Pierce: It's true: 'Homeland' really is that good

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Since "Homeland" won the best-drama Emmy, and stars Claire Danes and Damien Lewis both took home acting awards on Sunday, I've been asked repeatedly, "Is the show really that good?"

In a word, yes.

If you haven't seen it, Season 1 is out on DVD; Season 2 begins Saturday at 11 p.m. on Showtime.

This action/thriller about bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Danes), who's convinced that Marine Nicholas Brody (Lewis), freed after eight years of al-Qaeda captivity, has turned against his homeland — become a "Manchurian Candidate" of sorts — was riveting. The other Emmy nominees were outstanding, but "Homeland" deserved its wins.

Emmy voters are notorious for not watching TV much, but "Homeland" was also honored by the Television Critics Association as this year's top drama.

Still, the question of quality is perfectly natural. "Homeland" is on Showtime, which is in fewer than one in five American homes.

One of "Homeland's" biggest fans lives in the White House. President Barack Obama said it's one of his favorites, and that got Lewis an invitation to a state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron back in March.

"Well, obviously, I'm called to consult on matters of Homeland Security," Lewis joked.

Lewis is British; he affects an American accent to play Brody on "Homeland." And he was surprised not just to be invited to the dinner, but that the president and the prime minister both watch the show.

"I did ask him and David Cameron, 'When do you guys get to watch TV? Aren't you supposed to be running the free world together?' " Lewis said.

The president replied that when his wife and daughters play tennis on Saturday afternoons, "I go into the Oval Office. I pretend I'm going to work, and I switch on 'Homeland.' "

This is a purely bipartisan show, however. "Homeland" tilts neither right nor left.

But it is enough to raise the fears of people of all political persuasions.

"We do everything we can to make this thing feel believable," said executive producer Alex Gansa. "Is it possible that a Marine coming home might harbor some resentment against the United States? It's probably a very, very distant possibility, but it is this possibility that we're exploring in this narrative."

We learned in Season 1 that Brody is indeed a mole. He would have murdered the vice president if his explosive vest hadn't malfunctioned.

But now he's committed to what Lewis referred to as a "nonviolent political subversion of American policy."

I don't want to give away too much about the start of Season 2, but let's just say it gets off to another strong start.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.