If politics and religion really are two subjects best avoided in public, there could be some awkward conversations coming after the January 15 Season 6 premiere of Homeland on Showtime and the debut of The Young Pope on HBO. Still regardless of your faith or party affiliation, these premium cable 9 PM offerings are romps with such real-world relevance I recommend you check them both out – though for different reasons.
While often veering into the absurd, the still highly entertaining 10-episode Paolo Sorrentino-created Young Pope is more a kiss the velvet slipper game of Ecumenicals than Game of Thrones. Scrumptiously shot and faith-questioning, the series that premiered at the Venice Film Festival depicts a fortysomething American archbishop elected to be a media-friendly front man but turns out to be the power-hungry and institution-smashing opposite.
As I say in my video review above, with Jude Law in the manipulative and conservative lead role of the self named Pius XIII, the James Cromwell and Silvio Orlando co-starring Young Pope in many ways equally dives into generational and cultural divides. Abandoned by his hippy parents and raised in an orphanage by the wonderful Diane Keaton’s Sister Mary (who the new Pope brings to Rome as his top advisor), Law’s Lenny Belardo is fighting a battle of faith that isn’t just found in the church.
Another kind of battle is at work in the excellent sixth season of the Clair Danes-led Homeland that sees the series looking beyond the enemy within. After having halted a terrorist attack in Berlin at the end of last season, Danes’ ex-CIA agent Carrie Mathison is now in New York City working for a foundation set up to help U.S.-based Muslims.
A much more measured season than in recent years, this cycle of Homeland with Alex Gansa as showrunner finds itself negotiating a rocky Presidential transition. The intelligence agencies are under attack by the incoming and untested female Commander-in-Chief, played by House Of Cards alum Elizabeth Marvel, who seemingly has an unconventional agenda and a very personal grudge. With that — and the resurrection of sorts of the Rupert Friend-portrayed Peter Quinn, who nearly died in Season 5 — the perhaps more close to the skin than ever Homeland looks hard into what it means to live in an America where the war on terror has infected all of our social, cultural and government institutions.
For more, click on my dual review of The Young Pope and Homeland above and tell us what you plan to watch Sunday night.
This review originally ran on Jan, 12, 2017