Monday, October 21, 2013

The TV character I currently hate the most

And I am not alone.

HOMELAND faces the most dangerous plot in the series’ history – an insidious subversive plot more squirm-inducing than any of the Brody torture scenes, more chilling than national terrorist threats, suicide bombers, and unspeakable acts of senseless violence.

I’m referring of course to the Dana storyline in season three.

First let me say I do not blame Morgan Saylor, the young actress who portrays Nicholas Brody’s bratty teenage daughter, Dana. She got hired to play a role, she’s playing it with conviction and believability.  Cash your checks, Morgan.  You've earned the money.  

But the character of Dana is so relentlessly insufferable that every time she comes on the screen I shout, “Oh no!” Fortunately for Morgan there’s Lena Dunham and Flo from Progressive Insurance to take some of the hate heat off.

The bigger problem of course is that HOMELAND has really plummeted in quality. Once the most compelling show on the air, season three so far has been meandering, repetitious, and dull. The shocking twists aren't shocking.  We see Carrie going crazy for the fifth time, and as much as I adore Claire Danes, they’ve now got her playing one notch below Jerry Lewis in CINDERFELLA. And Brody is all over the map (literally). The episode where he was holed up in a half-constructed apartment high rise in Venezuela was PAPILLON meets HOLLYWOOD SQUARES.

And then there’s Dana. We’re supposed to have empathy for her because her father is perceived of as a monster, but sorry, we don’t. There’s a great Jewish expression I can only hope to spell correctly – Dana is farbissina, which roughly means she’s a major sourpuss.

You just want to smack her. Every boy she gets involved with is a future Norman Bates or Ted Cruz. A) You just don’t give a shit, and B) it takes time away from the main story (such that it is).

The Brody home life has never been particularly interesting. For two years luscious Morena Baccarin’s sole function as his wife was to say, “Where you going, Brody?” “Talk to me, Brody.” and finally: “Where you been, Brody?”  His return from captivity was a tough adjustment for the family. We get it. Dad’s been turned. What family doesn’t have its quirks? But especially now that Brody is harder to find than Matt Lauer, mom and the kinder are not integral to anything in the show. And every time Dana smirks, scowls, or sleeps with one of the Menendez brothers, I dive for the remote.

HOMELAND is a product of the 24 writers and you can see the parallels. The worst character on 24 was Jack Bauer’s daughter, Kim, played by Elisha Cuthbert. She got kidnapped so many times she started bringing her own rope. The Kim hate was loud and long, but that didn’t stop the producers from stuffing her in a car trunk season after season.

In HOMELAND’s case you could argue that even if the producers recognize themselves that the Dana subplot is dramatic Anthrax, it’s too late to do anything about it. All thirteen episodes are probably in the can. But America has hated Dana for two previous seasons already. The producers can’t be surprised. If so, it’s like they were crushed by a runaway glacier.  Their intelligence information is worse than the CIA's. 

Last year we saw THE GOOD WIFE make a huge miscalculation by introducing a character the public quickly loathed. So the producers dumped him, had to scramble, and salvage what they could. They listened to their audience and reacted accordingly. (And by the way, this year’s shows are spectacular – week after week.) HOMELAND never learns. I bet next year Dana will be back with an eating disorder.

I hope HOMELAND can right the ship. It’s lost its focus, it’s lost it’s freshness – the only thing it’s kept is its farbisinna’s.

37 comments:

Mandy St. Amand said...

I (mostly) agree with everything. Last night's episode finally improved the Carrie plotline but like you, I just don't care at all about Dana. So she's hooked up with a psycho who may have killed his brother? Fine. I don't care. Stop emphasizing her. I am so over her whole overwrought teenage angst. That is NOT what fans of 'Homeland' want to see.

Anonymous said...

Homeland might have sustained the excellence of season 1 by killing Brody, keeping Carrie sort of sane, and then focusing on Carrie and Saul fighting terrorism. Instead, I think that the producers got caught up in the praise for Damian Lewis and became desperate to stretch out his storyline.

Jim S said...

I can forgive Dana. She's just a kid. But I really hate Carrie. Her obsession with Brody resulted in the violation of his civil rights. That fact that she was right was based on editorial caveat, not good police work. They found out through a captured video.

