The first season of Homeland was an excellent season of television. So far, I think it’s fair to say that the second season is shaping up to be even better.
Homeland is interesting because if you try to explain the premise to someone who hasn’t seen it, it sounds pretty terrible. It’s all like, TERRORISM and CONSPIRACIES and ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY. There are all kinds of coincidences and close calls and scenarios that are pretty much impossible in a world that seems to closely resemble our actual world. But none of that matters, mostly thanks to Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.
When they first encountered each other in the first season, Carrie was playing the role of a voyeur, a CIA agent spying on Brody, a U.S. soldier who made it home after spending eight years as a prisoner in Iraq. Carrie was convinced he had been turned, that he was working with the terrorists who kept him captive to plan some kind of attack against his own country. In the process of investigating all of this (mostly without the help of the CIA, since they were way not into her theories) Carrie and Brody fell in love. Well, Carrie did, anyway. We have much better access to her mental state, to her thoughts and feelings. Brody, despite being kind of a mess, is more inscrutable. Where his loyalties lie and whether he’s capable of betraying his country and family are themes the show is still investigating.
At this point, they’ve both sort of ruined each other’s lives. Brody got Carrie kicked out of the CIA by convincing everyone (including Carrie) that she was crazy. The fact that she’s bipolar didn’t help, but of course Carrie was right, which was definitively revealed last season, when Brody nearly killed a bunch of people including the vice president. The only reason he didn’t go through with it was because of a desperate phone call from his teenage daughter, Dana. But Carrie has messed with Brody’s life, too. Their affair nearly destroyed the already shaky relationship between Brody and his wife, Jessica. And while Brody held all the cards in the first season, now his lies are unravelling and suddenly Carrie’s the one in control.
See, I told you that when you try to explain this show it sounds pretty ridiculous. Somehow, the connection between Brody and Carrie is so compelling and destructive and filled with chemistry, that they manage to sell the whole thing. The other great thing about Homeland is that it’s always so action-packed. Incredibly, there have only been six episodes so far in the season, and each one has covered, like, the equivalent of half a season worth of material on most other shows. It’s all, BAM! Brody’s a congressman…BAM! Carrie has a reason to be involved with the CIA again…BAM! Her former boss, Saul (the always wonderful Mandy Patinkin) finds out Brody really was involved in a terrorist plot and Carrie was right all along…BAM! After briefly spying on Brody, Carrie leads a charge to take him in for questioning…BAM! Brody admits some of the shady stuff he did and joins forces with the CIA.
Phew, that is a lot of stuff. Homeland doesn’t slow down, but it still has all these meaningful moments. The best scene was when Carrie came in to interrogate Brody. She has feelings for him, and that’s real, but she uses those feelings as a means to an end, to make Brody admit what she already knows – that he’s been up to no good terrorist stuff ever since he returned to the States. Brody lies to everyone, but Carrie is his soft spot. He doesn’t say much, but you can see him questioning everything over the course of the interrogation. By the end of it, he unravels.
Homeland isn’t perfect. The subplots are kind of stupid. Dana is a great character who feels like a real, complex, emotional teenager, but her current plot, which has her involved in a hit-and-run along with the VP’s son, is pretty terrible. Then there’s Mike, Brody’s army buddy who had an affair with Jessica when Brody was captured and Jess thought she was a widow. Lately, Mike’s been investigating Brody on his own based on very little evidence. It could lead to an interesting story – he did recently have an encounter with Saul that only furthered his belief that he’s on to something – but for now it’s just kind of silly. Jessica’s story has been focused on her attempts to play the role of a politician’s wife, something she’s adapted to quite easily despite Brody’s increasingly erratic behaviour. She’s not an idiot, and she knows something is wrong, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
As far as current dramas go, I think Homeland is one of the best. I would say it’s second to Breaking Bad, but probably on par with Mad Men, which I also adore. I’m really excited to see what happens by the end of the season; if things keep going the way they have been, everything could be completely different in just a few episodes.
Fox has an impressively strong Tuesday lineup this fall, with two returning sitcoms and two new ones. So far, I’m very much enjoying all of them. Unlike CBS, Fox seems to recognize that it’s 2012, so they’ve moved away from the multi-camera, laugh track set-up, making way for shows that I would say are funnier and more relevant.
