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 Critic’s Choice Nominations Announced

The critics always get it more right than the academy when it comes to handing out these awards.  I’m not sure why it’s so hard for the excellence that exists on television to be recognized over the merely popular at the Emmys, but that seems to be the case more often than not (Kyle Chandler’s win for Best Actor last year not-withstanding).  My Emmy ballot won’t look exactly like this, but I bet it will be pretty damn close.  I made a few notes on nominees who most likely won’t be nominated by the Emmys and who I don’t care for and the photo by each category represents my pick to win.  The awards will be handed out at an non-televised gala on June 18th.

My Pick: Parks and Recreation; I really could have gone with Community, Girls, New Girl or P&R, but this photo clinched it.

BEST COMEDY SERIES
The Big Bang Theory
Community 
Girls 
Modern Family 
New Girl 
Parks and Recreation

Non-Emmy entry: Community (there seems to be something about Community that the Emmys just don’t like.  Maybe it’s quirkiness, maybe it’s self-referential attitude.  Regardless, Community deserves at least the recognition of a nomination); Non-TV Junkie entry: The Big Bang Theory (I just don’t find it funny in the least) Continue reading

The Golden Globe Nominations: Let the madness begin!

First of all, I understand that the Golden Globes are for film and television, but the movies get so much attention at this time of year that I don’t feel bad completely ignoring them.  Secondly, I love the Golden Globes.  They’re always so all over the place and definitely have the best party of the awards season (dude, they televise drunk celebrities mingling.  What could be more fun?).  The Golden Globe Awards will air Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 8pmEST/5pmPST on NBC.  Anyway, here are the list of nominees and some initial thoughts. Continue reading

End of the Year TV Exhaustion (AKA Sorry so few new posts)

Shane might be an ass, but it was about time someone took care of that barn full of zombies.

The last 4-6 weeks of the year are always a weird time for me and my TV.  First of all, I become exponentially busier around the holidays and secondly, there are so few new episodes of my favorite shows airing (and they air so sporadically) that keeping caught up feels like less of a priority.  This is not a bad problem to have, but it does explain my absence over the last week.  It’s not that I haven’t been watching TV, it’s just that so little of what I’ve watched has made much of an impact.  Yes, I thought last night’s Walking Dead mid-season finale was great (especially compared with the glacially paced episodes that came before it) but to be honest, I wasn’t all that shocked at the ending and had been actively waiting for Sophia to crawl out of that barn for weeks.  Homeland was probably the best show I watched in a week, but I’m so conflicted about the ways that the writers are manipulating Brody’s character (he’s a terrorist, but he has a good reason to be a terrorist) that the show leaves me feeling a little woozy.  And while I still enjoy the travelogue that is The Amazing Race, I am increasingly uninterested in the top four teams (good bye Bill and Cathi.  You will be missed) that I’m kind of just waiting for the season to be over. Continue reading

Fall TV: First Week Report Card

Is it just me or does this season feel different than others?  First of all, we’re almost three weeks in and there has only been one cancellation (The Playboy Club as of this morning).  Second of all, there haven’t been any huge surprises either.  I feel like everything is just kind of hanging around the middle, waiting to be noticed.  It’s making me a little sad actually.  Anyway, here are my thoughts on the 14 new shows I’ve been watching.

Jason O'Mara is definitely bringing the charm to Terra Nova.

MONDAY

Terra Nova (Fox): The first episode was kind of exciting.  The concept felt new but rooted in basic drama structure and family dynamics.  The second episode didn’t exactly build on the first though.  It’s also not been a huge ratings winner so while I don’t see Fox canceling the show mid-season, I’m not sure it’s going to win a second. B-

Hart of Dixie (CW): I’ve already detailed all of the problems I have with this show, but will reiterate that despite all of that, I want to love it and will give it a proper shot as long as the CW does. C

2 Broke Girls (CBS): There was so much hype and buzz surrounding this series that my expectations were bound to be dashed and dashed they’ve been.  Beyond the laugh track, so many of the jokes are racist in nature that it can be a bit off-putting.  And despite my enjoyment of Kat Dennings, she feels boxed in and claustrophobic in the medium. B-

TUESDAY

This was probably my favorite moment in any show last week.

