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Showtime comes into its own with ‘Homeland’ wins

Top drama prize and thesps victories bolster pay model, prominence

“Homeland” is bringing home the gold for Showtime in more ways than one.

The pay cabler hit it big Sunday when first-year series “Homeland” had a stupendous night at the Emmys with wins for its writers, leads Damian Lewis and Claire Danes” and for top drama series.

The kudos boost the network received was perhaps unthinkable only a year ago, even though the skein, based on the Israeli series “Hatufim” (“Prisoners of War”), immediately became a critics darling when it debuted in October.

The awards bouquet “Homeland” received at the Emmycast will go a long way toward bringing new subscribers to the network as well as satisfying the ones who are already on board — it’s the business model that Showtime, HBO and Starz are based upon.

“Homeland” has been the signature series for Showtime since the arrival of David Nevins as programming topper.

As for the acting categories, and against some of the top lead performances on broadcast and cable — including Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Julianna Margulies and Elisabeth Moss — “Homeland” made its mark.

While many believed Claire Danes, who won a few years ago for the HBO telepic “Temple Grandin,” would take home the lead actress trophy, Damian Lewis’ win surprised many. And it gave “Homeland” the kind of deeper kudos credibility that doesn’t often come along.

The Brit has made a nice living playing American characters — from a World War II hero in “Band of Brothers” to a Los Angeles cop in “Life,” and now a former prisoner of war involved in a plot against his own country in “Homeland.”

“I have been coming to America since I was a 6-year-old boy and have been very connected,” Lewis said Sunday after his win. “My view hasn’t changed. I have great friends here and love being here.”

It wasn’t the first time that a drama has taken the top acting Emmys for a drama — James Gandolfini and Edie Falco captured those slots for “The Sopranos” a few times — but the achievement is significant, especially as Showtime has seen its kudos count rise in recent years.

Sunday night marked the first time Showtime has won the lead actor and actress in a drama category, further validation for a business model built upon landing new subscribers and keeping the ones already onboard.

Danes’ CIA character suffers from bipolar disorder, and the actress’ portrayal of Grandin was of a woman with autism. The actress said she doesn’t specifically look for roles that incorporate some sort of mental illness, but that she enjoys the challenge of giving a true account of what, and how, her characters endure.

“I’m just working my way through the DSM-V (the hefty manual of of mental disorders),” Danes said. “I find these conditions incredibly fascinating. It’s just a coincidence they came up in succession. I hopefully treated them in a realistic way. They often haven’t been talked about on such a big stage. It’s been a privilige to participate in that.”

As for ‘Homeland” writers and exec producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, who previously worked together on Fox’s seminal series “24,” the subject of terrorism has given them a national stage, and auds something to ponder in a time when Mideast tension are extremely high. (Gideon Raff was the writer on “Hatufim.”)

When Gordon was asked whether “Homeland” could succeed on a broadcast net, he responded: “(Fox president) Kevin Reilly asks himself that.”

And in describing his relationship with Showtime, Gordon added, “We are grateful to be on Showtime. They gave us the patience from the top, and (our characters) didn’t have to be naked or use swear words. They let us take our time and let the stories breathe.”

“Homeland” begins its second season Sunday.

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