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Channel 4 …Is “Hostages” the new “Homeland”?

18 Jan

“Homeland” was a ratings winner can “Hostages” replace it?

Channel 4 got a ratings winner with the first season of Homeland, the second and third seasons also did relatively well and the lesson for the schedulers at Channel 4 was that a strong US drama has the potential to be winner in the prime time 9 pm weekend slot.

Step forward Hostages, the new Saturday night US drama on Channel 4. The series debuted last Saturday starring Toni Collette as Surgeon Dr Ellen Saunders, who was to undertake a surgery on the President of the United States. In a bit of politicking the President had decided to have his surgery done in a normal public hospital where Dr Saunders worked, rather than using the ultra secure facilities available to the most powerful man in the world.

We are also introduced to FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle (“Dylan McDermott“). Now his role is pivotal to Hostages and he is initially shown to us as all action good guy, foiling a bank robbery. Soon after the drama turns dark as Dr Ellen Saunders suffers a home invasion and as her family are held hostage, she is told she needs to kill the President by botching the Surgery scheduled for the next day otherwise her family will be killed. The leader of the home invaders being none other than FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle.

Has he gone renegade? Why doesn’t Dr Saunders contact the Secret Service? How will the plot keep us engaged for all full series? We shall no doubt find out.

Channel 4…Brody is dead. Where does Homeland go from here?

23 Dec

Yesterday we witnessed the shocking finale to the Homeland season 3.

We witnessed the demise of Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), hero, anti-hero, Al Qaeda terrorist, CIA double agent and family man, the man around whom the entire three seasons of Homeland had been written. From the “was he, wasn’t he a terrorist” in season 1, to the Congressman turned double agent in season 2, and it all came to a head in season 3.

In the final episode his fate is sealed when  incoming CIA Director Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts)  intervenes and overrides the rescue operation put together by Saul (Mandy Pantinkin), Lockhart did this ostensibly to save the newly recruited “asset” Iranian intelligence office Javadi (Shaun Toub), but also Brody returning to the US would give rise to too questions better left unasked.

So far away in Iran at the crack of dawn on the outskirts of Tehran,  Brody is taken out before a mob of braying Iranians and hung to death, dangling from a rope tied to a construction crane. With his death the main storyline that has links all three series ends.

We know there is a  season 4 coming in 2014, but what can it offer. There is almost certainly  no Brody, although the internet is awash with rumours suggesting that he may have somehow survived his hanging, and will be back. Personally I doubt that, I think Season 3 which featured many episodes without Brodie, purposely moved us away from the dying embers of the original stroyline to a new focus of what is becoming a CIA procedural drama.

If Brodie’s gone it is likely so will his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), his son (Jackson Pace) and Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) his Marine Buddy and any other characters only close to the Brody storyline.

Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) went a while a go so we are left with no more prime time baddies from the three seasons, and we never got to find out who was the CIA mole.

We still have Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) and Saul and all indications is that the new season will be built around them.

Essentially the whole programme is set up for what is typically referred to in the US as a re-boot. An opportunity to reshape the whole focus and dynamics of the programme.  The danger is if it just becomes another procedural drama without a compelling story it could be the beginning of a gradual ratings slump.

Links
Relive the drama with the Homeland – Season 1-2 on DVD and Homeland – Season 3 on DVD from Amazon.co.uk

 

Channel 4…Is Homeland Season 3 finally taking off

3 Nov

Homeland Season 3 has struggled. The main bogey-man from the first two seasons, Abu Nazir, is gone and Brody is faraway in Caracas, Venezuela. It has been left to Carrie and Saul to provide the suspense and drama that season 3 desperately needs.

Carrie it seemed was being hung out dry by the CIA over her relationship with Brody. Saul had apparently washed his hands of her, and was determined to have her permanently detained in a mental institution as her trademark erratic behaviour appeared to worsen.

Just when we start to think where was this all going, the story took a dramatic turn. Carrie, it became clear had all along been undercover with Saul’s approval. The plan to make her made a pariah was an elaborate hoax to get people representing Iranian interests to contact her on the basis that she was now vulnerable and isolated, and she had information they needed.