Then her obsession has her sleeping with him, and then covering up his very active role in the death of the VP. If Carrie had done her job, he would have been locked up and terrorists wouldn't have to use his car to blow up the CIA. (Don't get me started on how you just can't park your car in front of a federal building.) And then she helps him escape, again messing up the CIA.

Whenever I read that the CIA is throwing her under the bus, I keep saying how? Everything they've said about her is true. Her actions have directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans through acts of terrorism.

This latest twist in plot doesn't let her off the hook. She's still lying about her role in what happened and she's still not copping to how she let Brody escape. I am getting very tired of this how.

At least Justified is coming back. That show has never let me down.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Like sands through the hourglass...so run the days of our farbisinnas.

Anonymous said...

Stop claiming to speak for America Levine. I like Dana and I like her storyline. Homeland is no more exaggerated than your blog post. Carrie is a little tedious but they were trying to sell last nights' plot twist. Every show could be improved. I do however hate the major and wish they killed him and kept the black assassin from season one.

Jeffro said...

"Elisha Cuthbent"

Haha, Ken! As Scottie "Hartnell Down" Hartnell would say, "Suck it, Phaneuf!"

(Caveat: Probably only NHL fans would get this comment.)

Jeffro said...

And speaking of The Good Wife, I do have a niggle with it so far this season, albeit a minor one (the redundancy is intentional). It's the annoyingly anonymous iTunes-found song they've been playing once or twice per episode. It's almost as if they're trying too hard to be hip—so much that I'm thinking about turning on the CC and hitting the mute button when it happens. The show is good enough that it doesn't need this gimmick.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I think the rot set in long before this season: season 2 was pretty nonsensical. I have real problems with Carrie and Brody as a doomed romance: yes, yes, damaged people, yes, yes, smart women who fall in love with utterly unsuitable men. But there have to be *some* limits to that, and I guess mine is that a character who is so passionate about protecting the US and is some kind of genius spymaster simply would not engage in this particular romantic fantasy. And if she does, she's too damaged/crazy to stay in her job.

That said, I don't actually mind Dana. But I wonder if the show would have had an easier time if it had stuck more closely to the original material, the Israeli series PRISONERS OF WAR, which followed two returned prisoners and their families, not one. They'd have had more to work with, anyway.

wg

MikeBo said...

Ken,
I love it when you criticize. You use each word of Yiddish at your command like a meat axe. I conjure up a vision of a bunch of network "suits" schmoozing over coffee and commenting on your reviews and can't help comparing them to the "bean counters' that ruined radio and TV News. For me, a day without "Lah Vine" is like a day without sunshine.

RK said...

I could not agree more. I Tivo'd the episode and fast forward when princess whine appears.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I'll have to disagree, Ken.

No, Dana is not one of my favorite characters, but not a character I could possibly hate, given her situation.

Every time a group of viewers start hating on teenage characters everybody else jumps on that bandwagon. Therefore, I'm calling BS on the whole Dana argument you just presented.

The third episode of HOMELAND had what I consider to be one of the central aspects of drama writing. When the central characters are placed into dire circumstances with no hope of getting out, you're doing something right.

For years I've hoped they'd spend an entire season of 24 with Jack imprisoned on a foreign country. They skip over the whole China deal. Howard and Alex were gutsy enough to deal with this scenario directly on HOMELAND, through Brody on Caracas (brilliantly written by the late Henry Bromell, I might add).

The situation for both Carrie and Brody were natural outgrowths from being implicated on last season's terrorist bombing. They're paying the price with their sanity.

And to @Jim S:

As for Carrie, her obsession is what defines her character. If she didn't have major flaws, she wouldn't be interesting, especially given it's her flaws that push the whole premise forward.

And characters make mistakes, and now she's paying the price.

Aaron Sheckley said...

How long did you have to search for those three particular photos? I've never even seen Homeland, but those three pictures make me want to smack the character. If her appearances generate that sort of visceral response in me, then I can empathize with the dislike of someone who has to watch her week after week.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I have to watch as Morena is pregnant and her assets are amazing. Also fun to watch her hide her stomach.

