Sunday, October 2, 2011
Showtime is definitely the network of choice tonight. Yes, we know there's Boardwalk Empire on HBO, Breaking Bad continues on AMC, and Pan Am on ABC, but Showtime has them all beat. At 9pm. the always-tremendous Dexter returns for its sixth season -- can you believe it? -- and this one looks like a great one. With recurring guest stars Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, American Family, Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver) and Colin Hanks (The Good Guys, Mad Men, The Great Buck Howard, King Kong, Roswell), this cycle of episodes promises some disturbingly evil happenings. In addition to more personal exploration of his divergent roles as serial killer and devoted father, Dexter -- Michael C. Hall -- comes up against a crazed fundamentalist zealot with a gruesome agenda of his own.
Dexter the series is adept at evolving beyond what you think it has to become -- we wonder where else can they go with this? -- and taking the drama into unforeseen avenues, thanks especially to wonderful performances by a selection of talented guests actors and the uniformly watchable regular cast. Hanks and Olmos join an illustrious parade of guest criminal cohorts -- Julia Stiles, John Lithgow, Jimmy Smits, Jaime Murray among them -- as well as good guys like the late, lamented Agent Lundy played so well by Keith Carradine. Regulars Jennifer Carpenter (the ex-Mrs. M.C. Hall), Curtis Harrington, Lauren Velez, Desmond Harrington, David Zayas, C.S. Lee and James Remar never disappoint, and this season will no doubt follow suit.
At 10pm Showtime debuts its newest drama Homeland, centered around the efforts of the Washington D.C. intelligence community to intercept terrorist threats to America. What makes this scenario especially compelling is the presence of actress Claire Danes (Emmy-winner for her title role in HBO's Temple Grandin, Me & Orson Welles, My So Called Life, Stardust) as the obsessed CIA agent Carrie Mathison. Danes is an intense and intelligent actress whose performance is riveting; you can't take your eyes off her. Co-starring with Danes are Mandy Pantinkin (he originated Che in Broadway's Evita -- one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen live -- Criminal Minds, Yentl, Chicago Hope, Alien Nation) as her CIA mentor, Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers, Dreamcatcher, Colditz) as a troubled newly-released captive of Al Qaeda, Morena Baccarin (V, Stargate SG-1) as his wife who must adjust to his return, and David Harewood (Blood Diamond, The Merchant of Venice) as Danes' antagonistic boss who resents her zeal.
The first episode of Homeland throws the viewer right into the action, giving us a hint of Carrie's dangerous work in the Middle East and setting up her expertise and fervor, as well as a tinge of 9/11 guilt (evidently shared by all at the CIA, at least in the series) for not being able to foresee that historic attack. But it's not the past that consumes Carrie, it's the future and the possibility that new operatives are trying desperately for another crack at taking down the United States. Without giving too much away, we simply say watch any of Homeland and you will be hooked -- guaranteed. Showtime has made the first episode of Homeland available free OnDemand and online at their website, and it's a powerful incentive to subscribe (at least for the three months that Dexter and Homeland will be airing) if you haven't already. (FYI, Homeland is based/inspired by the Israeli TV series Prisoners of War. Around here we also really liked Showtime's terrorism-themed drama Sleeper Cell from late 2005, and we'd love to see more episodes (which may be in the works). Worth checking out on DVD.)
We highly recommend taking in Showtime's terrific new Sunday night line-up. You won't be disappointed!