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The Night Manager Cast BBC AMC Roper Birch Pine, John le Carré, Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki, Alistair Petrie, Douglas Hodge, David Harewood, Tobias Menzies, Michael Nardone

The Night Manager: a hotel manager is recruited by the British Gov to infiltrate a ruthless arms dealer’s inner circle. I can’t remember the last time the BBC threw this much money, stars, and talent at one project. Yet for such an accomplished cast, it felt like a faux pas to cast the leading lady as a relatively unknown; she struggles to keep up with the big and entertaining performances of villainous Roper (Laurie), heroic Pine (Hiddleston), and vivacious Corky (Hollander). Style-wise, this feels like a very expensive pitch for Loki to become 007: he even has the audacity to order a Vodka Martini in the final episode (WTF M8!?!) It’s all a bit ‘classic Flemming’, boasting the hallmarks of an old-school Bond film; from the decadent credits through to stellar production values and globe-trotting espionage. The disappointment is that it only dips a toe in the Bond waters: the plot’s far-fetched, but not too daft; the villain is dastardly, but not a megalomaniac; the hero is sufficiently heroic, but not an espionage badass… At six episodes, the setup, ending, and central plot of infiltrating an arm’s dealer feel rushed – sacrificing your belief in the story for as much drama, murder, action and boobs that the run-time will allow. The ending also feels quite spineless – turning its back on the pulpy / hardboiled vibe that the story built and opting for a happy, wide-open-for-a-sequel finale. Overall, The Night Manager looks fantastic, and is completely watchable… because it’s actually more of a saucy and sensational spy romp, than the classy espionage thriller it’s presented as.

Score: 7/10

Homeland: eight years after going MIA a U.S. marine is rescued and taken home, but a C.I.A. agent suspects he may be a terrorist. Overall the scope of the plot feels like it would be a side-story in 24, maybe spanning 6 episodes – Homeland is stretched over 12 full episodes ‘beefed up’ with small, pointless stories – some of which aren’t resolved, or even mentioned again (internal investigation / Saul’s potential involvement / Saul’s wife). My biggest problem was the very slow-moving is he / isn’t he story, it gets quite monotonous after several episodes, and once you know what side he’s on, it kills the show flat. Both central characters are extremely complex – Danes struggles to convince with some horrific eye-bulding and body/movement over acting. Lewis is good, but doesn’t quite have the full chops to convey the inner conflicts and troubles of the character. The daughter (Saylor) and Saul (Patinkin) were the two best actors. In the end, I cared just enough to watch the finalé, which was undoubtedly the best and most fresh / original part of the series, 60 minutes of killer, 30 more minutes of wrap-up ‘meh’. I can appreciate how this would go down more favourably in the USA (it’s current, it’s political, it hits a lot of nerves) but for me, Homeland feels like it’s just filling a ‘post-24 American domestic terrorist drama’ gap, and not much more.

Score: 5.5/10