Homeland, Channel 4, Sunday
Jewish Mum of the Year, Channel 4, Tuesday
Fresh Meat, Channel 4, Tuesday
It's all change as the US thriller loved by Obama returns for its second series
Sunday 14 October 2012
If you've managed to make it this far through the week without hearing about series two of Homeland, you've probably been stuck down a Taliban hole like Brody. Because the Emmy-gobbling, loved-by-Obama US thriller is turning into the new The Wire. Here's a quick recap so you don't feel left out at dinner parties. The eerie, jazz-soundtracked opening credits might be the same, but everything else has changed utterly in Homeland, um, land. Discredited CIA agent Carrie Mathison (a little bit crazy, a lot brilliant) has swapped her colour-coded conspiracy theories for bipolar meds and is now picking vegetables in the garden as opposed to picking up potential terrorists. That is until a source comes forward with vital information and suddenly, like a superhero in a dodgy wig and coloured contact lenses, Carrie's the only one who can save the world. Meanwhile, Brody – former marine turned hostage turned failed suicide bomber (do keep up) – is now in the running to be vice-president, although his teenage daughter Dana's "moody phase" has materialised in her telling everyone at school that "My dad's a MUSLIM!". Awkward. And yet Brody's still somehow a less troubling prospect for VP than Paul Ryan.
Doing noticeably less to challenge religious stereotypes was Jewish Mum of the Year. After Channel 4's borderline-racist treatment of gypsies, now it's time for Jews to get the pseudo-affectionate mock-you-mentary treatment. "From Lord Sugar to Ed Miliband," informed the voice-over helpfully, "they've all got a Jewish mother." Which was handy if your "Jew-dar" isn't quite up to scratch. Eight Jewish mothers (or "smothers" as one talking head quips) compete to be the ultimate matriarch and win an agony-aunt column in The Jewish News. People will do anything to get into journalism these days. Their first task is to organise a Bar Mitzvah for 13-year-old Ben, whose parents have been saving for his (or rather, his mother's) dream party since the day he was born. No pressure, then.
Judging the competition is the downright bizarre pairing of actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, who you probably last saw giving Dirty Den his comeuppance in EastEnders, and respected Yiddish scholar Dovid Katz, who's one "oy vey" away from parody. Professor Katz provides most of the comedy, as we cut from him rhapsodising on the "rarefied, spiritual quality" of the Jewish mother, straight to Emma – a vile, spray-tanned fembot – screeching at a group of children over some party bags.
But the most enjoyable moments are when we're laughing with the mums, not at them – like when Heston Blumenthal turns his nose up at bolshie Spurs-fan Tracy's use of a packet sponge (oh, the horror). "He might be a savoury kind of guy," she decides, completely undeterred. Now that's chutzpah.
It's just a shame they decided to get rid of the most likeable and interesting mother of the bunch – Irish single mum Lesley, who pointed out that being a modern Jewish mother wasn't about Mary Berry-esque baking skills at all. She was just happy if her kids grew up feeling Jewish. But, presumably, that's a bit harder to test on a TV show – it's more of a Woody Allen film. Next week the über-mums try their hand at matchmaking. All eligible doctors and lawyers might want to run and hide.
Although if anyone could use their help, it's the hapless star-crossed students in Fresh Meat, back for a second series. While sometimes not quite the comic steak tartare the title promises, it still provides enough smirk-raising moments, and often some unintentionally moving ones. too. Mainly in the form of Josie and Kingsley, who are still in love with each other and pretending not to be. Even though Kingsley, who's spent the summer growing a "muff on his chin" and now quotes Buddhism For Beginners, is suddenly in demand for his "hot man meat".
But the episode belonged to braying posh boy JP (the quote-perfect Jack Whitehall) who suffered an existential crisis when his chum Giles, with whom he shared experimental "power showers" at Stowe, turns out to be gay. "To bum or not to bum," ponders JP, like a public school Hamlet in a gilet, now forced to question every "toga party", "bender" joke and doodle of a "cock cat". Whitehall hogs all the best lines and it just makes you wish there were more to go around. Hopefully, Giles and newbie "foreign" flatmate Sabine will refresh the comedy bong water in coming episodes.
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