Ten Ways To Beat The Homeland Blues

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Homeland is over – for the time being at least – which leaves our Sunday evenings emptier than Jack Bauer’s sidearm. So how to fill this gaping void? Well, you could go around practising dead-drops, running surveillance on your friends or waterboarding your pet hamster, but none of those things are recommended, or indeed, legal. Instead, get your teeth into a few of these Homeland go-furthers to fill the gap until season 2 arrives. Barack, this one’s for you...

John Frankenheimer’s seminal potboiler is a clear influence on Homeland. Adapted from Richard Condon’s novel, the storyline’s Carrie Mathison is Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), a Korean War vet who suspects that something sinister lurks behind his new-found admiration for fellow ex-POW, the Brody-like Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey). There’s political shenigans, brutal violence, rogue snipers, a scary Angela Lansbury, and even a paranoid Cold War setting analogous with Homeland’s post-9/11 world. Track it down, but make sure it’s the original and not the 2004 re-adaptation.

If you thought Carrie Mathison was having a tough time, spare a thought for Robert Redford’s poor, embattled CIA researcher in Sydney Pollack’s superior conspiracy thriller. “His CIA code name is Condor,” runs the film’s 1975 tagline, “and in the next 72 hours almost everyone he trusts will try to kill him.” No kidding. While Redford puzzles out the nefarious conspiracy, the big bads of the espionage world try to turn him to dog meat. Be advised: there are no condors involved.

Coming soon to our screens is the original inspiration for Homeland, Israeli TV thriller Prisoners Of War. Creator (and Homeland writer) Gideon Raff promises to jolt us into the thick of Israel’s conflicts via three IDF soldiers held captive in Lebanon for 17 years. All three are returned to their homeland – one in a coffin – but, like Brody, those years in the can have left their loyalties in grave doubt. If you want to impress/annoy your friends, call it by its Hebrew name Hatufim (or “abductees”).

Abu Nazir may have the ultimate Trojan horse and most of the moves, but we’re willing to bet that Carrie has a much cooler record collection. Who better to wrap your ears around after a hard day’s maverick espionage work than Miles Davis? Mathison’s favourite jazzman provides the soundtrack for her moments of rueful contemplation. You can track ‘All Blues’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ down to Davis’s live album of the same name, recorded in the Lincoln Center in 1965.

This CIA origin story winds up before the Homeland Security era takes shape, but it spans the Agency’s sometimes chequered, sometimes brilliant past in all its Commie-baiting, cigar-exploding, dead-dropping, terror-foiling glory. Ignore the 2007 miniseries and hunt down the novel: it’s the missing link between Homeland and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If you want to know why David Harewood’s Langley wonk is just a teensy bit shifty, it’s all here.

A lo-fi thriller that meanders rather than galloping through the dealings of FBI superspy Robert Hanssen, this is no less compelling for that. Hanssen sold out the Bureau’s secrets to the KGB for $1.4m over a 22 year period in a betrayal described as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history” - unquestionably the most damning review since the dawn of HR. Chris Cooper plays Hanssen as a human computer, always analysing and calculating, while Ryan Phillippe’s greenhorn agent is the unlikely candidate to bring him to justice.

Alongside Coppola’s The Conversation, this is the bug-heavy ‘70s thriller most likely to make you throw away all your lampshades and move to the desert. Alan Pakula’s film taps terrifyingly into the post-Watergate zeitgeist. In fact, watch Warren Beatty enduring the Parallax Corporation’s montage – as the creators of Homeland’s credits clearly have – and you’re basically introducing your subconscious to a lifetime of trauma. Hang on, is that Thor?

Not only does HBO’s one-season Iraq war drama take a jiffy to whistle through, it’ll give a clearer understanding of how, and why, Nazir and his terrorist kin emerged. Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright (Lee Tergesen) – a cipher for the series’ creator – is embedded with the men of 1st Recon Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he records all the absurdities and contradictions of the war. Like the conflict itself, it’s not packed with action, but it’s funny, smart and insightful, and it’s got Alexander Skarsgård staying frosty in a Humvee. What’s not to like?

Long before Homeland, before even Romeo + Juliet, Claire Danes caught the eye in this short-lived high-school drama as 15 year-old Angela Chase. Sure, Danes’s moody teenager can barely summon the energy to deal with her mum, let alone bug the neighbours’ house. But if you’re looking for another fix of the actress at her best you could do a lot worse than this smart, thoughtful, Diablo-Cody-inspiring, hugely influential show. Sadly, there is only one series: My So-Called Life didn’t fare well in the network battle with Friends and was canned by ABC after one run.

Assuming you’ve already seen Band Of Brothers (you have seen Band Of Brothers, right?), this two-season cop show is the best place to get your next Damian Lewis fix. If you liked the Englishman as ex-prisoner Nicholas Brody in Homeland, the parallels with ex-con Charlie Crews should pique your interest. He’s an LAPD ‘tec who’s fresh from serving 12 years of a life sentence for the murder of his partner. Except he didn’t do it and he wants to find out who did. Lewis’s character has religion (Buddhism rather than Islam in this instance), motivation and a lot of weapons training. Ring any bells?