As good as it gets: ‘Homeland’, series 2, episode 5, ‘Q&A’

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Homeland is reported to be President Obama’s favorite TV show. (His First Lady’s is said to be Downton Abbey, but more on that later.) And Mr President must have been on the edge of his seat, gripping the arms of his White House chair, while watching series 2, episode 5, ‘Q&A’.

There is a moment in this episode, which will, possibly, certainly hopefully, go down in television drama history. This one:

Possible spoiler alert: CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) asks US Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) a question to which he gives a one-word answer.

In the past few years, the question of which is the best-ever TV drama series seems to have become more or less a two-horse race.

Is it The Sopranos, the ground-breaking HBO soap-opera about the Mafia, elevated into something else by great writing, directing, acting and casting. (Who could be better than James Gandolfini? What better, funnier episode could there be than ‘The Pine Barrens’?)

Or is it The Wire, which turns the TV viewer into a sort-of ‘fly-on-the-wall’ insider, alternately a Baltimore cop or a housing-projects’ drug-dealer, with real life at its random worst unfolding in front of them?

But the odds are lengthening because there is now a third horse in the race, Homeland.

For high drama and suspense – genuine, believable, old-fashioned suspense – has it ever been matched?

To say ‘Alfred Hitchcock-type suspense’ would be anachronistic and incorrect. Homeland goes way, way beyond The 39 Steps, just as the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan go way, way beyond The Longest Day.

Who is exactly is writing and directing the individual episodes of this great series? Well, it’s hard to say.

If you pay attention, you will see that the screen credits do not name either a ‘writer’ or a ‘director’ for any single episode.

What the credits do list is no fewer than ten ‘executive producers’, which seems an awful lot, even for a series of the calibre of Homeland.

And neither IMDb nor Wikipedia throws any light on the question: they simply list the same ten executive producers of what clearly is a group-creation.

But how curious …

Roger Bourke

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