I spent the holidays OD'ing on the TV series "Homeland." This meant viewing all 24 episodes in a three-day period, watching several a second time, digging up print reviews and features I had ignored over the past two years - plus a few more obsessive gambits, such as searching for the Israeli series on which the Showtime hit is based.
This type of famine or feast approach to media is not new for me, but it's probably not what the producers have in mind. I do find that more and more people are either fully into things these days, or completely out of them. We have so many entertainment options, yet few of us enjoy sampling; we latch on to something we like at the media buffet and then gorge.
At least "Homeland" references now make sense, most notably the "Saturday Night Live" sketch I went back and watched online. Turns out Bill Hader's "Saul" and Anne Hathaway's "Carrie" were among the funniest send-ups SNL has ever done.
What's that? You've never watched "Homeland"? The way I figure it that places you among roughly 300 million Americans.
"Homeland" is a thriller about the CIA's post-9/11 efforts to wipe out Al Qaeda, featuring almost as many plot twists as, well, the real CIA. It's one of television's biggest hits, but unlike, say, "American Idol," which has been sampled at one time or another by virtually everyone who owns a TV, "Homeland" has been seen by a tiny fraction of the U.S. audience.
Roughly 2 million people watched the second season's finale a few weeks ago. By comparison, over 30 million tuned in the Cowboys-Redskins game on NBC two weeks later. Still, when it comes to the zeitgeist, "Homeland" is right up there with the NFL.
President Obama told People Magazine that "Homeland" is one of his favorite shows, and the Clintons are also said to be big fans. Last March, the program's male lead, Damian Lewis, was invited to the White House for a chat with Mr. Obama about where the plot might lead.
I missed the "Homeland" debut in 2011, and found myself trapped. I was afraid to join the series in mid-story, so I managed to avoid it altogether. But this Christmas I received the first season on DVD, and my son Danny and I - who together once watched all 154 episodes of NBC's "The West Wing," three times from start to finish, after the series was no longer on the air - polished off the first 12 "Homeland" shows in less than 48 hours.
Locating the second season was tougher. I pre-ordered the DVDs on Amazon.com and then realized I had no idea when they'd be released. I signed up for a one-month trial of Netflix, only to find out it doesn't offer "Homeland." Fortunately, there's an app called Showtime Anytime, which I downloaded to my iPad, and then rushed to the Apple store for a cable that would let me watch iPad video on a full-size TV.
Ah, but it seems Showtime won't allow that. While the show played perfectly on the iPad, a printed notice on the TV screen said I was out of luck. Still, we watched episodes 13 through 24 on the small device in a day-and-a-half.
That done, I began Googling the Israeli series, "Hatufim," (Abductees) and learned that it exists on DVD with English subtitles - but to watch it I'd have to buy a machine that accommodates the TV format called PAL, used widely outside the U.S. Instead, I spent $24.99 on Amazon, plus rush shipping, for a movie called "Homeland," which I discovered has absolutely nothing to do with the TV series. It's about an Israeli soldier named Kobi who comes to New York, where he meets Leila, and...oh, who cares. I guess I was thrown by reading that the film had won an award, which I later discovered was bestowed by the Delray Beach Film Festival.
Anyway, I rushed into the New Year fully prepped to discuss "Homeland," only to find that those who have seen it are already talked-out, and the other 300 million couldn't care less. It seems the buzz has shifted. I hear that two seasons of "Downton Abbey" are available on DVD.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker and can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.