Tag Archive | Homeland

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Third-episode verdict: Dig (US: USA Network)

Posted on March 24, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerDig.jpgA Barrometer rating of 4

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, USA

There's something weirdly fascinating about the USA Network's Dig. The creation of Tim Kring (Heroes) and Gideon Raff (Homeland), it sees FBI agent (hello to) Jason Isaacs travelling to Jerusalem to catch a criminal, only to somehow get embroiled in an Old Testament conspiracy theory that involves unblemished heffers, cloned kids whose feet must not touch the ground and a long-lost priest's breastplate that allowed him to communicate with God. Bringing in all sorts of Jewish mythology in the same way that the similar Touch did, it's nevertheless absolute bobbins in the Dan Brown vein that's only mildly less stupid. 

Since the first episode, we've had all sorts happen but very little get explained, beyond the introduction of yet more conspiracists including Richard E Grant and the pairing of Isaacs buddy-buddy stylee with a sceptical Israeli cop (Ori Pfeffer). There have been plenty of chases, plenty of deaths, plenty of 'revelations' and plenty of biblical references, but nothing yet makes much sense. 

The show has a few redeeming features: the Jersusalem filming and having half the show in Hebrew is lovely; the occasional local touch, such as having Pfeffer pick up his kid while taking a suspect to the police station, makes it feel like one of Raff's shows before he switched to US TV; a strong supporting cast, including Grant, Anne Heche and David Costabile, lift the show above the likes of Allegiance; and having a show that's firmly about Jewish rather than Christian traditions is novel. 

But that's not enough, when faced with Dig's obvious stupidity and dullness. It's just tedious to watch.

Nevertheless, there's something oddly compelling about its strangeness. Normally, with such a high Barrometer rating, I'd have dropped it like so much CSI: Cyber. But for some reason, whether it's just the absolute strangeness of the show, Isaacs or the location filming, I want to tune in for more.

I absolutely under no circumstances would recommend Dig (or anything Tim Kring is involved with) to anyone, but I might well stick with it, right until the bitter end. At which point, I'm sure I'll rue my wasted time. But I think I'll still have seem something different from the usual US TV thriller. And perhaps that's Dig last remaining redeeming feature.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob's prediction: It's only supposed to last a season and that's all it's going to get

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What TV's hot in Lisbon right now?

Posted on March 4, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Good question. See, I was there for the past few days (hence my lack of blogging), and following the success of my previous photo expeditions to LA and New York, including my New York TV advertising feature, I thought I’d give you a brief rundown. With pictures.

So the first thing to note is that Meo is the king of telecoms over there. As well as mobile phones and broadband, they also offer TV services over the phone line, via satellite, via cable and even over 3G/4G. Meo is everywhere, particularly when it comes to WiFi hotspots. However, NOS does pretty much the same thing, including offering a whole range of premium channels, largely featuring US imports, and so has a lot of cash to spend on advertising. Here, for example, towering over the monument to Luís de Camões and this Easter parade is Claire Danes, the star of Segurança Nacional (aka Homeland).

Easter parade Claire Danes

Claire Danes

Traipse all over Lisbon and you’ll spot NOS adverts for everything from Modern Family and Castle through to Vikings and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, confusingly, Homeland/Segurança Nacional actually airs on one of Fox International’s channels, which does its own advertising, too. Top of the heap of its advertising and appearing on the wall of pretty much every Metro station in Lisbon? Empire.

Fox's Empire in Lisbon

But NOS, Meo and Fox aren’t the only channels in Lisbon. AXN is out there, too. Top of its promotional considerations and dominating most bus stops and street signage is Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire in Lisbon

"But, Rob,” you might ask. “Aren’t there any programmes made in Portugal?”

There are a few, at least, including news programmes, although most of the ones I saw advertised were for kids and were cartoons. The only truly ubiquitous advert was for Portugal’s very own version of Masterchef, which was about as common as Empire was on the Metro and airs on TVI, Portugal’s fourth terrestrial TV channel.

MasterChef Portugal

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Third-episode verdict: State of Affairs (US: NBC)

Posted on December 3, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerStateOfAffairs.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Normally, TV shows go up and down from episode to episode on the Barrometer, the world's finest measurer of TV quality that doesn't wear sunglasses. Occasionally, they stay the same, but only by consistently offering the same good or bad features that earned them their first rating.

So State of Affairs is a rare beast indeed: a show that changes from episode to episode, giving the viewer new things to think about, yet still being consistently the same on average. It's enough to make the Barrometer burst into a show tune of surprise.

Starring Katherine Heigl as the double-surnamed Charleston Tucker, a CIA analyst who happens to be the president's ex-daughter-in-law-to-be (it's complicated), the first episode surprised almost everyone into singing show tunes with its first episode by being on NBC, starring Katherine Heigl yet not being appalling. In fact, in places, it was quite good.

Since then, the show has managed to kill off some of its stupider features (no one calls Heigl 'Charleston' any more; she rarely wears cocktail dresses, not even to see her psychiatrist) while adding in some new ones (stupid potential office romance; stupid husband for the president; James Remar in a stupid hat) and maintaining the status quo on some others (the stupid ongoing conspiracy theory that requires Heigl to nip out of important operations to have chats on park benches). Thus the show has managed to preserve its overall 'well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be' Barrometer rating for three episodes.

Despite the somewhat mixed bag that the first episode presented, the show has now firmly become Homeland lite, with Heigl a network TV Claire Danes with the much more fun 'drunken promiscuity' replacing 'bipolar disorder' and all her nemeses seemingly coming from Africa rather than the Middle East. Just for luck and a little variety, the show tried to go a bit Tom Clancy by having a Russian nuclear submarine be the subject of episode two (and even referenced The Hunt for Red October for luck), but that wasn't fooling anyone.

Indeed, the show's biggest Achilles Heel is its tendency to pluck stories from the headlines for inspiration. While that can work in the right hands, sorting out Boko Haram inside an hour for example verges on the distasteful rather than the inspired.

The show does its best and sometimes succeeds at being a relatively gritty bit of spy fun, despite its protagonists confined to sitting around in rooms talking. This can be done, as The Sandbaggers demonstrated, but it's hampered by its network, its own superficiality and its pulling of punches. 

Worth watching if you like Heigl and find Homeland to be too frustrating, probably not worth watching if you have much else to do.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob's prediction: Will probably make it to at least a season, perhaps more, with some judicious scheduling, since if it faces any real competition, it'll probably perish into the firefight

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