Show Me a Hero, the HBO miniseries starring Oscar Isaac and Winona Ryder, premiered Sunday to an overwhelmingly positive critical reception.

‘Show Me A Hero’

Isaac plays Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicsko in Show Me a Hero, a miniseries that delves into 1980s Manhattan – specifically the city’s efforts to desegregate public housing. Wasicsko, a green politician with big ambitions, is tasked with complying with the federal court’s order to build public housing in Yonkers while continuing to appeal to his constituents, who are starkly opposed to the idea. Ryder plays city government official Vinni Restiano.

The first two episodes of the six-part series aired Sunday night, introducing Nick and other politicians, the politics, the racism, the classism and the coverage of the machinations afoot in the late 1980s in New York City. Show Me a Hero, created by The Wire‘s David Simon and William F. Zorzi and directed by Paul Haggis, already has critics’ approval.

“As its central topic, Show Me a Hero has taken the idea of housing desegregation — a hot-button issue in the late 20th century that almost never comes up today — and it casts its net so wide that in later episodes, it feels like everybody in the city of Yonkers, New York, is one of its characters. All of this should contribute to a miniseries that suffers from dullness and bloat, but Show Me a Hero always feels thrillingly alive and attuned to the way that all politics is personal.” – Todd, VanDerWerff,

Show Me A Hero is downright entertaining. It’s no small asset for Simon and Haggis to have some of America’s best actors in his cast—from Oscar Isaac to Catharine Keener to Alfred Molina to OMG-girl-where-have-you-been-please-never-leave-again Winona Ryder. The scenes between these actors sing. Isaac, Keener, and Ryder in particular provide the kind of rich, lived-in performances fans have come to expect from a David Simon jaunt.” – Teo Bugbee, The Daily Beast

“Slow-burn veteran David Simon and journalist/screenwriter William Zorzi are clearly aware of the story’s complexity and timeliness, and they use the narrative confidence they brought to The Wire to set up this inferno in small glimpses at a leisurely pace. Two hours of setup are handled so deftly that every bureaucratic eddy takes on meaning. And Paul Haggis brings a light touch to the direction. Long-tail foreshadowing and cut-to conversations create a dread that crests with every City Council meeting—and those arrive more and more frequently, like the tide coming in.” – Genevieve Valentine, The A.V. Club

“Show Me a Hero has almost nothing sexy going for it on paper. Repetitious scenes in city council halls and courtrooms do not typically make for pulse-pounding TV. A sprawling cast with as many familiar faces as unfamiliar ones shouldn’t help the matter, either, especially when viewers are asked to remember a plethora of new names for the actors they already recognize. Yet what’s truly shocking about the first two episodes is how much each moment grips you. From Nick passing out flyers to reluctant voters to a struggling single mother trying to make her way in America, each small scene builds to something bigger.” – Ben Travers, IndieWire

Show Me a Hero will return to HBO next Sunday with parts 3 and 4.

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