TV Reviews: “Homeland,” “Here and Now,” and “Another Period”

By | February 15, 2018

Three shows that really have nothing in common except they premiered new seasons around the same time…

Homeland, Season 7…It’s a cruel irony that the better “Homeland” gets, the less other critics pay attention to it. For me, the series has only gotten better with age, starting with the amazing, Afghanistan-set season 4 that fully tackled Pakistan’s duplicity. Now, we’re into our second season dealing with the friction between the autocratic-leaning President Elizabeth Keane (played by the slightly-bland Elizabeth Marvel as an extreme version of her self-righteous “House of Cards” Underwood antagonist) and the intelligence community. It’s a little too early to tell if this plotline has enough juice to propel a second season, but I’m cautiously optimistic given that Season 6 was like “The Parallax View” for the new millennium: an unnerving conspiracy thriller that felt all too plausible. Still, the casting of Marvel is something of a problem since I’m sure all viewers can really see is a Hillary-clone, and they might find “Homeland” more a terrifying “what-if?” scenario of Hillary’s Presidency than a scathing portrayal of Trump’s paranoia. [Even if they did think Hillary was going to win when conceiving season 6, it makes you wonder why they’d want to portray such a sour relationship between the first female president and the intelligence community.] Grade so far: A-

Here and Now…This new series from Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under,” “True Blood”) feels more like a sentient list of twitter-trends than a good template for a long-term TV show. Ball doesn’t really write characters so much as hot button topics—a bad habit picked up from years of forcing “True Blood”‘s vampires into an unflattering-to-homosexuals allegory—and that’s especially true here. The pilot episode alone features three graphic sex scenes, an asexual Asian “motivational architect,” an Iranian therapist with a transgender son, the city of Portland, an aging boomer-hippie couple, and conversations that regularly touch on race, multiculturalism, sexual orientation, philosophy, depression, the “horrible times we live in” (as if Trump were not merely a shitty President but the Black Death incarnate), drug use of all kinds, talk about moving to Europe, mental illness, prophecies, Uber, and expensive European shampoo–all of it, more than a little forced. [Ordinarily, I’d celebrate the rare happily-married interracial couple on TV, if it weren’t obvious that the black wife (and adopted daughter of Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter’s “progressive” parents) will eventually have an affair.]

In another sign that the term “hetero-normative” may be anachronistic (in terms of media portrayals, at least) the first act of the pilot features graphic, fully-nude male sex, while a later sex scene involving the youngest daughter losing her virginity is more fully clothed than “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Well, actually, the man in the scene is butt-naked, while the daughter is not only fully clothed but wearing a horse mask that completely covers her face. How a guy can have sex with a woman seeing only her hands is beyond me, but it is worth noting that even Tim Robbins’s sex scene with a young prostitute has him showing more skin than the woman. I dare even ask if we may be entering an era where men are more often nude or sexualized on Television than women. [Cue scoffs of indignation from anyone that would enjoy this show…or write for it.] Grade: C

Another Period, Season 3…I loved the first season of this original gem (that imagines a Kardashian-like family in 1900), and even ranked among the best shows of 2015. But now it’s three years later (they skipped 2017 for new episodes), and I’m beginning to wonder how much farther they can take this series–in which most of the characters are intentionally unlikable. Sure, this is still one of the best comedic casts on television, but several characters (like David Wain and Brian Husky’s nasty ex-husbands) ran out of plotlines in season 1, but are still just sort-of…hanging out around the huge Bellacourt Manor. Rather than being one of Comedy Central’s great comedic treasures (like “Nathan For You,” which expands and grows every season), this is an okay time that will produce occasional belly laughs, but for how much longer can we essentially watch the same jokes? Grade: B

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