RENEWED: ‘Homeland’ Picked up For A Second Season By Showtime

Here’s no real surprise, but Showtime has renewed their new, highly acclaimed, spy-thriller Homeland.  We gave it a perfect 100 out of 100 score.  Yeah… it’s that good.

Via Press Release:

SHOWTIME® ORDERS SEASON TWO OF HOMELAND

 

Network Greenlights Second Season of Its Highest Rated Freshman Drama Series Ever

Starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin

 

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – (October 26, 2011) – On the heels of HOMELAND’s biggest numbers yet, for this past Sunday’s airing, SHOWTIME has ordered a season two, consisting of 12 new one-hour episodes. The announcement was made today by David Nevins, President of Entertainment, Showtime Networks Inc.  Developed for American television by executive producers Howard Gordon andAlex Gansa, HOMELAND stars Emmy® Award winner Claire Danes, Golden Globe® nominee Damian Lewis and Emmy and Tony®Award winner Mandy Patinkin. HOMELAND debuted as the network’s highest-rated freshman drama series ever, generating 4.4 million viewers across platforms in its first week. The series has continued to increase overall viewership since its premiere, with its most recent episode delivering the series’ best ratings to-date this past Sunday.  Season two will begin production in spring 2012.

“HOMELAND is just getting started,” said Nevins.  “Clearly, the overall audience growth from week one to week four demonstrates that this show is hitting a nerve in the cultural zeitgeist.  Alex and Howard have created a psychological thriller that holds special relevance in the post 9/11 world.  I’m quite confident that its passionate audience will be riveted as the season unfolds and people discover where this story is going.”

The countless accolades for HOMELAND keep coming as the show gets deeper into its debut season.  Newsweek calls HOMELAND “the most addictive show of the season.”  The New York Times notes “Homeland is well made and gripping…impossible to resist” andTV Guide says “Hands-down the best new drama on TV.” USA Today raves “Stands out as the season’s best new drama.”  “Grade: A” says The Boston Globe. The LA Times relays “It’s the first telling of a post-9/11 story that is all the things it should be: politically resonant, emotionally wrenching and plain old thrilling to watch.”

HOMELAND is a one-hour drama series that tells the story of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a CIA officer battling her own demons, who becomes convinced that the intelligence that led to the rescue of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a U.S. soldier who had been missing and presumed dead for eight years, was a setup and may be connected to an Al Qaeda plot to be carried out on American soil.  The series also stars Morena Baccarin, David Harewood, Diego Klattenhoff, Morgan Saylor and Jackson Pace. HOMELAND is based on the original Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” by Gideon Raff.   Along with Gordon and Gansa, the executive producers for season one are Avi Nir, Ran Telem, Gideon Raff and  Michael Cuesta. The series is produced by FOX 21.

Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation, owns and operates the premium television networks SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL and FLIX®, as well as the multiplex channels SHOWTIME 2, SHOWTIME® SHOWCASE, SHOWTIME EXTREME®, SHOWTIME BEYOND®, SHOWTIME NEXT®, SHOWTIME WOMEN®, SHOWTIME FAMILY ZONE® and THE MOVIE CHANNEL XTRA. SNI also offers SHOWTIME HD, THE MOVIE CHANNEL HD, SHOWTIME ON DEMAND® and THE MOVIE CHANNEL ON DEMAND. SNI also manages Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture between SNI and the Smithsonian Institution, which offers Smithsonian Channel. All SNI feeds provide enhanced sound using Dolby Digital 5.1. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV®.

REVIEW: Pan Am – ABC (Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.

In this modern world, air travel represents the height of luxury and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are glamorous, the pilots are rock stars and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. Not only are these flyboys and girls young and good looking, but to represent Pan Am they also have to be educated, cultured and refined. They’re trained to handle everything from in-air emergencies to unwanted advances – all without rumpling their pristine uniforms or mussing their hair. There’s Dean (Jonah Lotan) – a cocky, charismatic and ambitious new pilot – the first of a new breed not trained in the war. On the sly against company policy, he’s dating Bridget, a stunning beauty with a mysterious past. A rebellious bohemian, Maggie (Christina Ricci) turns into a buttoned up professional for work so she can see the world. Rounding out the crew are flirtatious Collette (Karine Vanasse), the adventurous Kate (Kelli Garner) and, finally, Laura (Margot Robbie) – Kate’s beauty queen younger sister, a runaway bride, who recently fled a life of domestic boredom to take to the skies. – ABC

50 out of 100

Well, now we’re pissed.  We had very high hopes for Pan Am based on the buzz and the fantastic trailers we saw like this one.

Well, apparently those hopes were misplaced.  Pan Am  isn’t horrible it’s just not much of anything.

