Here comes 'Homeland' - and more
The second series of the spy drama 'Homeland' begins tonight on RTÉ 2, but this is just one in a rising tide of excellent US programmes dominating our airwaves, writes PATRICK FREYNEHomeland
Homeland is a sort of remake of an Israeli show Hatufim (Prisoners of War) about returned army hostages who may or may not have converted to Islam. The American version is a rollercoaster of post-9/11 paranoia made by the writers who brought us 24 (US foreign policy as suggested by 24 – “punch people in the face”). In contrast, the early episodes of Homeland were a triumph of unreliable narration and doubt, with schizophrenic CIA agent Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) convinced that damaged former POW Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) was actually a brainwashed al-Qaeda operative. For most the whole first season, the writers successfully kept us in the dark about the truth. Then, just when it seemed they were running out of steam, the programme concluded with a devastating performance from Danes as a woman in crisis. Brilliant.
Season 2 starts tonight on RTÉ 2
From David Simon, the man who created The Wire, Treme is a music-infused look at life in post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. An ensemble of actors playing musicians, lawyers, writers, DJs and general layabouts wander the physical and political aftermath of the floods, taking in performances from real New Orleans musicians along the way. Simon’s programmes seem shapeless initially, but always work cumulatively and, over the course of a season, things start to make heartbreaking sense. A love letter to American resilience and a hate later to the erosion of the American dream, the third season has just begun airing in the US.
The third series airs in the New Year on Sky Atlantic
A surprisingly believable dramedy about four privileged white-girls living in New York. The first episode contains sly nods to its antecedents, namely film-maker of the haute-bourgeoisie Whit Stillman (it features a cameo from Stillman-stalwart Chris Eigeman) and Sex in the City (one character in Girls is obsessed with the show). The show generally focuses on Hannah Horvath (played by creator Lena Dunham), a spoiled wannabe writer who makes bad career choices, has bad sex and bumbles from one instance of squalid social embarrassment to the next. The results? Refreshingly candid and funny.
Debuts on Sky Atlantic on October 22nd
Game of Thrones
This bloody fantasy yarn, featuring fangy undead people, giant wolves and baby dragons, is surprisingly compelling despite being based on a series of turgid books. Perhaps this convoluted/epic saga of warring political dynasties on the island of Westeros has a particular fascination for Irish people – when they hear of Starks, Targaryens and Lannisters instantly think of Haugheys, Lenihans and Healy-Raes. Or it could be something to do with all the breasts.
Game of Thrones features perhaps more gratuitous sex scenes than any show in television history. Indeed, I believe “Look! Breasts!” was the working title.
Series Three will air on Sky Atlantic in Spring 2013
Louis CK is one of the most incisive stand-up comedians in America. Louie, his second attempt at an eponymous show, features him alternating ennui-infused stand-up routines with set-pieces set in a very subjectively-rendered, grotesque New York. Darker, less cosy and less tarnished by celebrity cameos than Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie muses on sex, parenthood and how everything we love must die. In one episode, he takes a duckling to Afghanistan. It’s very funny.