Review: Show Me A Hero (Season 1, Episode 1)

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Whilst not the most captivating introduction to a series, 'Part 1' of Show Me a Hero offers a poignant political insight into the 1980s/1990s.

  • 8.0

The Wire creator David Simon has outdone himself again on HBO, managing to intertwine complex systems and issues into an entertaining and insightful hour of television. In his new miniseries Show Me a Hero, Simon combines his talents with Crash director Paul Haggis and co-writer William F. Zorzi, to bring Lisa Belkin’s 1999 non-fiction book of the same name to life.

Show Me A Hero focuses on the city of Yonkers NY in the years 1987-1994. The story revolves around a federal decision to build low-income housing units (otherwise referenced to as ‘The Projects’) in middle-class, white neighborhoods. Oscar Isaac stars as Nick Wasicsko, a Yonkers City Council member who runs for mayor of the city, and subsequently becomes elected, after he supports voters that want an appeal of the decision to build these low-income housing units.

The first episode of this six-part series isn’t the most captivating hour of television you’ll witness, mainly due to the setup that the show needs to form to hold the next five parts. If it weren’t for Isaac’s sheer magnetism and likability straight from the get go, this opening episode could have got boring extremely fast.

‘Part 1’ jumps around narratives a fair bit, focusing on the jargon filled court rooms of the Yonkers Council, to the lives of the characters that will be affected by the new housing set to be built. These lives are briefly touched upon in a sporadic way, but the fantastic cinematography, accompanied with Springsteen’s ‘Give It a Name’ in the opening montage, help to establish the dire straits that these people are in.

Springsteen seems to play a major part in this series so far, with three of his songs playing throughout the episode: ‘Give It a Name’, ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Ramrod’. His music fits the Americana working class perfectly, adding an overlaying meaning to the imagery unfolding on screen. It enables an establishment of the lives of these characters before they’re even shown on screen – with the little screen time they do have in this episode. Simon seems to be giving you a taste of the characters here,  and will hopefully explore them further in the episodes to come.

The show exerts an armory of a supporting cast, with the likes of Winona Ryder portraying Councilwoman Vinni Restiano, Jim Belushi as mayor Angelo Martinelli, and Jon Berthal as civil rights attorney Michael H. Sussman.

This might not be the most enthralling opener to a series, but Show Me a Hero shows so much promise that it will surely deliver in its next five episodes. Not only is this show looking to be profoundly interesting, but it’s also beautiful to look at.

Show Me a Hero airs on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.

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A film student stuck in a 90s timewarp of FBI agents, UFOs, conspiracy theories, alternative rock and grunge.

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