The Israeli media went wild Tuesday morning reporting that real-life former POW Gilad Shalit visited the cast and crew of Showtime’s “Homeland” in Tel Aviv, where they are shooting for the next two weeks. Showtime finally sent out a press release in the evening that confirmed what everyone in Israel knew, that Mr. Shalit had been a surprise guest on the set, where he sat with director Michael Cuesta and watched star Claire Danes do her takes.
“Homeland” is loosely based on the Israeli series, “Hatuffim” – the English title is “Prisoners of War” – written and directed by Gideon Raff and is developed for American television by Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa and Mr. Raff.
“Homeland” is Showtime’s biggest freshman series to date. According to the network it averaged 4.1 million viewers on all platforms, including On Demand and replays. It also won a Golden Globe for best drama series.
Mr. Shalit, as everyone knows, is an Israeli soldier, who was seized in Israel in June 2006 by Hamas and dragged to Gaza, where he was kept a prisoner for over five years. On Oct. 18, 2011, Mr. Shalit was released by Hamas in a prisoner exchange for the freedom of more than 1,000 Palestinians. Since his release Mr. Shalit has kept a low profile although it seems he has spent some of that time watching tv. According to Showtime, Mr. Shalit is a fan of both “Hatuffim” and “Homeland,” which is why Mr. Raff invited him to come to the set.
“Homeland” is a post- 9/11 thriller that stars Claire Danes -who received a Golden Globe - as Carrie Mathison, a C.I.A. officer with bipolar disorder, who becomes professionally and romantically obsessed with a Marine P.O.W., Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). She is convinced Brody, who has returned from Iraq after missing and presumed dead for eight years, has become an Al-Qaeda sleeper terrorist who is plotting an attack on U.S. soil. No one believes her, except, possibly her grizzled boss and mentor, Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin. By the end of the season, Carrie becomes so loony and obsessed she looses her job but she still never lets up. Watching her self destruct is uncomfortable enough, but then there’s the unsettling sense of voyeurism - Carrie has set up surveillance equipment in Brody’s home - so the audience watches her watching him. Added to that is the paranoia that settles over everything. And although Carrie’s crazy, the audience also knows she’s right. Paranoia has never been more frustrating to watch or as well portrayed as in Carrie’s crisis.
I saw the entire first season on a single day, a dark, rainy Saturday in December. The show moves so fast and has so many twists it’s an adrenaline rush. During the season finale, after a long drawn-out sequence where Brody’s terrorist vest failed to go off, and Carrie twitched and trembled in a hospital bed getting electroshock therapy, audiences could only wonder what’s next.
The second season will begin Sunday, September 30 at 10 p.m.