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DAVID SIMON TALKS ABOUT THE MINISERIES SHOW ME A HERO, DEBUTING AUG. 16, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO

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In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

From David Simon (HBO’s “Treme” and “The Wire”) and Paul Haggis (“Crash”), the HBO Miniseries presentation SHOW ME A HERO debuts its first two parts back-to-back SUNDAY, AUG. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), followed by two parts on both of the subsequent Sundays – Aug. 23 and 30 – at the same time. In addition to Simon and Haggis (who directs all six parts), the miniseries is executive produced by Nina K. Noble, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi.

Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, the miniseries explores notions of home, race and community through the lives of elected officials, bureaucrats, activists and ordinary citizens in Yonkers, NY.

 

Q: When did you become aware of Lisa Belkin’s book? What initially struck you about it, and when did you see the potential for adapting it for the screen?

DAVID SIMON: The book was actually forwarded to me by Gail Mutrux, whose judgment about such things I am obliged to take very seriously: She was the producer, working with Barry Levinson, who found a book that I wrote called “Homicide” in 1991 and sparked its transformation into the NBC television show. So when Gail recommends a book, I do listen.

I thought “Show Me a Hero” offered a perfect storm of a narrative about our enduring racial and class pathologies and the not-in-my-back-yard, don’t-tread-on-me sensibilities of modern libertarian and neoliberal politics. This is the grievous state of the American political dialectic, in which the only two operant currencies seem to be greed and fear.

I showed the book to my longtime newspaper colleague, Bill Zorzi, who was then an editor on the metro desk of the Baltimore Sun and asked him what he thought. As a veteran political reporter, Zorzi astutely realized that in the story of what happened to Yonkers, and in the powerful narrative arc of Nick Wasicsko, we had a story in which we could precisely depict how government actually works in America. Or doesn’t.

So we were sold.

Q: The events of SHOW ME A HERO seem less like history from a quarter-century ago, and more like a variation on current situations. Do you agree? Do you see any hints in the story of ways to avoid the “Groundhog Day”-like replay of such conflicts in the future?

DS: The American obsession with race and class – and the political uses of greed and fear – is still very much our national paradigm. We are getting better, slowly and inexorably, generation by generation. But there is much work still to be done to reconcile many Americans to the idea of a desegregated society, to power-sharing, to the very idea that all of us must share in the same national future. It’s going to be going on for a good long while, but integration itself – and the inevitable emergence of a stronger black and Latino middle class – is going to change more and more minds, particularly among younger Americans who come to the debate with less baggage.

We are growing up, but when it comes to issues of race and class, we are still fighting through our adolescence. Considering the point of origin for the American struggle with race – slavery and Jim Crow – I find it remarkable and substantial that an African-American president was inaugurated in my lifetime, or for that matter, that I am finally seeing the Confederate battle flag lowered in places like South Carolina. But it’s been a long journey, and exhausting, and there is so much farther to travel.

Yonkers didn’t just happen there – it’s been the dynamic in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Dallas and everywhere that society is asked to deal with housing and school enrollment patterns that purposely segregated communities. The Obama administration’s recent efforts to address this in its new housing regulations have again shaken the hornet’s nest. This war will not be won with any singular victories. It’s attritive. Sadly.

Q: Although many characters figure in SHOW ME A HERO, do you see this first of all as Nick Wasicsko’s story? Could he be viewed as a tragic hero, albeit one who is initially reluctant to do the right thing?

DS: Like most heroes – and most villains – Nick Wasicsko was not wholly one thing or the other. He had his flaws and he was blind to certain realities. But when push came to shove, he believed in the rule of law and he came to understand that he had a responsibility to lead his city under the rule of law, and more than that, he came to realize that the housing consent decree was offering some of his most vulnerable constituents a chance at a better life. He is, to that extent, quite heroic. And yes, our six-hour narrative is structured around Mr. Wasickso’s journey. After all, the fights over the remaining phases of the housing and school desegregation orders in Yonkers went on long after our story concludes in 1994. The entire case wasn’t settled until 2007.

