Follow Me on Twitter

Monday, January 7, 2013

Homeland Shmomeland

My husband got the first season of Homeland on DVD for Christmas. We finished watching it on Saturday night. And neither of us really liked it.

I believe this makes us extreme outliers or terrorists.

For the undoctrinated, Homeland is Showtime's hit series about a bipolar CIA agent who both tracks and falls in love with a marine sergeant who has returned to the US after 8 years in supposed Al Qaeda captivity. The "supposed" is there because, while he begins his POW turn as a traditional POW, he is suspected of cozying up with the enemy by the end of it. The question of whether he was "turned" before he is miraculously found in a dirt hole is the question around which the show, well, turns. Is this fellow a war hero or a domestic terrorist-in-waiting?

The star CIA agent, Carrie Mathison, is played by she of crying-on-cue clout, Claire Danes. The is-he-or-isn't-he marine sergeant, Nicholas Brody, is played by Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin co-stars as Carrie's mentor and all-around sage, Saul.

Everyone I know and everyone I don't has raved about this show. One of my sisters tweets about her pre-show anxiety, so angst-ridden is she with every episode. Another sister told me, before we started watching, that she was jealous we were about to experience it for the first time. And anyone who has every used the word "Homeland" in a sentence is either a recent immigrant waxing poetic about the mother country or is a fan saying the show is better than everything else on the planet and probably everything off the planet, too.

The show has won awards for best television drama, and both of its leading actors have walked away with statues for the mantelpieces in recognition of their work on the show.

All of which leaves me flabbergasted. Which also leaves me all alone on a cultural No Man's Land with no one but my husband to keep me company. This is a first.

I often think he has terrible taste in movies and shows, as he is passionate about American Pickers, Storage Wars and anything starring Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, or Indiana Jones. But I know there are other people out there who have seen these things and not regretted the experience, too.

And he sometimes wonders how I can watch things like Modern Family or Meryl Streep vehicles or other award-winning productions with actual entertainment value. Deep down, I think he accepts that Sex And The City is the thinking woman's A-Team.

Yet here we are, on the other side of Homeland, both of us wondering what all the fuss is about.

I can't speak for him, and if he wants to speak for himself, he can call you or start his own darn blog. I can tell you why it feel flat for me, though.

To begin with, I feel like the entire thing is one big cliche. The career-obsessed woman with a secret to hide and a vulnerability to protect. The war hero with a gorgeous, doting wife, a sweet son and a rebelling teenage daughter. A CIA depicted as a building where everyone walks fast or sits in front of surveillance video or uncovers the missing link in an attenuated crime theory by standing still and thinking a little bit. Consider the lightning-strike moment when Carrie realizes Brody moves his fingers in some sort of pattern that happens when she's at a jazz bar and looks up to notice that when musicians play music, they move their fingers, too. Moving fingers either make music or send a signal to Qaeda operatives in Iraq! Grab your cell phone and mobilize the Department of State!

Then there's the acting. It must be said that the redeeming aspect of the show is Danes' acting - Carrie is superbly annoying and affected but still, somehow, admirable and awesome. I also think the men who play her two closest allies - the aforementioned Patinkin/Saul and a surveillance lacky named Virgil - do great work. Everyone else drives me nuts.

At the top of the list is Lewis/Brody, so it amazes me that he has won awards for his portrayal. In fact, his character comes across as the biggest cliche of the entire show, what with all the chest-puffing and the monotoned delivery of "Nicholas Brody, Sergeant, United States Marines." The way he talks feels strained, which is maybe because it is - he's a British guy speaking with an American accent. His lips always look pursed, his face strained and devoid of almost any emotion other than an over-played one (piercing gazes, shaking fear). I see no signs of internal conflict, self-doubt, or, alternatively, conviction; all I see is what I always see when someone plays a member of the military. I can't tell if he is happy or relieved to be home with his family, or if he hates them for being part of the American war machine he now despises. This ambiguity does not play as a teasing nuance in my mind; I view it as a vague acting job that leaves me both confused and cold.

In close second is Brody's wife. She isn't helped by the cheesy lines that are scripted for her, but she comes across as the ultimate nit-for-brains wife whose only role in her family is to say meaningless things and look pretty. "You're okay, that's all that matters," she vacantly purrs. Doe eyes. Upturned face. Kiss-me pout.

Finally, the pace. I disagree that it is a high-intensity thrill ride that leaves you gripping your chair. I think I fell asleep at some point during every episode except the season finale. I also found myself thinking, on multiple occasions, "come on, let's just get this scene over with and get to the part where they answer this question."

I'm going to stop there. I think those are sufficient reasons for disliking the show.

Perhaps I have been spoiled. The last series we watched was Breaking Bad. We were WAY late to that party and had the luxury of watching all four seasons as quickly as Netflix could send them to us. That was a show that I loved, perhaps more than the hype had prepared me for. I frankly don't think I've ever seen anything as good on television, and I think the acting is outstanding. Give me Breaking Bad every day of the week and twice on every day of the week.

I'm sorry about this. I really am. I feel like it's unpatriotic of me not to like Homeland. And maybe I really am a terrorist.

In which case, the CIA will probably come knocking soon, and then I'll be a really qualified critic of the show.


  1. tell me about it the show needs more t and a

  2. I agree on the Breaking Bad front. Homeland is what I watched when I was waiting for more Breaking Bad to become available to me. Got my parents addicted. Now my dad makes meth jokes when buying Sudafed. You win some, you lose some.