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McNamara's Picks: 'Homeland,' 'Good Wife,' 'Masters of Sex' and more

"Homeland." Things got a little crazy at the end of season two of Showtime's intense spy thriller, what with Langley being blown to bits and Carrie (Claire Danes) helping Brody (Damian Lewis) escape. Not surprisingly, things stay a little crazy, albeit in a slightly calmer way, if that makes any sense, which it should to fans of "Homeland." Instantly distancing themselves from the love story that dominated much of season two, the writers choose to go at least two full episodes without even a glimpse of Brody. Bad for Lewis fans, but good for the story, which seems to be settling into a tale of women on the edge: Carrie, of course, but also Brody's wife and daughter.

Months have passed, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is now firmly entrenched as head of the CIA, though the CIA itself is less entrenched; a Senate subcommittee is determined to get to the bottom of the bombing even if it means dissolving the agency. Off her meds and struggling with Saul's new relationship with manipulative black ops genius Dar Adul (F. Murray Abraham), Carrie whipsaws between hysteria and grim resolution. Over in the Brody household, Dana (Morgan Saylor) is also coming to terms with a father's betrayal. Even more than last season, every character is forced to turn and turn again -- Saul appears to be throwing Carrie under the bus, Carrie is now arguing Brody's innocence, and Quinn (Peter Friend), who once saw Carrie as a liability, is now her biggest supporter. "You need to really slow things down so they don't become overwhelming," a counselor tells Dana early on, and it seems the writers are taking that advice. Early episodes revisit old territory, claim some new and reconnect "Homeland" with its own fabulous spy-versus-spy roots. Showtime, Sundays, 9 p.m.

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"The Good Wife." Every fall, new shows come and go, but "The Good Wife" is back for its fifth season to show them how it's done. Year after year, creators Michelle and Robert King and their team deftly combine character study with legal procedural and add a dollop of family drama, all while showcasing one of the best ensembles in TV, not to mention a heady list of recurring guest stars. (The judges alone are worth watching for.) Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), a woman perpetually at a crossroads, seemed to imply in last season's finale that she was ready to strike out with former competitor and now colleague Carey Argos (Matt Czuchry). What will on-again/off-again boss/lover Will (Josh Charles) have to say to that? More important, what will Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) do? (Honestly, isn't that something we should ask ourselves in any situation -- what would Kalinda do?) Can't wait, but don't have to much longer. Yay. CBS, Sundays, 9 p.m.

"Masters of Sex." Combine "Mad Men" with the film adaptation of "The Kinsey Report" and you have Showtime's new series in which Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star as iconic sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Where Kinsey and his comrades studied the difference between attitudes and actions -- what Americans said they thought about sex was often at great odds with what they did -- Masters is more interested in the physiology of the thing. Against everyone's better judgment, he began to do research, first observing and interviewing prostitutes. A bit of a cold fish, especially given his work, Masters quickly realizes he needs a woman to help grow his study group; he hires Johnson, a single mother with modern views about sex, as a secretary but she quickly becomes his partner, in more than one way.

There is a lot of sex, obviously, in "Masters of Sex," though much of it is research-oriented and a bit creepy, but that is not the point. As Masters keeps arguing with those who accuse him of pornography, knowledge is the point and slowly we see how biology can be destiny -- a growing understanding of sexuality fueled the sexual and women's liberation movements. Sheen is a chameleon, though the repressed scientist doesn't sit quite comfortably on him -- we keep waiting for the grin we know is lurking in their somewhere. Caplan, on the other hand, is a marvel, creating a dishy, dignified and a thoroughly modern woman who winds up helping millions to become something similar. Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m.

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"Elementary." The smart, successful American version of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective returns, and promptly goes to London. During it's first season, the writers beautifully balanced a story of Sherlock Holmes' (Jonny Lee Millier) recovery from drug addiction--in this version Watson (Lucy Liu) is originally hired as his sober companion--with a criminal procedural in which episodes were sometimes but not always based on Doyle's works. Add a terrific supporting cast, including Aidan Quinn and Jon Michael Hill, and it's a fully realized show we're very glad is back. CBS, Thursdays, 10 p.m.

Keep watching:

"Sleepy Hollow," Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m. This modern version of Washington Irving's famous Headless Horseman tale brings an Revolutionary War soldier back to life and partners him with a modern female detective. Together, they must prevent the Apocalypse. Seriously. And seriously great.

"The Blacklist." NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m. James Spader as a super-spy turned enemy of the state turned informant makes this still the most solid and satisfying new drama of the fall.

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," ABC, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Because it could turn out to be very cool, and then you will have been in since the beginning.


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