Q: Your projects for HBO have always been marked by a strong team of collaborators. Here, two stand out.

You’ve worked with William Zorzi for a long time. What is the writing process like for the two of you, since you obviously know each other well? What were the biggest challenges in adapting the book?

DS: Bill is one of the most conscientious, deliberate and thorough reporters I’ve ever known or worked with. He took Lisa Belkin’s worthy book as a jumping-off point and immersed himself in the world of Yonkers for more than a decade before production began on this miniseries. He knew all of the surviving characters in the story, including many who he met and interviewed in detail who are no longer with us today. And he has been rigorous about trying to pull as much of the story as possible through the keyhole of six hours. In that sense, he has been the creative flame here, script-wise, and I have had the benefit of beginning with enough material for ten or twelve hours.

My job has been to tighten and reshape some of the story arcs so that they fit within the time we have, and to prioritize the material and find shorthand ways of explaining, or at least acknowledging, complex political realities and nuances. For me, it’s been tricky. For Bill, it’s a little bit of torture to see how much fits and how much doesn’t, how much of the complicated politics and history of what happened in Yonkers can be referenced, and how much must be glanced at or omitted. We did our best and, look, we’ve known each other and worked with each other for 30 years now. We trust each other as a team, although that doesn’t mean we didn’t argue, or that Bill didn’t worry the details, or that I could let the narrative wander too far into tall grass.

And then I would be remiss if I didn’t credit good notes from Gail Mutrux and Nina Noble, who absorbed the scripts in their various draft forms and assessed the work with fresh eyes, arguing us out of redundancies or urging us to think more deeply about some of the arcs. Gail was unwilling to lose the power of the book that she discovered so many years ago, and Nina wanted to be sure that what we were trying to say could be conveyed as drama, rather than simply as political discourse. They imposed essential values on the process.

Q: Paul Haggis is a new creative collaborator for you. How did he get involved? His film “Crash” in some ways paralleled your work in the use of multiple story lines and a wide variety of characters. Did that suggest he was a kindred spirit to you?

DS: I was looking for a director who had a strong visual sense, who understood the parameters not simply of feature films, but of hour drama – and Paul has done both – and who had a political temperament that could believe in a story that had very little sex, or gunplay, or broad humor. This work can’t be honest and rely on any of the currencies that seem to work so handily in television. I needed a director to believe that it was a worthy and necessary journey to examine politics as it is practiced on the municipal level, and race as it plays out on the street level, and class as perhaps the most divisive and misunderstood force in American life.

Paul Haggis has been grappling with such things admirably, not only in his filmmaking, but in his personal priorities. His commitment to the relief efforts in Haiti spoke to me especially and seemed to me allegorical for someone who accepts a personal share in the responsibility to leave this world better than he found it. And that mattered to me because that is what Yonkers is about, and why the story is worth the telling.

This is about a coming reckoning in the American future: Are we a society, or is it every man for himself? Do we all share in the same collective national narrative, or are there separate stories for those at the margins? And practically, Paul shoots a bit more poetically and elegantly than I am used to, and I write a more quotidian and low-to-the-ground script than he might. The collaboration was good in that he pushed me to allow some better measure of honest emotion into what could have been a dry political narrative, and maybe I pushed him to tolerate some dialogue that wasn’t clean or rounded, that was a bit in the gutter but still glancing up at the stars every now and again, to misquote Oscar Wilde. Our differences fostered good debate, and ultimately, some compromises that I think served the work very well.

Q: Did you envision Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina and the others in their roles as you were writing the scripts, or did casting the parts come later?

