Homeland: Proof that risky story telling pays off

Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) meet up for a drink before everything gets blown to smithereens (metaphorically this time)

I liked the first season of Homeland.  It was a tense thriller with a strong (meaning well-defined) female character at its center starring one of my favorite actresses – what’s not to like?  It definitely had moments of surprise, but for the most part, the plot seemed to sort of chug along to inevitable conclusions – No one believed Carrie about hero Brody’s involvement with a terrorist, Brody does not go through with the bombing of the Vice President et al, Brody still looks like a hero and Carrie gets locked away in the loony bin.  These endings felt set up from the beginning.  But all of that left me wondering where the show was going to go during its second season.  I find that character based shows can often go on indefinitely because you can always put your character in new situations to react to.  But Homeland, while it has great characters, wasn’t really a character based story in its first season.  It was the story of a C.I.A. Agent trying to take down a spy and capture a terrorist.  From the outside, it appeared to be plot driven – but don’t tell the Homeland writers that.

Carrie with her new surveillance partner Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). Is he going to stick around now that there’s no one to secretly surveil?

Last night, Homeland basically blew up its main plot!  After finally being proven right about Brody’s nefarious intentions, Carrie and Saul set up a new surveillance (welcome back Virgil & Max!) to see if they could ferret out his handler and build a case against Nazir.  However, after “bumping into” Brody and then having one drink with him, Carrie brazenly called him out as being a spy and took him into custody.  WHAT!?!?  I don’t think I was ever necessarily bored with Homeland, but I certainly had become complacent to its awesomeness and the end of last night’s episode ripped me right out of my comfort zone.  Homeland just threw the rule book out of the window.  It proved that taking risks and subverting an audiences expectations just draws them in even more.  I cannot wait to see how the writers get themselves out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into.  For the first time in a long time, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

Finn (Timothee Chalamet) and Dana (Morgan Saylor) adorably try to stop being adorable.

P.S. What’s going on with Brody’s daughter Dana and the Vice President’s son, Finn?  I mean, I know what’s going on – they’re being totally adorable and teenagery and awesome – but in the grand scheme of things, how will it fit in?  One of my absolute favorite relationships on this show is the one between Brody and Dana.  They have a great connection and a great honesty between them that is really refreshing.  But she trusts her dad a little too much and is bound for some great big hurt and that makes me really sad.  It also makes me think that her relationship with Finn is more than just a cute aside.  Am I being too conspiracy theorist?

TV Stars go to the Museum

Nina Dobrev, stunning as usual.

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Costume Institute Gala is not televised – nor should it be.  It’s a big party to celebrate the opening of the Costume Institute’s summer exhibit (this year it’s “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations“).  But it includes a fantastic red carpet that brings people from fashion, music, film and television together in one place to be awesome.  Vogue.com live-streamed the arrivals yesterday and one thing was clear, this is not your ordinary red carpet.  All of the stars took risks and they were rewarded for it.  Kooky doesn’t always work at the Oscars or Emmys, but it definitely worked last night.  A few of my likes and dislikes after the jump! Continue reading

Series I wish I could see for the first time, again

Good God, they were young when Party of Five started.

There are some television experiences that are completely linked to a certain period of time in my life: Party of Five will always equal my high school best friend and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; I will never be able to think of the first time I watched Veronica Mars without being transported to my New York apartment; I can still feel the awful carpet of my first place in LA whenever I watch the Friends series finale.  But just because I cherish the memories of the first time I saw a show, doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could erase them and watch all over with fresh eyes.  Sure, I can watch a series years after the first time and have a completely different experience, but it’s not the same as getting to discover all of the twists and turns without any sort of baggage or expectation.  If I could go back and start fresh with any series it would be:

FNL, so fresh and innocent.

1. Friday Night Lights - I have watched the entire  Friday Night Lights series at least three times, but nothing compares to the first light of discovery.  When it first aired, I cried at the most unexpected moments and found catharsis and comfort in it.  There was something so special about the first time around.

Claire Danes on My So-Called Life

2. My So-Called Life - I cannot watch My So-Called Life without reverting to a teenager.  There is a part of me that wishes I could watch it for the first time now with a little life experience to give me perspective.

I can't imagine how much context I missed on Lost.

3. Lost - When I first started watching Lost I was watching purely for entertainment value.  Therefore I missed all of the historical/mathematical/scientific references along the way.  Sure I could go back and re-watch with that in mind, but the pop-culture conversation is kind of over.  I wish I could have been more of a part of it at that time.

What would you watch again for the first time?