New Girl (Fox): I had mixed feelings about this show before it started.  On the one hand, it felt like something I would enjoy but on the other, Zooey Deschanel’s character seemed like such an extreme version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that I was a bit wary.  After two episodes, I have come down firmly on its side.  I think the humor is quirky and a bit random and there are plot points that actually feel relatable.  Plus I cannot get the vision of Zooey having an argument with her ex-boyfriend while wearing all of her clothes out of my head.  B+

Ringer (CW): Oh Sarah Michelle Gellar.  My loyalty to you can only take me so far.  And I think four episodes may be about as much as I can take (the three that have already aired and tonight’s).  After jamming the pilot full of more plot than it could adequately handle, the show has become repetitive and circular in its narrative.  None of the characters are particularly likable and instead of fleshing out the most interesting one (Siobahn) the show has stuck her in Paris twisting her mustache and saying opaque things into a phone.  Also, it still hasn’t gotten over that atrocious green screen work in the first episode.  D

WEDNESDAY

Christina Applegate and Will Arnett from Up All Night

Up All Night (NBC): By far my favorite new show of the season.  The three leads – Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph – are endlessly funny and after only three episodes, their chemistry is really starting to gel.  As a whole, there are still some tonal issues with the show, but it has definitely improved over the course of its run which gives me high hopes for the rest of the season. A

Suburgatory (ABC): Granted, I’ve only seen the pilot episode of this Jeremy Sisto-led series, but what I saw left me a bit non-plussed.  It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I certainly didn’t love it.  I felt like there was a lot of apologizing going on (Cheryl Hines character is pretty heinous until she gives Jane Levy that bra at which point we learn that she does have a heart).  I’ll definitely stick with it for at least a few more weeks, but I’m going to need some more laugh out loud moments to really dive in.  B-

Revenge (ABC): I never knew how much I missed the classic primetime soaps of my youth (Dallas, Dynasty) until I became hooked on Revenge.  It presents itself so seriously and yet completely campy at the same time.  I am loving the way that Emily plots against all of the people who ruined her father’s life and can’t wait for her ultimate showdown with Queen Victoria.  A-

THURSDAY

I didn't realize how bad the clothes on Charlie's Angels were until just this moment. Oy are they bad.

Charlie’s Angels (ABC): I’m pretty sure Charlie’s Angels is not long for this world.  Though I will be forever loyal to Minka Kelly (thanks to her involvement with Friday Night Lights), this show is just not good.  The dialogue and performances are completely wooden, none of the characters are intriguing in the slightest (except for Minka’s.  I kind of wish she was still a badass car thief instead of someone trying to make good), and despite the fact that Charlie is voiced by Victor Garber, it is weird that these people work for a voice on a phone.  C-

The Secret Circle (CW): After my experiences with The Vampire Diaries, Kevin Williamson’s other supernatural CW drama, I’m not about to write off The Secret Circle too quickly, but so far, I’m not really digging it.  This could be because I find Brit Robertson to be a bit of a wet blanket, or the fact that the most intriguing character/actor so far is Gale Harold and the show really isn’t about him, or the fact that I don’t give a crap about anything that has happened thus far and the magic being created just isn’t all that cool.  I like it when cool things happen.  I like it even more when gross things happen.  So far, this show doesn’t have either of that (unless you count the opening fire which was actually awesome).  However, The Vampire Diaries got off to a bit of a sluggish start as well and yet once the ball got rolling, it never let up, so I will stick with The Secret Circle as well.  C+

I am definitely enjoying the goofiness between Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Ella on Whitney

Whitney (NBC):  I’ll admit that the advance reviews of Whitney put some bad preconceived notions of this show into my head and the pilot lived up to them (outside of the nurse seduction scene).  However, the second episode improved on the first in terms of numbers of laughs and NBC’s recent full-season pick up gives me hope that this show will continue that trend.  But the general sitcomminess of the show doesn’t have me holding my breath for that outcome.  B-

Prime Suspect (NBC): The overt sexism of the first episode of Prime Suspect was a huge turn off for me, but by the second, the writers had toned it down and combined it with a great performance from Maria Bello.  I am actually surprised that this hasn’t been more of a ratings success, it is a procedural after all, but still hopeful that NBC will stick with it for a while.  B

 

SUNDAY

Karine Vanasse makes being French cool again.

Pan Am (ABC): I want to like this show more than I do.  I love the look of it – the sleek 60′s costumes and retro furnishings – but the story so far isn’t really compelling to me.  I think it has oodles of potential (especially in Christina Ricci’s character) but needs to stop focusing on Margot Robbie’s Laura who is a total sap and a whiner to boot.  B

Homeland (Showtime): Out of all of the new shows this season, Homeland is the most serious and the most intriguing.  While I love Up All Night and definitely consider it my favorite new show of the season, Homeland is something special on a completely different level.  It is super intense, has superb performances, and only one episode in, I don’t think I could live with myself without finding out whether Damian Lewis’ marine is a traitor or if it’s all in Claire Danes’ head.  A

 

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.