Critics Pick Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ as Fall TV Home Run

by | October 1, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Fall TV Preview 2011, Homeland

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes star in Homeland (Showtime)

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes star in Homeland (Showtime)

Riveting.

Thrilling.

Gripping.

Politically resonant.

Emotionally wrenching.

The reviews are in. Showtime’s new thriller, “Homeland,” is a home run. New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley calls the series “impossible to resist.” Why? Because Claire Danes is a wonder as Carrie Anderson, a CIA agent who becomes convinced a recently rescued American POW (Damian Lewis) has been turned by his Middle Eastern captors. And because Lewis’ nuanced performance as Sgt. Nicholas Brody makes you question the very definition of the word trust itself. And because the slow burning, high intensity post-”24“-era terrorism drama – co-starring Mandy Patinkin as Carrie’s mentor and Morena Baccarin as Brody’s world weary wife – is a perfect storm of excellent writing, pacing, acting and storytelling. What’s not to love? Below, the cast and executive producers offer five things you need to know before “Homeland’s” Sunday premiere (10/9c).

WATCH THE EARLY PREMIERE BELOW:

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Cinematic Experience: Every moment of the pilot feels like “Homeland” could easily be geared for the silver screen. So why turn it into a series? Executive producer Alex Gansa (“24″) says, “One of the things that movies can’t do is offer stories like this the breadth and scope that they deserve. In other words, in a couple hours you can’t really tell the complexities and grayness and just the breadth of a story about terrorism. It can’t be handled effectively in the short time frame of a movie. But over the episodes of a series, you really get a chance to explore and just delve into all the different areas of intelligence and terrorism and the issues that are facing the country right now about America projecting its power overseas, about warriors coming home from the battlefield, back home. And you just get a chance to tell a bigger, fuller story.”

Fortuitous Timing: Set 10 years after 9/11 in a post-bin Laden era, the show feels like everything came together for a reason.  Offers executive producer Howard Gordon (“24″), “It is just a confluence of events. It turns out to be quite fortuitous, as are a number of other things that seem to, I think, affect the way this show is going to be viewed. Osama bin Laden was killed when we were on Episode 2, eerily like the scene of Damian’s rescue. The Arab Spring. So a lot of the issues, you know, this sort of collision of the war on terror and the two wars we find ourselves in…A story has not been told about what’s the price of 9/11 to this country. And this show is very much in the wake of, you know of 9/11, but ten years later. This is after Abu Ghraib, after Guantanamo, after the prosecution of two wars of questionable merit. So and the price to this country of our of what happened to us ten years ago. So the timing of it, I think, is significant, accidental, and fortuitous.”

The Danes Connection: Claire Danes returns to the small screen for the first time since her “My So-Called Life” debut in a role that couldn’t be more opposite from the quiet, brooding Angela Chase. In the outspoken Carrie, Danes has a character rife with uncertainty – and a serious psychological condition. Danes says what attracted her to the role was the fact that Carrie is “incredibly bright, at times dangerously bright, and formidable and focused, even compulsive, even myopic. But she’s also very, very sensitive and vulnerable. And that juxtaposition is interesting.” Danes also reveals a poignant connection to the character. “My first roommate in college was a CIA officer for a little while,” she says. “And she’s the most innocuous, benign person. So I was telling her that I was going to play this role. ‘I’m going to play a CIA officer, and she’s bipolar.’ And her immediate response was ‘Oh, she sounds very isolated. That’s a lonely character.’ And I was like, “Yep.” And she is. She’s on the outside, and it provides her this incredible perspective and incredible vantage point. But it also causes her suffering, and, you know, she needs to resolve that.”

The Brody-Carrie Parallel: Although both Brody and Carrie come from different worlds, as the series progresses you will see there are several mirrored similarities.  Says Gansa, “where we found this story more interesting is not sort of in the benefits that would accrue to Carrie whether or not she’s successful psychologically and professionally, but more of the collision of her character with Damian’s character — in other words, two people who both served in various capacities overseas, both who were damaged in some way by that experience. Claire’s character damaged more because of her own mental illness, Damian because of the experience, actually, he endured there, and these two people come back together in the United States and recognize something in each other. So it’s a cat and mouse game, but there’s also a real deep, sort of, connection and a recognition between the two of them, and that’s where we are kind of pushing the story.”

Questions, Resolved: Unlike the first season finale of  AMC thriller “The Killing,” which left viewers in a disappointed lurch filled with unanswered questions, Gordon promises the mystery behind Brody’s true intentions will be answered. “The first conversation we had with Damian and Claire, was how long can we keep the ‘is he or isn’t he’ of it alive without feeling like we’re jerking off the audience,” he says. “And I think we have found a really satisfying way to tell that story where this uncertainty is actually compelling. And the answer is that we hope that we have we answer those questions at the right time, we feel.”

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