TV On Trial

Homeland

The gist: Claire Danes plays a bipolar CIA operative (hey, it can happen) with growing suspicions about the integrity of an American POW (Damien Lewis) who’s just been repatriated from Iraq. After a spell in al-Qaeda captivity, is there a chance he could have been “turned”?

Tune out? How’s this for an early expositional question: “He’s been locked up for almost a year and overnight they decide to hold a trial and pronounce a death sentence?” Smooth it ain’t, but get the background out of the way and the drama picks up pace.

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Tune in? Homeland is smartly written and clearly topical. What it lacks in obvious charm it makes up for in suspense and tension: the first episode ends with a nifty cliffhanger — involving, somewhat randomly, jazz — that suggests the plot could unfold quite nicely.

Homeland starts on Sunday February 19 on Channel 4