Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Pilot #13: Homeland

FALL PILOT #13: Homeland
NETWORK: Showtime
SUPPOSED SELLING POINT:  Political thriller with Claire Danes on Showtime, what could go wrong?

If you actually read my lazy (and oh so late to the party) evaluation of Charlie's Angels you've likely discerned that I'm becoming quite disenchanted with this whole "let's talk all about every new show on the block" task I've set for myself.  I mean, it's a couple weeks in now and The Playboy Club has already been canceled.  Great success, but isn't it time to be done now?  Nope.  More to go.  More to go forever.

Of course, while my attitude is one reflective of ennui and the overwhelming desire to delete everything in my DVR and begin anew, Showtime's new drama Homeland is a keeper.  If I had the energy, I'd be jumping up and down insisting that you give this show more than just the time of day, give it your dollars as well.  Lately I feel as though I'm becoming a sort of Showtime fangirl.  While HBO seems to pull rank in the esteem of critics and cults (True Blood, Game of Thrones), focusing epic proportions, Showtime's output is appealing in the phenomenally addicting way network fare tends to be.  Its comedies (Californication, Weeds, Shameless, United States of Tara (RIP)) are often raunchy, sexed-up, drugged-out, guiltily addicting spins on familial sitcom set-ups.  Its dramas take everything you like about that particular genre and amp it up so it goes where you wish "normal" TV would.  Dexter's police procedural wields a sharp, delightfully bloody point.  Nurse Jackie (let's face it, it's between comedy and drama) snarks what Dr. House can't.  The Borgias?  Take your  Masterpiece Theatre and shove it straight up whatever hole Pope Jeremy Irons is working on stuffing, if you know what I mean.

All of this is the long way of arriving at Homeland as the next step in Showtime's 'give the people what they want' strategy: government intrigue, military action, and CIA investigations with a TVMA rating.  Are you still mourning the loss of Jack Bauer?  Do you wish Fringe was actually more about brainwashing sleeper cells then multiple dimensions?  If  you answered 'yes' to either of these questions you're probably going to love the hell out of Homeland.  Here, Claire Danes returns to the small screen to play a devoted agent whose unwavering, at times rebellious devotion to her task is complicated by the realities of her fragile, deteriorating mental state.  One episode in and I'm guessing she'll take the Emmy next year.  Her Carrie Mathison is a brilliantly acted piece of work who's compellingly unhinged, rapidly swinging between bipolar highs and lows.  The story itself appears to be a molotov cocktail of timely political elements, blending 9/11 conspiracy theories with Middle East tensions and an undercurrent of the clockwork suspense that made The Manchurian Candidate tick.   Carrie is monitoring a Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a rescued American POW she believes has been turned by al-Qaida.  She's watching him, his family, his every waking move.  It's precarious, dangerous for her and not quite legal.  Yet, she does it anyway.  Homeland promises to be a slow burn, a reveal that brings up more questions initially than answers.  So far, its dramatic tension is compelling and its actors are a hell of a cat and mouse pair.  Is it the best pilot of the fall?  It might be.  It just might be. 


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