This show is crazy underrated. The premise is maybe a bit kooky – a lower class guy named Jimmy Chance who lives with his parents (played by the amazing Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt) knocks up a serial killer who gives birth in jail before being sent to the electric chair. Jimmy is left to raise the baby, Hope. The whole concept could have easily come across as offensive, since it’s basically about a struggling, undereducated family doing the best they can. Fortunately the whole thing is so funny, and the Chance family so obviously a loving, well-meaning unit, that it just makes for good television. OK, sometimes it goes a bit off the rails with Jimmy’s great-grandmother, Maw Maw, who suffers from dementia and is played by Cloris Leachman, but on the other more important hand, Cloris Leachman running around in a bra being racist is pretty hilarious.
The other thing that makes the show notable is that it’s done a great job of creating a whole world, filled with recurring characters like Jimmy’s coworkers at the grocery store where he works and random weirdos in the neighbourhood, like Dancing Dan. I feel like I don’t know many people who watch this show as it enters it’s third season, but you should be, because there isn’t a lot of television that’s so heartwarming and actually funny.
Ben and Kate
I like this show – I do! But I’m also kind of a little bored of it at the same time? I think the problem is that critics seem to be obsessed with it and they’re all calling it the best new comedy of the year and junk, and so far I just think it’s OK. Basically it’s about Kate, who has her life together mostly and has a kid, but then her irresponsible brother, Ben moves in with her. And hilarious shenanigans ensue! Oh and also Ben has a friend who has always had a crush on Kate, and Kate works with a girl played by Judy Punch who is hilarious and the best part of the show.
I want to reiterate that I do like this show! I just don’t love it, yet. But I feel like I could, given time. And more Judy Punch. Her character’s name is BJ, btw. Just putting that out there. Even without her, each episode has had a good amount of funny moments. Like when Ben ugly cried, that was good. So far it all just feels kind of generic and somewhat unmemorable, though. But I’m still looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do next.
When this started last year, I mean, I watched every episode, obviously, but I kind of wrote it off as stupid and I was just watching it because it was on (when you watch as much TV as I do, this is a valid reason to watch a show). But something happened halfway through last season where it went beyond Zooey Deschanel’s whole adorkable persona and became a show about four totally different personalities coming together and making their quirky lives work together. AW. Also, it got pretty legitimately funny. Like, I laugh out loud when I watch it by myself. I think what makes it good is that it’s not afraid to be totally weird. I like that Schmidt is anal about things like cleanliness and cooking but also is forced to contribute to a douchebag jar, and Nick is literally just a cranky old man who hates young people things, but also becomes obsessed with random things and people on the regular.
And yes, obviously Nick and Jess are going to get together eventually, but the show is pretty good at building tension between them without hitting us over the head with it constantly. It’s addressed, but not in a totally annoying obnoxious way, just in a way where it’s clear they are just not at that place yet but they will be eventually! Yes. This show is a good show.
The Mindy Project
This isn’t super amazing great yet, but I think it’s going to be. I don’t know what it is, but I just really like Mindy Kaling and I like watching her do things, whatever those things might be. I do think the show is best when it focuses on the work comedy aspects of the gynecologist office where she works, but even when it’s all, blah blah, rom com, dating is hard, etc., I totally enjoy it. It’s weird to watch a show like this, or Girls, because there is a woman who is the lead, who is obviously not fat in real life, but is TV fat. That maybe sounds terrible, but you know what I mean. I could not fit my hand around Mindy Kaling’s upper arm, you know? I hate that I notice that, but I DO notice that, and then I’m glad that I’m seeing it on my television.
I think what’s really going to make this show great is the new nurse, played by Ike Barinholtz. He’s spent time in prison, and is kind of a wild card, but he also means well. AW! And then also there’s the antagonistic doctor Mindy works with, played by Chris Messina who Mindy has fun banter with and also, I freaking love Chris Messina. I almost even liked him in The Newsroom, and we all know how I feel about The Newsroom. The show is still kind of all over the place, but there have only been a few episodes, and I have faith that when it gets its bearings, it’s going to be delightful.
So, Fox Tuesdays – very entertaining and a lot of potential! They’re like the new NBC Thursdays. Which I’ll probably address next week.