DS: All of it came after the scripts were largely in their final or near-final drafts. You have to remember that this project has been in development at HBO for 15 years. Why the delay? Well, Gail came to me with the book right after “The Corner” had aired as a plausible follow-up to that miniseries, but shortly thereafter, “The Wire” got picked up. Six years later, I was ready to resume the script work on SHOW ME A HERO, but HBO came to me in that moment with Evan Wright’s book “Generation Kill,” which had a hard time-peg of the Iraq War. It needed to get made as close to the depicted events as possible, before the story went stale and so, “Hero” was bumped behind that miniseries. Then, Katrina happened and “Treme” was similarly tied to the ongoing history of New Orleans and its recovery, and so “Hero” waited for that narrative to conclude.

But here’s the thing that Kary Antholis, who runs the miniseries division at HBO and who is extremely astute about both story and political reality, understands fully: The American racial dynamic wasn’t going to go away, and what happened in Yonkers, as a political and social allegory, remained pretty damn timeless. When we came back to SHOW ME A HERO, we would still be landing it on a country that would still be traveling the same hard road. Recent events in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Charleston make this all too clear.

That said, we pulled an incredible cast. And god love them all for committing to an ensemble drama in which, to overuse a phrase with which I am somewhat associated, all the pieces matter. Oscar Isaac is ascendant right now as an actor and he has his choice of scripts and projects. That he saw the value and importance of telling Nick Wasicsko’s story to present-day America is just so damn admirable to me.

And the rest of the cast is just rock solid. Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, LaTanya Richardson, Bob Balaban, Peter Riegert – too many to name and in fact by naming them and not others, I’m doing more of a disservice than anything. Everywhere we pointed the camera, we caught committed actors bringing this entire world to life. And again, they could have done other things, flashier things. But for me, who always feels ill at ease in the entertainment industry, this is why I get up in the morning, imagining something that isn’t merely an entertainment, but is instead a chance to dramatize the actual fault lines in our society and do so on a scale that is careful and plausible and human. I think the same ambition appealed to a lot of our actors and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

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Frogfathers lessons from the Normandy surf

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Frog Fathers: Lessons from the Normandy Surf” is a deeply moving documentary directed by Bob Whitney, narrated by John C McGinley, and presented by World of Warships and FORCE BLUE. It chronicles the journey of four Navy SEAL veterans revisiting the site of the D-Day landings to honor their forefathers and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during World War II.

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Overall, “Frog Fathers” is a powerful and heartfelt documentary that honors the past while inspiring present and future generations to remember the sacrifices made for freedom 

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American Horror Story: Delicate

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As most of us are already aware, the 12th Season of AHS has been fraught with all kinds of differences to the previous seasons, mainly in that this is the first one to be based entirely off a novel, ‘Delicate Condition’ by Danielle Valentine. The first half of the season aired in October 2023 to mediocre reviews, while the SAG-AFTRA strike caused production and airing delays for the latter half of the season, and the episodes of Part 2 were all cut to less than an hour long apiece. And none of that is even getting into the disjointed attempt at storytelling for Season 12, so let’s dive into this! 

Meet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), former young ling star of Hollywood now struggling to recapture fame as an adult, who wants a baby, very very badly. Bad enough to drive herself and her husband Dex (Matt Czuchry) through multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization), bad enough to keep trying no matter how crushing each failure turns out to be, bad enough to involve her purported best friend and bougie publicist Siobhan Corbyn (Kim Kardashian) in her struggles, and maybe, just maybe, bad enough to give up on a burgeoning resurgence of her career after interest in her comeback role for The Auteur begins garnering her Oscar-worthy attention. 

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Elsewhere, mostly in the past, various women in states of desperation formed from one situation or another are visited by sinister-looking women in prim black dresses, headgear reminiscent of – to me anyway – an odd cross betwixt birds and bunnies, my guess is an ostensive nod to fertility in general, and a general feeling of blood-bound witchery about them at critical moments of crossroad choices. 