It worked, contact was made. It seemed however it may have worked a bit too well as the Iranians seem somewhat eager to speak to Carrie. So much so in last night’s episode they kidnapped her at night from the flat. Once more Carrie is “out in the wild” and in real danger.

Saul meanwhile was fighting his own battles, battles of a more political nature. After the Langley bombing in Season 2 he had ended being the most likely man to head the CIA going forward, but was outmaneuvered as the President handed the position to a man who sees less of a benefit in human intelligence and more reliance on technology, a view Saul thinks is madness. The appointment clearly put Saul’s career in jeopardy.

Now that we are done with the seemingly pointless distraction of Dana Brody running away with her boyfriend, all the main pieces of season 3 are falling into place. The Iranians are in town and mean business, Carrie is out in the wild with only her skill to rely on, Saul is one again at odds with the powers that be but still needs to protect his people. Folks, Homeland Season 3 has finally got its groove back.

Homeland Season 2 Finale…1 Brit Down 2 Left Standing

25 Dec
Homeland (TV series)

Homeland (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a problem there is now a huge void in my Sunday night’s TV schedule and I am not sure it is going to be filled anytime soon, as  it is going to take something big to fill it.

Yes Homeland Season 2 came to an explosive finale on Sunday and when I say explosive I mean both literally and figuratively. 200 dead and the CIA headquarters in Langley blown apart. Abu Nazir’s wrath reached out from the grave and wrecked annihilation. Did this explosive end redeem Season 2?

After all the plaudits and accolades Homeland gathered in the first season, there was a lot to live up to in Season 2. In my opinion it struggled a bit particularly in the middle. Not because it was was not  great TV, it just that season one was stupendously great and often a great first season is very difficult to beat.

Brody’s suicide bomber plot to kill the Vice President had been uncovered and that pretty much killed off a major plot line and the question was where would it go from there.  There were many sub plots left but none of them alone with enough substance to drive a third season except maybe the mole and that is just what seemed to have happened.

Right from Season one we knew there was a leak in the agency, that deep in the Agency there was a ‘third man’ or men .  Who could be

Galvez -The ‘Muslim’ CIA operative, pretty much always under suspicion by people on the programme. He was fingered as a mole by Carrie when it was thought Abu Nazir has escaped but he would be the obvious answer and would be too pat an ending.

Carrie – Bipolar, scatty and at at times maddeningly irrational. Could she be the mole and she doesn’t even realise it, some sort of split personality manifesting itself as the antithesis of what she stands for?  It would be a big reach, but in the last episode she would have been in a position to move Brody’s car, and seemed to encourage them to leave the hall before the bomb went off.

Saul – It seem’s he is becoming the people’s choice for the Mole. His prayers for the dead at the end of the last episode sent social media into a frenzy as people assumed it was an arabic prayer (it was hebrew), but even if that was a red herring there is still the failed lie detector test from season one. I don’t know if it can be him, he just seems to reliable.

Estes – A mole deep in the top echelons of the CIA. That would hav been a massive coup. There is one problem he is dead and unless the mole plot line ended in season 2 it is unlikely. On a side note we have lost the first of the three Brits on Homeland in Estes (David Hartland). He will be taking Homeland Questions and Answers on his twitter feed on the 26th (https://twitter.com/DavidHarewood)

Quinn – The third Brit (Rupert Friend) in the Mix (alongside Brody and Estes). We all know Hollywood loves its bad guys to be Brits so that’s one thing that swings it in his favour. He is black ops specialist and his past has been kept very quiet. He works for  Dar Adul. Who is he?  Are Quinn and Adul some sort of unit that has gone rogue? Plausible but is it possible?

Whoever it is we know they are able to penetrate America’s most secure facilities and wreck havoc.  Interestingly using Brody’s car to move the bomb pulled him right make into the picture just when he thought his life was all coming together (shades of Arlignton Road there). To compound matters Brody’s suicide tape has been released to the media.

All this gave the end season 2 the massive talking point it needed and redeemed the season while laying the ground for a new season, but in my mind changes the essence of the show.

Brody is permanently tainted and threat to America is now well and truly on home soil turning the programme into a mix of  The Fugitve and 24.