Hamid said...

We're a week behind in the UK, so can't comment on the latest episode, but something that bugged me about last week's episode was the sudden injection of political correctness with the imam of the local mosque calling the cops on Brody and telling him "You're not a muslim. You're a terrorist". Does anyone really believe that would happen in reality? There has never been a case of a muslim terrorist being reported to authorities by members of their own community. It just seemed contrived in order to appease any potential criticism.

Dana's nowhere near as irritating as Carrie has become. Jim S hit the nail on the head. Carrie has repeatedly violated rules and laws, much of it because of her ridiculous love for Brody. I know that's there for drama but I can't believe an agent would be so unprofessional as to sleep with a suspected terrorist, then exonerate him in the assassination of the VP, and then help him flee the country!

That said, I'll still watch it as I loved the previous seasons and I'm hoping for some twists and surprises.

ODJennings said...

What about Brody and the heroin?

"Here, have some heroin."

"Thank you, but I don't want any heroin."

"Well, I'll leave it here in case you change your mind."

"Oh OK, If you insist, I don't mean to be rude. I guess I'll become a heroin addict."

Rich said...

Dana is annoying but Carrie is worse. The whole Carrie/Brody relationship is freaking ridiculous. Besides, for some reason it isn't even believable and seems contrived. She is also a traitor for not doing her job and turning in Brody for the MURDER of the second highest position in the US. Dana needs to grow up but Carrie needs to be committed.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Homeland is the first season was so good they couldn't imagine not using Brody again. Now, the actor is great. He was great on Life. But his arc and the story should have been one season only. Second season should have been another stand-alone story. They turned a brilliant TV novel into a soap. Oh, and Ken, your Captcha is still nearly impossible to make out. Can't you find another way not to let robomonkeys or whatever spam you?

Gordon said...

don't watch Homeland... never watched most of the shows everyone else loves.

But I sincerely DOUBT anyone could be more irritating than Flo from Progressive. If that company offered me free insurance I wouldn't take it because of her.... and her odious wig.

Bob Claster said...

Totally disagree. I think the actress playing Dana is so good that the irrelevance of her story line is almost... irrelevant. I can't take my eyes off her, and think she's amazing. I wish I could buy stock in her, she's got a great career ahead, I think. Funnier, to me, was, at least in the first two seasons, how amazingly inane the son's lines are. My favorite being, when they're taken to the safe house, "Hey, Mom, they've got cable!"

chuckcd said...

Sounds like they should kill the character off.
Now there is a real surprise.

gottacook said...

Yes, the new episodes of The Good Wife have been compelling, but for more than a week I've seen ads for the next episode (10/27) calling it the biggest episode of the season, so by CBS' own admission (or so it seems) it's all downhill from there.

basura said...

That middle picture reminded me of a pale David Ortiz

Rich

Darren said...

The Israeli show on which Homeland is based, Prisoners of War, is so much better and worth anyone's time:

http://www.hulu.com/prisoners-of-war

It's the book > movie analogy x 100.

Nishika Kumble said...

I am a daily reader and I almost never comment but I completely agree here! I detest, and have for the prior two seasons detested, Dana with a passion in my heart. Imagine my disappointment to find that she actually failed in her suicide attempt.

GC said...

The character i hate the most is Walden Schmidt (2.5 Men). I stopped watching the show because of him. I have nothing against Ashton Kutcher, i am not attracted to Demi Moore or Mila Kunis... Ok, seriously, i just didn't buy the character's storyline.

Anonymous said...

This was obvious as the second season ended. really, you think they would have a third season planned?

Mike said...

So now you hate Ted Cruz who had the best interests of Americans at heart. Millions are seeing their health insurance taken away or their premiums double, and many more jobs are being switched to part-time less than 30 hours only because of ObamaCare, and somehow Ted Cruz is the bad guy.

R's Woman said...

Ken, I'm with @Eduardo...

So many folks since season 2 jumping on the hating-Dana bandwagon.. bordering on frenzy. Leave the girl alone.

