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.

Meanwhile, that story was cross-cut with four other stories – Carmen, the young Dominican mother who had moved with her children back home to the DR, only to find that she would have to return to New York in order to support her family was the first. The second was Doreen, played by Natalie Paul, a young woman whose husband had died leaving her with a sick young baby. The third was Norma, a 47 year black woman who was losing her vision. These three stories had already been introduced prior to Episode 1.3.

Natalie Paul as Doreen and Dominque Fishback (in blue) as Billie

Natalie Paul as Doreen and Dominque Fishback (in blue) as Billie

In this episode we are introduced to another side story. Melanie Nicholls-King plays Janet Rowan, a working mother with a teen-age daughter who has no desire to go to school, over and above her mother’s objections. But Janet is smart enough to know that her daughter’s decision to abandon education is a plan that is doomed. So in oder to stay, the daughter Billie, played by Dominique Fishback will have to get a job and work. She gets a job as a care giver for a disabled or mentally challenged young man. Billie wants to absolutely quit the job. Plus Billie meets a guy at a party, and I don’t think I’ll be wrong to predict an unexpected pregnancy soon to be yet another issue.

With these side stories, I believe David Simon and his co-writer William Zorzi, working from the Lisa Belkin book, are attempting to add a dose of reality to the show. To show that life is filled with issues and troubles. These apparently are offered as a balance to the other characters – the politicians, the lawyers, and the enraged citizens who are more cartoonish than actual folks.

We are meant to root for the under class, just as we are meant to be repulsed by the likes of the Hank Spallones, The Edward Fagans, and their ilk. Of the enraged middle class represented by Mary Dorman’s – we can understand their concerns but only to a degree. They address their concerns as from an economics perspective.

Our property values will decrease. Which means we will lose the money we’ve invested in our homes. Which are really code words for This is What Will Happen if THOSE People are set up in low-income housing in our neighborhood.

No matter how you slice it – it is racist. And the capper was when one of the defiant pols said it clear as day – Do you want the low-income housing built in YOUR Neighborhood?

I’m three episodes in and I have some concerns as to whether this show will work. This time, after Part 1.3, I felt that the continual switching from one side of the argument – those in favor of just agreeing to save the city from itself – to those who actually need the low-income housing – to those who vehemently oppose it, I feel a bit of stress. In fact. the switching seemed much more pronounced this time that it had in the earlier episodes.

Yes, I am only watching a TV show, but that doesn’t mean I’m not invested in the experience. But surely, it is a difficult task to switch gears and concentrate on this family or that family, or this argument or that argument – every two and half to three minutes.

With three episodes under my belt, I am half way through. I find the role of Nick Wasicsko, played by Oscar Isaac to be at the center of the show. He’s terrific. But I can’t say that it will turn out good for him. After all, there was a reason for this show to begin with the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald – Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy. There has been a time compression and in this episode Wasicsko has bought a home in a good neighborhood, and his two-year term is about to be challenged in upcoming elections.

The other character that I believe is vital is still someone who I don’t have a real feel for yet. That would be the developer Oscar Newman, played by Peter Riegert. He will be involved in the decision-making on the actual housing plan. He has some good ideas – getting rid of the public spaces that come from high-rise towers that lead to higher maintenance and construction cost. He’s more in favor of smaller one family homes – where a sense of pride can be created.

Then there’s the factor of security – high rises need security for the public spaces – but single family dwellings – which means no walks up of even two stories – and the properties front directly to the street – yields a long-range savings on maintenance and security.

But there’s a problem to that as well – single family dwellings ultimately require land space and that means more land would have to be re-zoned for residential living. More land really means more neighborhoods.

Peter-3

Riegert’s Newman is bearded and I’m still unsure of his motivations. I cannot rule out that his perspective is simply based on profit. A fine design, in the form of a bid from a Pennsylvania outfit has been received, but apparently it is 5 million above the ceiling on the costs.

So the reality of this, from my perspective, is that the complexities of the story need balance, but will the balance result in each of the story threads being weakened. We’ll see. Write up of 1.4 will be published tomorrow.

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