Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Television 09/30/12: The Emmy Champ is Back


'Homeland' had such an tightly plotted and thrilling first season that after the immensely climatic finale, there was always the question of what they would do next. And the Emmy sweep the show experienced on Sunday didn't really help to lower the expectations. After watching the second season's first episode, I really couldn't say I've figured out where creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa are going with the season, but I feel comfortable enough with a couple of guesses. 

In many ways, 'Homeland' season two starts in the most predictable way possible. Just when Carrie (Claire Danes) thought she was out of the game for good, they pull her back in for a job only she can pull off. Which feels a little expected, but is something that I will not hold against the show having only seen little development of the plot-line they're going for. And also for getting that out of the way almost entirely in the first episode instead of unnecessarily stretching it out. By the end of this hour, Carrie is getting enemies out of her way and enjoying it. It's a nice little moment to remind us that Carrie is very well-fitted for her job and also extremely good at it (I wonder if Aaron Sorkin watches this show). 

Plot is not the only predictable way this season is starting out. Because, like I said, the first season relied on plot so much and because the writers are in for the long haul, I was assuming the show would be more character-focused on its second year. And it seems like they are. Especially in regards to now Congressman Brody (Damian Lewis). 

The season opened with muslims protesting at the U.S. embassy in Beirut with a note that feels incredibly well timed in mirroring real life events. With it came the show asking some heavier questions in the field of morality. Now, the first season had some of these questions, but it seems like they are really getting into it now. Let's think of the scene with Brody's daughter Dana at the school, in which she stands up against the Iran bombing and accidentally reveals that her father is a muslim.

Nobody takes it seriously, of course, but the show does this to start asking questions. They spend a good chunk of season one developing the relationship between Brody and Dana and it seems a good idea to me to set out to explore it now. This kind of relationship is the stuff good drama is made of. Dana speaks for finding a humane solution and understanding for the "muslim problem", a point of view inspired by her muslim father. But her father, at the same time, is a terrorist. 

I don't think the show is leaning on any side of the political spectrum right now and I hope it doesn't in the future. A lot has been said about how 'Homeland' is basically a more high-brow version of '24', which Gordon and Gansa worked for. It was a fun show, but a pretty dumb one. 

What could really set 'Homeland' apart, is if it took a more nuanced approach to politics than '24's outright conservatism (but also not falling for outright liberal views). Here's hoping it achieves this in its sophomore year. 

What Else Was On?

The Simpsons: "Moonshine Fever"
Season 24 kicked off with Zooey Deschanel dropping by Springfield to play Mary, Cletus' daughter and Bart's love interest. In order to prove there are girls who like him, Bart and the family return to New York to look for her. The episode didn't really have a coherent story to it, feeling more like a collection of jokes and Cletus is one of my least favorite characters, but damn did I laugh with this episode of television. I wonder if the laughs are enough to justify watching 'The Simpsons' nowadays. It is nowhere near its glorious days back in the 90s, but it is still capable of delivering some pretty smart commentary on modern culture. This episode didn't do that either, but like I said, it was funny. The real reason why I'll probably end up watching a lot of episodes of 'The Simpsons' this season is because of the show it is paired with. 
PS: As someone who just moved to New York I could relate to Marge and Lisa's budgetary problems trying enjoy the city. 

Bob's Burgers: "Ear-sy Rider"
You probably can't imagine how happy I was when I learned this show was returning this week. Slowly but steadily it has become one of the most delightful shows on television. It sports an incredibly bizarre line of humor and like 'The Simpsons' in its better years, it all comes from a line of incredibly well drawn characters. And none of those characters is as hilarious and surreal as young daughter Louise (voiced by Kristen Schaal). Tonight someone stole Louise's signature bunny ears and in true Bob's Burgers fashion, it was a biker gang that helped her get them back. You tell me if that doesn't sound awesome.  

The Good Wife: "I Fought the Law"
This show is probably the closest network television will get to something like 'The Wire' for the foreseeable future. You know, being a realistic show about how the system is rotten and nothing works. It feels tame in comparison to the bleaker cable shows, but it remains a solid and consistent show. 
Tonight's episode wasn't really a stand-out for me. As usual, it was reliable for a good hour of television, but one of this show's weakest aspects is the teenage characters and so having Zach at the center wasn't that thrilling for me. Also, I've really enjoyed Kalinda's sexy adventures in the past, but we might be reaching over saturation. The whole thing with her ex-husband felt ridiculous. 

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