For me the show is actually getting more interesting... moving away from the cat and mouse twists and turns to being a bit more nuanced... exploring what it's like for Brody's family, specifically his daughter, in this crazy aftermath, and also exploring Carrie and Brody's coming close to insanity - in the case of Carrie last night, what it must mean to truly be a spy... to the point where you live the pretense so intensely, you lose your sense of self, and then reality and pretend merge.

The show has always required one to suspend belief a bit, but I think this season's storytelling is now demanding more patience of viewers, and I like it.

R's Woman said...

Ken, I'm with @Eduardo...

So many folks since season 2 jumping on the hating-Dana bandwagon.. bordering on frenzy. Leave the girl alone.

For me the show is actually getting more interesting... moving away from the cat and mouse twists and turns to being a bit more nuanced... exploring what it's like for Brody's family, specifically his daughter, in this crazy aftermath, and also exploring Carrie and Brody's coming close to insanity - in the case of Carrie last night, what it must mean to truly be a spy... to the point where you live the pretense so intensely, you lose your sense of self, and then reality and pretend merge.

The show has always required one to suspend belief a bit, but I think this season's storytelling is now demanding more patience of viewers, and I like it.

Marty Fufkin said...

I'm not on side with you on this one. I have a lot of problems with Homeland -- one problem is that I'm hooked on the show even though I hate it. But Dana is, in a way, the moral center of the show, at least in this season (where Saul seems to have gone to the dark side). What I like about Dana is that she's the most "real" person in the show, perhaps the one innocent vicim among all the show's characters. Her portrayal of a girl struggling for a normal life in the eye of horrific circumstances is quite affecting. And the young actress is a standout.

As for annoying characters, I was sincerely disappointed when Brody didn't blow up the suicide vest in Season 1. I was desperate to see him gone, and for the show to develop a new plot for the next season. But no. He's still there, ham acting and all.

Storm said...

I don't watch "Homeland", so I have no idea who/what all you guys are talking about. I'm just happy as hell to FINALLY get the joke behind the name of the character "Frau Farbissina" in the "Austin Powers" movies!

A sheynem dank!

Storm

Terrence Moss said...

Mike, Ted Cruz is a politician. He has HIS best interests at heart but calls them America's.

And you can't blame ObamaCare when corporations are simply capitalizing on the controversy surrounding it to save money at the expense of their minimum-wage employees.

I found last season's explosion terribly disturbing. We need more family dramas on the air.

ryan said...

Hi Ken, I don't know if you answer comments - I am curious to hear from a professional/expert (instead of people outside looking in) WHY a show like Homeland can be SO good for 2 (1.5ish) seasons and then go off the rails so dramatically? Is it losing a key writer? Did they get research that said they needed more X or Y? It's clear WHAT you think is wrong but why does it happen, and specifically why with Homeland? Thanks for the Blog and your perspective!

Charles H. Bryan said...

Finding Matt Lauer is easy. He's at the other end of the knife that's stuck in Ann Curry's back.

Ken, this post makes me think of a question: How do actors deal with playing a hated character? Particularly when the actor perhaps wasn't well known before the part and becomes identified with someone despicable. Are there occasions when the writers sort of hate (or resent having to include) a character and make the character even more hateable (perhaps even unintentionally)?

Myrna said...

I suspect that the focus on Dana is for a reason. A possibility: Dana is kidnapped, which causes Brody to risk everything and come out of hiding to bring her home. He saves his family, but he is killed. And the family learns he was not responsible for bombing CIA headquarters.

Opollock said...

There has never been a case of a muslim terrorist being reported to authorities by members of their own community. It just seemed contrived in order to appease any potential criticism.
--------------
Hello Hamid,
I'm not sure if it was the case, the public will be aware of it anyway.
I don't know if it happened but if it had, i'm pretty sure it would'nt be documented. For protection purpose for once !
Just my opinion of course and I see your point anyway !

D. McEwan said...

"Mike,"

Ted Cruz is a self-serving, lying douchebag. He is NOT out to help anyone but himself. He IS a "bad guy," a very, very, very bad guy.

You've got to stop believing every lie you're told on Fox News. If you think Ted Cruz has your best interests at heart, or actually believe any of the bilge you wrote, you're a chump.