are some of the lyrics to the song that closed Episode 3 of HBO’s Show Me a Hero Series. The song is called When the People Find Out and it was sung by Stevie Earl and The Dukes.

Clearly it is a reference to the Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicsko who ran for Yonkers Mayor on a platform that began and ended with his opposition to the Federal Mandate that Yonkers had to put up 200 low-income public housing units. The then sitting Mayor, Angelo Martinelli, may not have been in favor of the public housing project, but he refused to appeal the decision made by Judge Sand as he saw it as a losing and costly proposition. In his view, it would less costly to simply agree and submit the plans rather than fight against it.

Needless to say – it cost Martinelli another term as Mayor, and Wasicsko ran off with the election becoming the youngest Mayor in America. So when we left Part II, Wasicsko was the Mayor, the city of Yonkers was in chaos over the situation, and the City Council Chambers was often a scene not of passionate but polite debate, but most of the time bordered on being somewhere between unruly and nearly riotous.

The City had dithered and delayed, postponed and put off acceding to the Judge’s ruling and was now facing oblivion that began with lay-offs starting with non-essential city jobs to the loss of police, firefighters, and eventually even the city faced a loss of water, as the fines were about to strangle the city.

Dire times indeed.

The Yonkers Board of Directors had been brought in to cut costs, or said another way to scare the living daylights out of the recalcitrant City Council Members that had so far refused to sign off and come into compliance.

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Blunt Talk with Patrick Stewart Begins Tonight on Starz

Somewhere out there, in Southern California, where fertile minds either flourish or simply waste away, someone thought it might be fun to build a character, and a series, around a character based somewhere between Paddy Chayefsky’s Howard Beale from the illustrious send up of cable news in the 1976 film Network, and Aaron Sorkin’s Will McAvoy from the HBO Series The Newsroom which first aired in 2012.

Will McAvoy lite

Will McAvoy lite

They called the series Blunt Talk, and the character Walter Blunt, and asked famed actor Patrick Stewart, the erstwhile Star Trek: The Next Generation Commander Luc Picard, to have fun with the role.

Airing on the Starz Network beginning tonight, the series is the creation of Jonathan Ames, with Seth MacFarlane and Tristram Shapeero also having Executive Producer credits. What you need to remember is that this series is hoping to attract you and keep your viewership by building on a series of absurdities.

In Episode One called I Seem to Be Running Out of Dreams for Myself – Blunt gets busted for soliciting, and then drunk driving. His play for pay friend was a transgender prostitute. all Blunt wanted to do was suckle. Once busted he stands atop his classic Jaguar spouting out Shakespearean soliloquies.

Of course, he is in deep shit with his network bosses who’d like nothing better than to can him for 1) the scandal, and 2) his steeply falling ratings.

Walter and Harry prpe for the meeting with the Network president

Walter and Harry prep for the meeting with the Network president

He fights for a chance to save his career by selling his boss on the idea of a self-interview via a split screen and pre-recorded questions. And to pile on another absurdity, Blunt must take a session with the Network’s in-house shrink – one Dr. Weiss who is played by that symbol of unsteadiness and not holding it together – comedian Richard Lewis.

In The second episode called I Experience Shame and Anticipate Punishment. Blunt is told that he must head out to Galveston, Texas, and do a live on the scene segment, a la Anderson Cooper.

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Show Me a Hero: New HBO Drama Series by David Simon – Part II

Mayor Wasicsko: When does the fun part of being Mayor begin?

Not any time soon. First you’ve got to deal with an angry but calm Judge, an even angrier constituency who might be only seconds away from a full-scale riot, and the Archdiocese of New York contributing land for a housing project that the residents don’t want. And that’s just for starters

Judge: I’ll have the plans for housing on my desk by Wednesday. If not I’ll begin fining the city of Yonkers. Starting with $100 dollars the first day, and with each day, the fine will double.

That doesn’t sound too bad. Hold on. Try doing the math. Never mind – they’ll do it for you.

Councilman: How much de we have?
2nd Councilman: $30 Million
3rd Councilman: How long can we last?
City Accountant: Working backwards – the city will be broke in three weeks.

No one said it would be easy. Most of the action takes place in the City Council Chambers. The public who attended, had to pass through metal detectors after the Mayor was sent a bullet in an envelope through the mail – which while not quite as direct as the Sicilian message with Luca Brasi’s vest wrapped around a fish, and both of those wrapped in a newspaper in the Godfather – was still an ominous threat. So the attendees were in no mood to sit on their hands as the City Council did what it must.

The spectators blithely ignored common courtesy and etiquette. Instead chaos reigned. To call them raucous would be both kind and an understatement of enormous proportions.

So this is where we are in Part II of Show Me a Hero, airing on HBO. Created by David Simon of The Wire fame, and co-written by William Zorzi and Simon – this is a fine drama of less than epic proportions. The citizens of Yonkers voted Wasicsko in on his platform of voting in favor of appealing the Circuit Court’s decision. The incumbent Mayor voted against the appeal. He was shown the door by the electorate.

So Wasicsko, now occupying the chair in the Mayor of Yonkers office has to make a decision. He’s got his hands full – either force a housing project on the citizens, or have the city go broke while fighting against it.

In this second of six episodes, we meet Jon Bernthal who plays the lawyer Mark Sussman. Also getting a terrific scene is Winona Ryder, who worked for the former Mayor. At a dinner with Wasicsko, she tells him how she feels – out of touch, unwanted, pushed to the periphery, and stunned that she’s now out of a job. Ryder was simply superb as she poured out her heart to Wasicsko, who basically had nothing he could say to brighten her.

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