The biggest problem the show has is the plotlines.  There are just too damned many of them and none of them seem to have anything to do with each other nor are they particularly compelling. It’s like you are watching a bunch of different shows all at the same time and none of them are really going anywhere and every minute that they spend on an airplane is a minute we want to pull out our hair.  We’re claustrophobic just watching this.

Also, we expected this to be an exciting, fast-paced Cold War sexy, spy story.  Well, the espionage plotline is barely touched upon and when it is, it doesn’t hold your interest. Instead, we get hour upon hour of a bunch of whiny soap opera crap about sexual politics, young women with issues with their mothers, historical references squeezed into the story (they just couldn’t resist a Cuban airlift scene in the pilot), dull romances and stewardesses who unwittingly sleep with married men.

Worse, there’s nothing convincing about this show at all.  Period pieces are supposed to convince you that they are actually set in the period that they claim to be, like Mad Men or hell, even the horrific (and now canceled) The Playboy Club.  We have no doubt that this show is firmly planted in 2011 and this a big problem for a period piece.  Nothing looks like 1960 at all and they are using the worst CGI we have seen in years on television.  For crap’s sake, how expensive would it be to get an old plane and paint the Pan Am logo on the side of it?  For that matter, would it be so hard to find an old airport?

The only really redeeming factor about the show is the actors, themselves.  The show is well-cast and the cast does an excellent job with what comes down to very creatively-limited material.  The characters themselves are OK but they tend to come off as caricatures as does the show in general, which is bad when that’s not what you’re going for. The whole thing seems to be written by someone who wasn’t even alive in the 1960’s and they didn’t bother to consult with experts on the era.

At the end of the day, Pan Am isn’t awful but it’s not great, either.  Mediocre, Serviceable and Average; these are the words that come to mind for Pan Am and general audiences, very well may find it watchable… we didn’t. We got through the pilot, 20 minutes of the second episode and 20 minutes of the third episode and then subsequently removed it from the DVR schedule.

We really wanted this show to work.  It just doesn’t.

You can watch full episodes of Pan Am, here.

REVIEW: Homeland (Showtime – Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

Who’s the hero – who’s the threat? When MIA Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody returns home to a hero’s welcome after eight years in enemy confinement, brilliant but volatile CIA agent Carrie Mathison isn’t buying his story. She believes that Brody has been turned and is now working for Al Qaeda. What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse with nothing short of American national security at stake. Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patankin star in the provocative, suspenseful new Showtime Original Series HOMELAND, from Executive Producers of 24.  – Showtime

Carrie Mathison’s unorthodox investigation of threats to U.S. security in Iraq leads to a serious diplomatic incident, and Carrie is stripped of her field status and assigned to a desk job. But along the way she learns from her sources that an American Prisoner of War has been turned. When Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, Missing in Action for eight years and presumed dead, is suddenly recovered in Afghanistan, the timing is too suspicious for Carrie to ignore. She must break protocol in order to prove her theory that Brody now poses a major threat to his own country. – Showtime

100 out of 100

Sorry about the redundant show descriptions, but this was the best we could do because of Showtime’s crappy webpage.

If you haven’t heard by now, yes, indeed, Homeland is the best new drama of the Fall 2011 season and as much as we love Dexter, it’s even better than Dexter (which, by the way, is fantastic this season, already).  It has earned the extra-rare and highly coveted perfect score from The ‘Tastic.

Why does Homeland work so well?  Simple: because it’s a story about a contemporary war with ZERO political agendas.  It’s not pro-war, it’s not anti-war, it’s simply a fantastic character piece and psychological thriller.  The show pulls no punches whatsoever and you literally have no idea where it’s going from one minute to the next because every time you think you have something figured out, they switch gears on you.

We’ve seen multiple comparisons to The Manchurian Candidate and to be honest, that thought never even occurred to us once because in The Manchurian Candidate there was no question from the moment the film started that Raymond Shaw was indeed brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin so any comparisons to The Manchurian Candidate are just plain lazy by the reviewer in question who brings it up. The whole point of Homeland is that we have no idea for sure whether or not Brody has actually been turned because if we did, it would be a very short series.

The characters are amazingly well-written, shades-of-gray characters all of whom have their own personal demons, motivations and agendas and you really don’t know who to trust at any given point during a given episode because your loyalties and sympathies as a viewer are in a constant state of flux.  To make it more interesting, they are adding new layers with new characters every week to keep the story that much more intriguing and exciting.

This is by far the best role that Claire Danes has ever played in her career and she is completely authentic as the brilliant C.I.A. operative with a history of mental illness. What’s interesting is that her mental illness doesn’t make you doubt her instincts, but what it does do is make you question her prudence and self-control.  How far will Carrie go to prove that Brody has been turned and is indeed a terrorist?  She could be absolutely correct in her suspicions about Brody but she could personally unwittingly undo any progress that she has made to prevent him from carrying out an attack because of her own erratic behavior. It’s hard for us to believe that this is the same actor that starred on MTV’s My So Called Life in the 1990’s.

