Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homeland in our home

Over the long weekend my wife and I finally got around to watching most of the first season of Homeland (which we had recorded some months back during a free Showtime weekend). We did so after finally catching up on the first half of this final season of Breaking Bad. That may have been a mistake.

Given that Homeland essentially swept the recent Emmys we may have held tacit expectations about its quality that we might not have held had we been watching it as it initially aired, but that's not how things worked out. We're not quite through all of them, but we have only two episodes left to watch so we think we have a reasonable sense of the show. And we both have the same opinion: It's good, sure, but there's no way it is superior to the remarkable fourth season of Breaking Bad.

I concede it's more accessible than a show about a meth-cooking megalomaniac, and hits on the subject of terrorism to lend it a sort of credibility that make it seem like the sort of show people are supposed to laud, but even 11 episodes in the only character we find ourselves really caring about is Saul. Perhaps that's intentional (and maybe it's due to the skills of Mandy Patinkin). Unlike with BB, we're continuing to watch mostly because we're trying to figure out what the huge deal was that made it so feted. Again, it's clearly a well-done program, with efforts to make the villain sympathetic and the hero of questionable morality, but whatever the "it" about it is supposed to be we're not quite seeing it. Sure, shows can take some time to find their rhythm, but by near the end of the first season that should be clearly evident.

Of course, placing any faith in the Emmys is imprudent on its face. After all, they awarded best comedy lead actor to Jon Cryer (but never once gave a trophy to Steve Carrell), so getting trophies from that awards show doesn't necessarily prove anything. Also, the fact the currently airing second season of Homeland draws weekly discussion from critics speaks to the nature of how things are these days, and how with blogs and podcasts that are in the habit of such coverage of shows (and without other big shows on at the moment to draw that focus) it may be that Homeland is merely what there is available to talk about. However, with our awareness of the level of attention it has received we find ourselves devoting part of our attention not to the story but to what it is that we're missing.

Different strokes and all that but still: The hype machine can be as much of a curse as a blessing.

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So, what do you think?