Thursday, October 20, 2011
The point of this post is to show the contrast in styles between two shows that essentially have the same premise, but I’ll get to that. First, some love for HOMELAND.
The wondrous Clair Danes is a CIA agent who is very good at her job. If she has any tiny weakness it’s that she’s a borderline psychotic. She must take pills to keep her from turning into Nancy Grace on Red Bull.
She learns from a terrorist contact/snitch/BFF that an American prisoner-of-war has “been turned”. A year later, an American POW is rescued from captivity and although the country hails him as a hero Clair suspects he’s a Taliban bitch. So they’ve created a fascinating dynamic. Is she right or simply paranoid? Is his strange behavior due to eight years of torture or is he in fact, now working for the evil dooers (as a certain Texas Rangers fan calls them)?
Damian Lewis plays the returning soldier and is absolutely brilliant. Sorry Jon Hamm but this guy should get the Emmy next year. (Maybe if he thanks Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund in his acceptance speech we’ll know for sure what side he’s on.)
The storyline is layered and suspenseful and thoroughly engrossing.
Now, let’s compare HOMELAND to COVERT AFFAIRS as a study in contrasts.
They both have essentially the same premise: Single woman CIA agent, dealing with bad guys and agency bureaucracy. Both even have sisters who don’t approve of their chosen profession.
HOMELAND is a sophisticated adult drama. COVERT AFFAIRS is THE GIRL FROM UNCLE.
In HOMELAND problems are solved very slowly, which is the cause of much frustration for the heroine, Clair. This is a grueling job that eats away at her soul.
Unlike Carrie, Piper solves a new international crisis every week. And she’s always home in time for her niece’s viola recital. One week Paris, the next week Rio – she sweeps into town, saves three people, attends a formal state dinner, secures the secret biological weapon formula, bonds with a contact over cocktails, and shoots six infidels.
Carrie watches surveillance monitors, attends briefings, eats Spaghetti-O’s that she bought in college, sleeps an hour a night, picks up guys in bars, and arrives too late to save a contact she promised to protect.
Piper’s co-workers think she’s adorable. Clair’s wonder if she needs to be hospitalized.
COVERT AFFAIRS is a USA show, where there are always bright colors and blue skies. It’s strictly escapist fare. And that’s fine. Watch the pretty girl run and shoot and tail a guy while wearing a bikini. HOMELAND deals with the complexity of the horrific real-life problems these people have to face.
And the scary thing is this: HOMELAND is probably an idealized version of what that world is really like. For now on I’m sleeping with the light on. But watching HOMELAND every week.
By Ken Levine at 5:53 AM