I love the series “Homeland” and the eagerly awaited Series 2 began on Channel 4 last night. It did not disappoint me. I also loved “Spooks”. I thought about what it is about those programmes that fascinates me. As a teenager , I loved “The Professionals” and the character of Doyle played by Martin Shaw. All of my friends preferred Bodie. I even bought myself a jacket that reminded me of Doyle as shown in the picture above. It wasn’t the same colour or style but that was not important. It was what it represented to me.
Obviously what the programmes, “The Professionals”, “Spooks” and “Homeland” have in common is that they are all centred on a team of characters within the British Secret Service.
I looked back to identify what got me so hooked on this genre.. There was an incident on the train journey to school that served as the catalyst. A dark haired man sat opposite my friend and I. He was rubbing two razor blades together. That did not particularly bother us. Quite the opposite. We regarded the passengers as a source of entertainment for these journeys. He looked up and stared at us, probably in a menacing way. I could embellish and say he had crazy eyes and we knew he was a psychopath to draw you into the tale more but that was not how I recall it. He said, still rubbing the blades together “There is going to be a war and the Russians are going to win. You go and tell everyone that”
So we did, including the Queen. We wrote to her and offered our services as spies. We said we would prefer to spy on the Russians as we had met one and we did not like him and we promised to stop them from winning the war. We are still waiting to be recruited.
So “The Professionals” fascinated me. I remember the episode in which a Russian KGB agent introduced one of his female spies to the man who was to be the next Prime Minister, of course, to entice secret information from him and to destroy the British Government. Bodie and Doyle outwit them, naturally. I was sure that I could do a good job of bringing down any Russian plots or getting secrets out of them. It looked quite straighforward.
As the Queen did not call me I continued with civilian life. “Spooks” fascinated me too and now we have “Homeland”. The great thing about the latter is that the storyline has an effective female CIA agent named Carrie Mathison. She suffers from bipolar disorder and drinks a lot, which is a common theme for several male lead detectives in other programmes. She is extremely intuitive and acts upon this and she is hell-bent on proving that Nicholas Brody, who was a a former Al Qaeda prisoner, is a terrorist threat.
When I studied the psychoanalytic theory of film, we looked at cinema but of course the same can be applied to TV shows/series. Very simply put, when we watch a TV drama, we are exposed to a fast series of images. It is so fast moving that it is not possible for us to catch all of the visual information that is shown on the screen simultaneously. But the things that we overlook on a conscious level, we still “see” unconsciously. We become so identified with the hero/heroine that we get startled when they are, are relieved when they are, our hearts beat faster when theirs does. To the unconscious, all of this is happening to us, we are experiencing it. This is why film is such an effective medium for the expression of unconscious desires and drive.
You would think that I would like James Bond. Although he represents the British Secret Service, overcomes threats and defies reality I do not get carried away by his story or find him even a quarter as interesting as the programmes mentioned above. I think it is probably because I like my programmes to portray more realistic characters, characters who are flawed, who struggle, who are not always perfect, like me. I do, however, like Bond’s humour.
“Homeland” is interesting for so many other reasons too. It has depth and examines the inner and outer struggles that Carrie and Brodie face .It portrays two people struggling with mental issues, Carrie with her bi polar episodes and Brodie, traumatised by PTSD. Although they are on the screen, they come across as three dimensional people instead of the flatpack agent James Bond. You can just go and pick a Bond from the shelf, they are all the same. You can easily put one together. The plot and characters in”Homeland” require a little more thought, a little more construction.
I am looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds. I expect I will return to write on them again.
In conclusion it is funny how a brief encounter with a stranger can embed itself so firmly in your memory and can affect what kind of TV programmes that you like in future years. I am grateful to the man with the razor blades on that train to Ashford, so many decades ago. I wonder what TV he watches and if we had any effect on him? Maybe St Trinians? Surely not…