It was just a stroke of luck, I’m sure, but right around the time our city fathers and mothers were embarrassing themselves with a Codco-like debate about “the fence,” a farce compounded by federal types unable to distinguish between their arses and holes in the ground, a
top-notch, Emmy Award-winning American television show called “Homeland” provided me and perhaps other viewers with a clue about the extraordinary security apparently required for this ancient, historical harbour of ours.
Now, I have no idea what sort of ratings these kinds of cable series garner in Newfoundland, but my wife and I find many of them enthralling. “Homeland” is the latest viewing addiction in our home, joining a list of television programs that are as well-produced, well-
acted and as entertaining as any multi-million dollar blockbuster you’d catch at the local cinema (over the years, our favourites have included “Deadwood,” “Breaking Bad,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” “Pacific” and “Dexter”).
“Homeland” is an intriguing story of an American soldier who returns home after eight years as a prisoner of war in Iraq and, unbeknownst to his loved ones and colleagues, has been brainwashed. For those of us of a certain generation, it’s an updated version of the magnificent movie “The Manchurian Candidate” starring Frank Sinatra, with “Homeland” smothered in the post-9/11 paranoia about security that has enveloped the U.S.
In “Homeland,” there appears to be only one person who suspects the returning hero is actually a terrorist, and she happens to have a serious mental disorder, an obsessive compulsive affliction of sorts which, strangely enough, seems to help in her role as a CIA operative.
That’s enough of the plot, and enough of my promotion of the show.
But last week, in the final episode of the second season, there was the proverbial cliffhanger with the two main characters, the soldier and the CIA agent, trying to determine where they can hide out from the American and Middle Eastern spooks hot on their heels.
And, wait for it, drum roll please, here’s where the local angle kicks in: the woman, played by Claire Danes, tells the soldier, played by Damian Lewis, that the plan is to drive to Montreal, “get on a fishing boat, and head up to Newfoundland.” (The pronunciation of Newfoundland, as you might guess, was butchered and came out sounding, with the accent on “new,” like NEWfinlind).
Anyway, I thought to myself that this piece of fiction could fit right into the ludicrous piece of reality theatre playing itself out in Sin City, the one that involves the construction of a security fence on the waterfront, apparently designed to keep nasty spies and other devilish intruders away from cruise ships and other vessels, including that delightful piece of rat-inhabited Russian junk that’s been docked here seemingly since the Cold War ended.
Perhaps some local enterprising producer/writer could launch next season’s “Homeland” with an episode called “The Fence,” filmed entirely in Newfoundland.
There could be a plot development in “Homeland” in which Carrie (the CIA character) and Brody (the soldier) manage to make their way into St. John’s, and, while hiding out here from the forces of evil, can’t help but get involved in the multiple mysteries surrounding “The Fence.” After all, it would be right up their alley, right through the Narrows, as it were. Carrie and Brody are always in the middle of international intrigue: Brody has killed the vice-president of the United States,
Carrie has helped “eliminate” a bin Laden type. Now it’s “The Fence.” They can smell danger. They’re consumed by danger. Bring on “The Fence.” We could have Carrie and Brody starring with Sean and Doc and Sheila and a cast of … well, at least a dozen more.
Every successful show needs a good dose of sex, of course, so I see Carrie having an affair with Jake Doyle, the private investigator of “The Republic of Doyle,” while Brody has a go at a former Newfoundland beauty queen who, until bumping into the ex-POW at an alcohol rehabilitative centre downtown, has been bored out of her skull promoting sensual seal skin products in Port de Grave.
Then we could have Malachy Doyle, Jake’s father, trying to ship arms out of St. John’s harbour to a few hoodlums trying to resurrect IRA activities in Belfast. No wonder we need “The Fence.”
By the way, the fact that in real life Allan Hawco, who plays Jake in “The Republic of Doyle,” is a leader in the anti-fence campaign, should not be viewed as a problem or a conflict of interest, but rather as another appetizing element, a real ratings-grabber.
And in the midst of all these sidebars roams the main plot: the fence was given the thumbs up, and a few bucks, by city council (the decision took place largely under the radar, as they say) because the local politicians had been told by the port authority that the federal government wanted extra security; Transport Canada, though, claims it said no such thing, that the port authority’s Sean Hanrahan had it all wrong — “No way, Mr. Hanrahan” — but the port authority says the Ottawa crowd had it all arse backwards, and tried to make a balls of Sean’s credibility.
City council, in the meantime, tried to pooh-pooh the public outrage because, after all, it’s only a million bucks or so and concern about nasty invaders on the waterfront trumps a couple of hundred years of basically unobstructed access to the harbour.
Then two councillors, Shannie and Sheila, say they’ve changed their minds — they’re now in Allan Hawco’s corner, or Jake Doyle’s lap, whatever (remember that Jake’s lap is a magnet for women in “The Republic of Doyle”).
And so forth and so on.
Do you think anybody would believe that story line?
I can’t wait for the show to resume.
“Homeland”: Season Three.
Episode one: “The Fence.”
Promotional line: truth is stranger than fiction.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.