Season 3 is going to be more of a challenge for the writers than the last two seasons, but for me I am still in.

Channel 4…Has Homeland hit a Nadir after the demise of Abu Nazir

19 Dec
Homeland (TV series)

Homeland (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homeland’s latest season comes to an end on Channel 4 next week Sunday. Season 2 has been good but has struggled to maintain the same level of intense suspense you got with Season 1.

It was always going to be a struggle. The central and the most intriguing question about Brody “Was he or wasn’t he a terrorist” was largely answered at the end of the first season.

With Season 2 we got to know a bit more detail. We know that the CIA know what Brody was up to. We know Carrie Mathison struggles with her bipolar disorder but despite her increasingly erratic, slightly incredulous, bulging eyed almost maniacal behavior she still delivers when it really matters.

Most of all we know the main protagonist of the two series, Abu Nazir has been found and killed. Although I am still unclear as to why he came to the USA in the first place.

What we have left are the sub plots of Brody’s marriage breakdown, Estes trying to get Saul kicked out of the Agency, Peter Quinn plotting to kill Brody, and who the hell was the Mole?

Will these sub-plots be enough to sustain a third season or will the final programme of season two sow the seeds of a whole new plot line to drive it forward?

It is a tricky situation because the programme has been sustained based on a central theme around Brody. This seems pretty much used up. How they close of Season two will be a big pointer as to whether Homeland goes on for several more seasons or bids us bye after a great Season 1 and good Season 2.

More 4′s best kept secret….Southland

9 Dec

Some of the greatest TV shows over the ages have been Police Dramas  ”Cop Shows”.  The shows strength come for the vast artistic landscape available to them spanning gritty urban decay to the rarefied procedural depths of the court system, out of which an array of award winning shows have been brought to our TV.

From the critically acclaimed “The Wire” and the gritty ambiguity of “The Shield”, through to home grown favorites like the ground breaking 70′s series “The Sweeney”, Lynda La Plante’s phenomenal “Prime Suspect” and more recently the “Life on Mars”.

This pipeline of great shows is not showing any sign of drying up if the latest export from the USA to his our screens, Southland, is anything to go by.

Southland is in its fourth season on More 4, and has been worth every single second of the time I have spent watching it. In the USA it has had a somewhat troubled production history. Originally a show the NBC network it was dropped before being given a lifeline by cable network station TNT at the end of the first season.

Season one, two and three were defined by its uber-realism and focus of the show not being on any particular character, but rather the cast as a whole. This produced some incredible episodes, none more so than the “Code 4″ episode. It showed us the raw emotion of how a police officer deals with the death of his partner, and the lingering guilt that comes with it.

 

The smaller budgets of TNT have meant the cast has reduced and the show has moved more to a character led format with Regina King “Detective Lydia Adams”, Michael Culditz “Officer John Cooper” and Benjamin McKenzie “Officer Ben Sherman” emerging as the main protagonists. The show may have become smaller and less gritty but has lost nothing of its entertainment value.

For anyone out there that loves a good Cop drama I can’t recommend Southland enough. It definitely deserves a bigger audience!

In Homeland there is no Movember for Abu Nazir!

26 Nov

In the much missed comedy series “The Fast Show” the character Swiss Tony was famous for comparing any situation he found himself as like “making love to a beautiful woman”. I was going to use that analogy to qualify how much I loved Homeland but like Swiss Tony I would simply not be making any sense. It is probably enough to say I do really like it.

I noticed that I have been getting a lot of folk from the US on my previous posts about Homeland. Just a note to say that the here in the UK we are running a week behind so my observations and comments on homeland are effectively at least a week old as far as you guys are concerned.

Back to the show. A few weeks ago I contemplated whether Homeland had jumped the shark, there was the massacre of the CIA agents and the sub plot with the Vice President’s son’s hit and run accident and Brody being turned. Where was it going go from there? Where was the suspense going to come from? Well I should apologise it hasn’t jumped the shark and I think I jumped the gun on that one.

