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HBO's 'Show Me a Hero' goes down to 'The Wire' in flavor, urban angst

HBO's 'Show Me a Hero' goes down to 'The Wire' in flavor, urban angst
From left, writer/executive producer David Simon, director/executive producer Paul Haggis and actress LaTaya Richardson speak onstage during the "Show Me A Hero" panel. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

"The Wire" was never a big hit when it first aired on HBO. But since it ended its five-season run in 2008, the series, which explored the urban and governmental battles surrounding the drug scene in Baltimore,  has won widespread acclaim from viewers who watched it on DVD. Many Hollywood insiders have declared it one of the best series of the modern TV era.

David Simon, a former journalist who was the key creative force behind "The Wire," is returning to HBO with a miniseries that has much of the flavor of "The Wire" and is likely to win critical accolades.

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"Show Me a Hero" is a six-part miniseries that takes a hard-edged look at the furor that erupted in the 1980s in Yonkers, N.Y., when the city government was ordered to build a small number of low-income housing units in white neighborhoods. The controversy ripped the city apart and proved to be a devastating blow for the town's young white mayor, Nicholas C. Wasicsko.

The project, which premieres Aug. 16, stars Oscar Isaac as the mayor. The cast includes Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener, LaTanya Richardson and Winona Ryder. "Show Me a  Hero" is based on a nonfiction book with the same title by Lisa Belkin. The director is Oscar-winner Paul Haggis ("Crash").

Simon said the story deals with a "government who was wholly white, and there were no outlets for black or Latino political action. It's about the struggles of a government who doesn't want to address the realities on the ground."

Haggis said the cast took the project seriously in bringing authenticity to their characters and  did extensive research into the real-life people they were playing.

Like "The Wire," the story is told through several racially diverse characters, ranging from the defiant white council members to minorities living in crime-ridden housing projects.

Simon said similar battles are still going on in cities around the country, including Baltimore, where he lives.

"This fight goes on everywhere," he said.

Simon followed up "The Wire" with two other HBO series, "Generation Kill" and "Treme."

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