Though the second half of the season moves a good deal faster than the first, the attempts at callbacks and reminder flashes to Part 1 hit with all the impact of a dropped bag of garbage onto their friends Talia’s (Julia Canfield) borrowed bougie kitchen floor – splat, into incomprehensible silence, from all parties, both characters and audience, concerned. Even the reminders that, in Part 1 of Delicate Dex’s mother Virginia Harding (Debra Monk) did indeed have perfectly valid memories of abuse at the hands of a black cult and Dex’s own father Dex Sr. (Reed Birney), the revelation pales and peels away in the face of Dex’s true parentage. 

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The idea that Anna herself was used as a surrogate for Siobhan and her incestuous eugenicist plans, plus the sweet little demon baby she just birthed, has an ironic the-world-is-tilting-the-wrong-way kind of witchy madness to it. Sure, Anna really can have it all, the baby and the golden statue, if only she joins the patriarchy-crushing cabal of blood witches with world domination plans, got it. 

I have questions, or I would have, but things are moving on and Anna is being saved by … Dex’s dead ex, Adaline the former member of the coven right okay her, she’s going to show back up and offer Anna a simple chant to Hestia her patron Goddess, and that is somehow enough to deal with Siobhan entirely – poof. And finally, after all that rigamarole, decades of planning and scheming and witchy plotting finally settled, Anna really can have it all as a White Witch of Hollywood, heaven help us, with her perfectly human baby and that damned little golden statue, clutched in an only slightly desperate grip. 

As with any season of AHS there are a great deal of statements that could be implied just under the skin of the season – the canker way of ambition, the millenia-old pain of a woman giving birth, the savagery and bloodshed that comes with bringing forth life, pushback against both the patriarchy and ultra-feminism, the absolute desperation of humans wanting to have a child, and perhaps strangest and most open to interpretation of all, what it means to be feminine. The worlds population of women who can’t or don’t or simply won’t have children, for any reason or none, are relegated to servants, expendable servants at that, for this new world order that Siobhan is proposing, and that is far too close a comfort to things like outright slavery. A dictator is a dictator, no matter how great she looks in those emerald spiked heels. 

It’s not the really beautiful grotesquerie that Ryan Murphy and his AHS gang are often known for, nor is it utterly terrible and should be burned at the stake. What Delicate should be, is put back together with missing and cut footage, an hour long per episode again come on folks, fleshed some more of Siobhan’s baby-stealing adventures in the past and given us an actual reason to like anything about the whiny Anna, at least the Part 2 we as longtime AHS fans deserve. Toss in some more spidery hijinks! Give us the actual origin of those weird feather bunny-ear headdresses! 

American Horror Story Delicate the whole season can be seen on FX! 

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Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery in a World Gone Prehistoric!

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Hold onto your hats, dino fans! The highly anticipated sequel to the adrenaline-pumping Camp Cretaceous saga is here, and it’s taking us on a wild ride six years in the making. Following the harrowing events of Camp Cretaceous, our beloved “Nublar Six” are back, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. In fact, they’re about to plunge headfirst into a world where dinosaurs roam freely alongside dangerous humans, and trust us when we say, it’s a Jurassic jungle out there!

Picture this: a world where survival isn’t just about avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also navigating the treacherous waters of human greed and deceit. As our resilient heroes reunite in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching tragedy, they quickly realize that danger lurks around every corner, and trust is a luxury they can’t afford. 

But wait, there’s more! Prepare to embark on a globetrotting adventure like no other as the Nublar Six find themselves thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens not only the fragile balance between dinosaurs and humanity but also their very existence. From the lush jungles of Isla Nublar to the bustling streets of bustling cities, buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions as our intrepid group races against time to uncover the truth about one of their own and, ultimately, save both dinosaur and humankind from certain doom.

So, dear readers, if you thought you’d seen it all in Jurassic Park, think again! With heart-stopping action, pulse-pounding suspense, and jaw-dropping revelations, this latest installment promises to be a game-changer in the Jurassic universe. Get ready to roar with excitement because Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery is about to take a bite out of your imagination and leave you hungry for more!

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