This week we got an insight into where the series might be going. We see Brody weighed down by the pressure of being a double agent and the stress it is causing him, and his relationship with his family particularly his wife and daughter. As the stress becomes unbearable  he snaps and is prepared to damn the consequences and walk away from the deal he had with the CIA, only the timely intervention by Carrie using all the assets at her disposal to persuade him to stay the course.

However she made have acted too late as it seems his handler Roya had already become suspicious of Brody’s loyalty, this sets in motion a chain events which sees Brodie snatched from an open field in the countryside late at night bundled into a helicopter and flown to some destination unknown.

There he comes  face to face with man at the centre of all his travails, and the only adult in the whole programme who does not refer to him by his surname and that includes his wife. The man is Abu Nazir and he was clean-shaven, obviously not quite got the Movember idea.

JR Ewing has left the building…RIP to Larry Hagman

25 Nov

The eighties would not have been the eighties without Dallas, and Dallas would not have been Dallas without Larry Hagman. Yesterday Larry Hagman lost his battle with cancer and passed away aged 81.

Channel 4…Did Homeland “Jump the shark” yesterday?

12 Nov

Do you remember any of the following

  • When you found out in Heroes that Sylar somehow hadn’t died at the beginning of Season 2
  • In Only Fools and Horses, after Del Boy, Rodney and Grand dad finally became millionaires and then in the next programme had lost it!
  • When Who Wants To Be A Millionaire became a series of endless specials. Husbands and Wives, Mothers and Sons, Celebs, Bosses and Chauffeurs etc…

They are arguably the points at which great shows should have come to a dignified end but refused and ended like the proverbial Grand dad still strutting his stuff at a night club with kids who weren’t born when he qualified for a free bus pass.

Homeland has been a great show, but the lingering question after the Season One reveal was how will they keep the suspense and drama going. We all know knew what Sgt Brody was up to, granted there were still some unanswered questions like, the Mole and why he did it.

This season things have moved on a pace, and a gripping one at that. The CIA found out what Brody been up to, and he’s been turned.  Suddenly the most the remaining underlying uncertainty that propelled the show was rapidly fizzing away, where the taut, tense drama going to come from.

In yesterday’s episode Brody gave up the location the workshop of the tailor who provided the suicide vest to the CIA. He had also made contact with the reporter Royya Hammad (his intermediary to Abu Nazir) while wearing a wire and she had revealed that there was something of interest in the tailor’s workshop. Royya Hammad was latter followed and seen in discussion with a man with a vaguely middle eastern look, whom CIA tried to follow him but lost.

These three sub plots all come together to provide the subtext to the dramatic, unexpected, incredible and arguably  implausible (by Homeland standards) end to yesterday’s episode.

As the CIA agents were searching the Tailor’s shop a number of men dressed in SWAT type body armour and sub machine guns burst in and in the resultant gun fire all the CIA men were shot dead and the invaders retrieved a large case from behind  false  wall and escaped. One of the invaders was revealed to be the man Royya had been talking to.

That many agent killed at one go in a small town. It almost seems gratuitous violence to reboot the show – a “shark jumping” moment, psychological tension replaced by formulaic violence. We will only really know when we see how they follow on next week if this is a real change in the show’s direction.

Just as Person of Interest gets really interesting, it’s gone!

16 Oct

I have already nailed my flag to the post on this one, I really like Person of Interest. I initially loved it because the show took its dramatic licence jumped into a Ferrari and stretched it to its max. I don’t mind a show doing that, as long as it is not pretending to be anything other than what it is.

The plot was interesting but formulaic, but in the last two episodes it has taken an interesting turn and veered away from the formulaic. Mr Reese who has all along been the hunter, suddenly in a dramatic turn of events has become the hunted. The CIA, his former employers, wants him and it seems they prefer dead rather than alive.

At the end of tonight’s episode he was caught in a trap by the CIA and only a last minute rescue by Mr Finch and, in a last minute change of heart, Detective Carter saved him from being taken out by the folk from Langley.

This set the show up for some very interesting forthcoming episodes. What does Channel 5 go and do? They decide to take a “mid-season” break till January. January!!! What a way to kill momentum.

Trivia of the day: James Caviezel who plays Mr Reese in this show, also played Jesus in the Passion of Christ, probably explains a lot of the miraculous escapes in earlier episodes.