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Tag Archive: Homeland


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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

With Burn Notice over and Homeland confined to premium viewing only, basic cable’s best hope for a weekly spy drama fix may be TNT’s new series Legends.  Un-gripping title aside, this new Sean Bean vehicle shows surprising promise.  Although it follows the cliché template for every crime drama of the last ten years (eccentric male expert and his younger female law enforcement handler), the format is elevated by familiar actors and an intriguing added premise.

Based on Robert Littell’s Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation, Legends the series follows Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Patriot Games, National Treasure, GoldenEye, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sharpe series) as undercover FBI agent Martin Odum, the “most naturally gifted undercover operative” in the US arsenal.  Bean himself seems naturally gifted for the role, easing eerily between his “legend,” or cover identity, and his real self, donning accents, hairstyles, and costumes with Mission Impossible-style finesse.  But the ultimate deception may be on Odum himself–according to a shadowy figure with Manchurian Candidate overtones, Odum may not really be Odum.  Martin’s “real” life may be nothing more than just another legend.

Larter in Legends

Bean’s performance is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, including Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), Steve Harris (Awake, Minority Report), and Tina Majorino (True Blood, Veronica Mars, Corinna, Corinna, Waterworld, Andre), although we’re hoping Larter and Majorino aren’t getting typecast–Larter already stripping as she did in Heroes and Majorino as the same tech nerd we’ve seen her play so well and so often.

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Argo film about a film wins Best Motion Picture Golden Globe 2013

It probably makes sense that the Golden Globes allows for more genre win opportunities than the more drama-oriented Academy Awards.  Still, the Globes didn’t go as far as they could with the best of what is on TV and in movies.  Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield not winning in the comedy categories for New Girl is a big miss.  Kevin Costner is a great actor but I don’t see how anyone was a better actor on TV or film this year than Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock.  Fans of genre fave show The Big Bang Theory will be bummed to see that show slighted for best comedy series.  The BBC’s drama The Hour was the best of television for the past two years so there is another miss.

So here is what they got right:

Argo as Best Film.  Check.

Ben Affleck as Best Director for Argo.  Check.

Brave as Best Animated Film.  Check.

Adele for Best Original Song for Skyfall.  Check.

Quentin Tarentino for Best Screenplay for Django Unchained.  Check.

Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained.  Check.

Brave wins Best Animated Film Golden Globe 2013

Although we’re having a hard time getting excited about Homeland‘s slow building second season after its great first season (but we plan to be caught up soon), it’s great to see Homeland lead the TV awards with best drama and acting nods for the always great acting of Daniel Lewis and Claire Danes.

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If you missed Season One of Showtime’s TV series Homeland, now is a good time to catch up, as Season 2 begins September 30, 2012.  I didn’t watch Homeland until the season wrapped, but once I started, it was really hard to walk away.  It’s nothing like anything I normally like–it’s a real-life drama, which usually I find boring and not “escapist” enough for me.  But tight writing and good actors made this one stand out.  Like Django Unchained this year, Homeland was last year’s biggest promoted new thing at Comic-Con–its banners were almost billboard sized and could be found everywhere you looked.  Why promote something that is not “genre” at Comic-Con then?  I think it goes back to the actors.

The lead is Damian Lewis, star of the short-lived but brilliant two-year series Life, where he co-starred with Sarah Shahi, who went on to star in USA Network’s successful series Fairly Legal.  Lewis is British, but you wouldn’t know it from his roles in Life or Homeland.  In Life he was a cop wrongly convicted of a crime and jailed for it, to later get off and come back to the force after winning a giant settlement against the state.  In Homeland, he is an American soldier held captive in war in the Middle East.  In captivity he converted to Islam, and when he returns to the States he is a hero, but was he “turned” to become a double agent?  We find out answers to several questions in Season One.

His co-star is the award-winning actress Claire Danes (Stardust, Terminator 3, Princess Mononoke, Shopgirl), who is brilliant as a CIA agent who is tracking a message from an informant that she believes points to Lewis’s character as a spy.  She is a mess.  She has a mental disorder that she takes medicine for and this contributes to what may be paranoia or an incredible insight into the reality of what is happening.  She uses illegal and uncommon methods to make her case, which land her out of the system and left to sign up for electric shock therapy to try to repair herself.

Then you get to the two key supporting actors.  None other than Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin (Alien Nation, Castle in the Sky) plays Danes’s character’s boss, who looks after her but only so far, has his own life problems by being overly devoted to his job, and commits a strange and unthinkable act toward the end of Season One.  Firefly’s own Morena Baccarin (V, Stargate SG-1, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League) plays Lewis’s character’s wife, who waited for her MIA husband to return before becoming romantically involved with his best friend, leading to much of the conflict at home for Lewis’s character.