First Impressions: Homeland

Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin of Homeland

I think Homeland is going to spend a lot of time screwing with my head.  After the first episode, I don’t know who to believe or whether what the writers are showing me is the whole truth or just the bits they want me to see right now.  The basic premise of Homeland is already a little intense: A marine POW is found in an Al Qaeda bunker 8 years after he went missing and upon his return a CIA agent who got kicked out of Iraq for her aggressive techniques has reason to believe that he may have been turned traitor while in captivity.  There are a few pieces of information that are meant to throw me off the scent of who is telling the truth: Carrie (Claire Danes doing an excellent job of seeming completely unbalanced) is a rogue agent who has some sort of mood disorder that requires her to take klonopin which makes her an unreliable narrator and we are shown through flashbacks of Nicholas Brody’s (a tightly wound Damian Lewis) time in captivity that he is keeping certain facts (namely that he was the person who beat fellow POW Thomas to death and collapsed into the arms of Al Qaeda operative Abu Nazir) close to the vest.  But we also know that Carrie’s contact in Iraq told her that an American soldier had been turned and the audience is privy to all of Brody’s memories so we know that there is some truth to her accusations that he’s been turned.  I loved the scenes of Carrie hurriedly and manically changing her clothes and leaving her apartment.  Her manic energy provides a nice contrast to Brody’s more controlled, and aggressive, approach.  On top of all of the political intrigue there is also the fact that Brody has come back to a very different family than he left – his wife (the always beautiful Morena Baccarin) has started sleeping with an old marine pal, his daughter is 14 and hating her mother, and his son is no longer the baby he left behind.  It’s a very topsy-turvy feeling, but one that I like and that has me totally hooked.

In Honor of Mother’s Day: My Favorite TV Mother/Daughter Pairings

Mother-Daughter relationships are complicated and can sometimes be tough to get right on TV.  But the thing that binds all of my favorites is that the mothers all seem to lay down boundaries with their love.  The mothers tell their daughters that they are going to have to make their own mistakes, but it will be ok because I will be there for you.  All of the moms recognize that there is an element of being friends with their daughters, but it doesn’t come at the expense of being their mother and teaching them how to be independent, confident women.  These are all of the things that my own mother did and probably why I appreciate these moms so much.  I can’t be with my mom today so this is sort of like my mother’s day gift to her.  Love you mom!

Claire Danes and Bess Armstrong of My So-Called Life.

Patty and Angela Chase (My So-Called Life) – Former prom queen Patty had a hard time relating to awkward, angsty daughter Angela, but she tried.  And she kept trying.  And every once in a while, she was rewarded with actual affection from her daughter.  Like I’ve said many times before, this show was my life as a teenager in so many ways, and I definitely related to the mother-daughter relationship portrayed.  All Patty wanted was to show her daughter how great she was, how loved she was, and that she can push all she wants, her mother will always be there.  My mom did that too. P.S. my mom is awesome. Continue reading

My So-Called Life – 17 Years Later

The Sundance Channel (check local listings) will begin re-airing My So-Called Life’s 19 episodes tonight and despite owning the series on DVD, I may just add it to my DVR.  Here’s the thing about My So-Called Life: It will never not be meaningful to me.  No, I am no longer a 14 year-old gawky teenager, but I was when the show originally aired and it captivated me in a way that television never had before (see: Getting to Know Me Part 1).  I had never seen what I felt or wanted to feel depicted in a relatable way until My So-Called Life.  It embodied my relationship with my parents, my girlfriends, my crushes, my teachers and did so with a worldly voice and stunning acting (Claire Danes and Jared Leto will always be at the top of my list of favorite actors no matter how hard they try to jump off; see: The Mod Squad and Jared’s ongoing destruction of his hair, respectively).  It didn’t have the model-gorgeous actresses or escapism of Beverly Hills, 90210 nor was it quite as melodramatic as Party of Five and I was grateful for that.  It had a real home with real parents and real problems (and some not so real problems too.  I know I, for one, never saw any ghosts in my school at a halloween dance).  There is something about the show that is so unbelievably relatable that it doesn’t matter how old I am when I rewatch it.  Reliving the series is always a joy, even if Tino never, ever shows up.

TV says I Love You

I’m a big softie at heart and my favorite television shows definitely have a gooey romantic center.  Entertainment Weekly has a slide show of TV’s greatest “I Love You” moments and it’s pretty great.  My favorite from this list is definitely Carol’s speech to Luka about how much she loved Doug on ER.  Carol and Doug might be my favorite couple of all time and the end of their story (or beginning, depending on how you look at it) is perhaps the most romantic of all time.  I would also add the following.  They might not all include the words “I Love You”, but they certainly convey that message.

Alex catches Ellen at the train station and stops her from marrying someone else.

Alex P. Keaton’s (Michael J. Fox) confession to Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan) on Family Ties in the episode “The Real Thing”.  What started out as a love-hate relationship turned into a love-love relationship after Alex and Ellen shared a dance to “At This Moment”.

Alex: “Yeah, I love you, ok?  I said it.  I mean, after all Ellen, if I’m going to go this far I might as well go all the way.  I love you, alright?  IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou.  I’m crazy about you.  I’d give anything to be with you.  I can’t live without you.  Ok?  Gotta go, see ya.” Continue reading

The Golden Globes: Dresses For Days

I love pretty dresses and nothing brings out the pretty quite like an awards show.  The Globes are usually a more fun, cocktail type affair, but this year the girls all went dressed for Cinderella’s ball and most of them did really well.  There were a lot of risks, some of which paid off (Angelina Jolie in green!) some of which didn’t (Julianne Moore’s awkward one puffed sleeve), but for the most part I was really pleased with the red carpet this year.  The biggest trends of the night seemed to be pale/nude/pastels or rich greens and long sleeves (which was unfortunate considering how warm it was in LA yesterday).  At first the pastels really bugged me, but as I look at the dresses more closely, I really appreciate how the pale colors help elevate the elegance.  For the most part, it looked like the women were having a really good time with their fashion and everyone was unique in their choices.

Here’s a look at some standouts, from worst to best (click on the first image to see a click-through slideshow).