Finale of Sundance's Channel inspiring Peabody-winning series airs Sunday. You should watch it
"Brick City," which airs its second season finale Sunday, is everything reality TV could and should be.
The series, which follows Newark Mayor Cory Booker as he tries to lead one of the country's most troubled cities, is a real-life "The Wire." But imagine the HBO classic with less disgust at failing institutions and more hope that right-minded people can fix them.
Sunday's finale of the Sundance Channel's Peabody-award winning series couldn't include more real-life drama — or inspire more awe in the people dealing with it.
It features a city facing a hellish budget crunch and widespread job cuts. Police are being laid off and demoted. A man could go to jail for life for a shooting he says was in self-defense. Meanwhile the police director, one of Booker's greatest allies, faces a vote on whether he'll keep his job — a vote by a city council that includes two brand-new critics.
But life goes on. Booker keeps beaming, and small victories abound. First Lady Michelle Obama comes to town to promote good health, and a former Blood considers proposing to another ex-gang member. (Both now work with at-risk kids.)
If Booker's putting on an act, he's doing an awfully good job of it. He's the same mayor who used Twitter during a recent blizzard to find and personally shovel out snowed-in constituents.
The heroes of "Brick City" share a state with Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey" — but their outlook couldn't be more different. Unlike the repugnantly spoiled Housewives, no one on "Brick City" whines constantly, worries about looking fabulous, or flips tables when things don't go their way.
Instead they work tirelessly, uncomplainingly, with almost no resources to help them. When help does arrive, it's treated as a triumphant epilogue, a reward for Newark's success in saving itself.
Mark Zuckerberg appears briefly, at the end of the finale, to provide $100 million for Newark schools — more than enough money to offset whatever bad PR he suffered from "The Social Network." (Not that the gift was all about good PR: Booker has said Zuckerberg had to be talked out of giving anonymously.)
It's almost embrassing to call Sundance's docu-series "reality TV" — embarrassing, that is, for reality TV shows that can't come close to its success.
If only all the rest of the shows that purport to document real life could be this inspring.
And if only the rest of real life could be this inspiring.
The "Brick City" finale airs Sunday at 8 ET/PT on Sundance.