So the actors alone–familiar in several ways to genre fans–are enough to give Homeland a try.  Once you do, you will probably get hooked, too.  And if you don’t believe me, trust Jonathan Frakes, who recently commented that he and his wife get excited about each episode of the series.

Here is a brief trailer for Season Two of Homeland, released by Showtime (the original version was pulled by Showtime from YouTube for some reason):

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

When she last left us at the end of last season’s finale of the USA Network TV series Fairly Legal, Sarah Shahi’s character Kate Reed shouted defiantly “I’ll be back!” challenging the network to not renew for another season.  Luckily for all of us, she was right, as the series continues Friday, March 16.

Fairly Legal was a great series all season long last year, and here are 5 reasons why you should catch up on episodes online or on demand and get ready for the season two premiere:

(1) Sarah Shahi.  So many actors and actresses get boring over the course of a weekly TV series.  Likely the brutal production schedules wear people down, especially for leading roles such as the one Shahi plays as lawyer Kate Reed where Shahi is in pretty much every minute of production.  This often makes it to the screen.  Not so for Sarah Shahi.  She is like a bottle of pure energy.  She has an infectious smile and sells the role as a put-upon, modern lawyer trying to juggle professional duties and private life in the modern world.  If you want to see Shahi in another great series, check out the two seasons of Life, co-starring the brilliant Homeland star Damian Lewis.

(2) Gerald McRaney.  Not since he starred in Simon & Simon has McRaney played such a likeable character as his decidedly unlikeable Judge David Nicastro. McRaney drove Kate relentlessly through the first season not for the sake of keeping Kate in line, but to bring out her best.  McRaney’s Judge is very real–practical in his needs and not the textbook black and white executioner type that appears in so many legal dramas.

(3) Good writing.  Kate Reed is probably the most realistic depiction of a working lawyer that has ever appeared on a TV legal drama.  Unlike district attorneys Jack McCoy and Ben Stone from the original Law and Order, who, to be sure, were characters that all lawyers aspire to, Kate doesn’t deliver perfect advice her first time out.  She does not come off as polished.  She deals with hostile conditions.  She has to be both juggler, policeman, and fire fighter.  And that means prioritizing, and like most lawyers she over-commits her time, resulting in the need to make quick decisions.  Kate illustrates that the number one of job of any lawyer is problem solving, and like most real lawyers, she doesn’t spend the day arguing in court, but instead trying to settle disputes, attempting always to reach the coveted “win-win.”

(4) San Francisco.  Let’s face it, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities to film a TV series.  Over the years countless stories have been filmed there, including Bullitt, Streets of San Francisco, Dirty Harry, Monk, Sneakers, Star Trek IV, Vertigo, and So I Married an Axe Murderer, and the bustling but sunny and vibrant downtown with iconic filming locations make San Francisco come off as not a big city full of dangers, but a place you can see Kate making her mark.

(5) Supporting cast.  If you are a fan of the reboot Battlestar Galactica, you will remember actor Michael Trucco, who plays Kate’s on again-off again husband on Fairly Legal.  He plays the typical lawyer you’d see in any other legal drama, which, in contrast to Kate, allows us to see how exceptional her skills really are.  Baron Vaughn’s character Leonardo Prince is Kate’s also-put-upon assistant.  He is hilarious as a legal assistant who behind the scenes is a big pop culture junkie, and over the course of the first season showed that Kate, even as chaotic as she seems, may very well be a good mentor.

So what’s the series all about?  Kate Reed’s father died, living his law firm to Kate and his second wife, Lauren, played icily by Virginia Williams.  Kate decided not to be a traditional lawyer, but instead be a mediator–here a lawyer hired by two parties to a dispute to resolve their differences, much like a dual agent.  Kate and Lauren barely tolerate each other, and Lauren actually fires Kate from the firm at the end of season one.  Once Kate takes a case she is fiercely passionate and is willing to tear up her own personal life to get to a happy result for her disputing clients.  In one superbly crafted scene last season, Kate encounters a bicyclist and a taxi driver in an altercation.  Although she is a mere bystander, she bends the world to fit her logic, practically strong-arming both of them to resolve their differences and move along.  And she lives on a boat.

Fairly Legal airs this spring along with the equally brilliant In Plain Sight Friday nights on USA Network.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com