As far as Damien Lewis is concerned as Brody… what can we say?  Lewis is just fantastic in everything he does.  He, of course, first caught our attention in the epic HBO World War II miniseries from Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Band of Brothers in 2001 and has continued to shine in every role since and in particular, Life (2007) on NBC and a little-known yet fantastic little film called Assassin in Love (2007) that we had the pleasure of seeing a few months back.  Lewis thrives as the understated hero (he has a very Jimmy Stewart-like quality to him) and that’s exactly what Brody is and because of the excellent casting and writing, it is impossible not to be sympathetic with Brody even though we know there’s a good possibility that he may indeed have been turned by the jihadist terrorists.

The supporting cast is amazing, with everyone perfectly believable and relatable in their roles and in particular, another favorite of The ‘Tastic, Mandy Patinkin in the role of Danes’ mentor at the C.I.A., a role that he was born to play.  It’s literally like the role was written for him.

The plot and subject matter, like the characters is incredibly complex.  As far as dealing with complex issues is concerned and presentations that are designed to make the audience reflect about implications of a vast number of policies concerning the war on terror (and warfare in general), it reminds us of the fantastic thriller, Unthinkable (2009) starring Samuel L. Jackson that never saw a theater due to its controversial nature and went straight to video (we saw it on Netflix streaming).  Now, the similarities between Unthinkable and Homeland really end right there but they both grab hold of you and don’t let go.  It’s all very compelling and having been produced by three of the producers from 24, it doesn’t seem like much of stretch to us that this crew has brought much of their experience from that series over to this one, albeit focusing a lot more on a psychological thriller of a plot and a lot less on the absurd “pew-pew-pew” week after week.  And they also brought Sean Callery with them to do the score for the show and we can’t thank them enough for that.

This show is a mental thrill-ride from one scene to the next and you find yourself being annoyed at the end of each episode that you are going to have to wait another week for the next installment.  We are seriously considering letting the next ten episodes just load up in the DVR and watching them all in one sitting so we don’t have to go through the torture of waiting each week.

Enjoy the (edited for a PG-13 audience) pilot below.

‘Undercovers’ (NBC – Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost,” “Alias”) and executive producer/writer Josh Reims (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership.

Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Vacation,” “Soul Food,” “Resident Evil: Afterlife”) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Dr. Who,” “Bonekickers”), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox, “90210,” “This Is It”). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired.

When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre, “American Heiress,” “Nip/Tuck”) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, “Deadwood,” “Jericho”), to locate and rescue Nash.

With assistance from resourceful CIA field agent Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz, “Parks and Recreation,” “Bronx World Travelers”), whose professional admiration for Steven isn’t hard to miss, the pair is thrust back into the world of espionage, disguises and hand-to-hand combat.

Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. – NBC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn:     Wow.  There is not a whole lot more to say about Undercovers than that.  J.J. Abrams has done it again and NBC has proven again that they have gone from being the worst network on TV to perhaps the best.  Do we really have to see even see one episode to be sure that this show is going to be great?  The answer is a resounding, “no.”  You’ve got a great cast with some actual chops, a relationship that I truly believe and care about from just the trailer and non-stop, J.J. Abrams-style action and spy-goodness that makes this show another moral imperative.

The Review:

8.5 out of 10

As I noted in the preview, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Undercovers than “wow.” Seriously, if it’s action, Sci Fi or mystery and J.J. Abrams is attached to it you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be fantastic. It’s akin to when Martin Scorcese’s name is attached to projects about organized crime or if Stephen Spielberg’s name is attached to a project about World War II. We know what these greats do best and Abrams is establishing himself as one of the greats in both Film and TV.

Undercovers is no exception. It’s an exciting adventure from beginning to end on every episode. Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw have excellent chemistry and both play the role of the domesticated spy perfectly.  They both carry themselves with an air of sexiness that both male and female audiences can appreciate. 

The supporting cast is fantastic and all provide differing levels of comic relief to lighten up the episodes.  Gerald McRaney is their C.I.A. handler who’s supportive (albeit a little crotchety and annoyed by them at times) but who knows more about their reinstatement than he’s letting on. Carter McIntyre as the fellow agent who keeps it light with his sense of humor and wise-cracks and Bill Hoyt is the quirky, eager mission contact who provides the duo with operational support and can speak nine languages. He’s also an uber-fanboy of Steven and to Steven’s dismay, Hoyt has no shame about constantly reminding him of that.

The action and the fight scenes are great, the production values are fantastic with excellent CG that actually convinces you that you are in multiple foreign locales during every episode as opposed to watching scenes against an obvious green-screen backdrop, and most of all the character interaction and stories are compelling.

Undercovers is like watching a feature film every week and I look forward to many more adventures with the Blooms.

Watch full episodes of Undercovers, here.