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Emmys 2012: ‘Homeland’ triumphs where others failed

When Showtime’s terrorism-themed"Homeland"scored nine Emmy nominations Thursday morning, it was a triumph for a freshman show whose fate was once far from certain.

Many series with political and Sept. 11 overtones, after all, had previously sputtered; Showtime itself struggled to land an audience with a similarly themed show titled “Sleeper Cell” in 2005.

“For the first three or four episodes, we were so uncertain and unsure — we were afraid the audience wouldn’t be interested for just those [political] reasons,” executive producer Howard Gordon, who like collaborator Alex Gansa was also a creative force behind the politically inflected"24,"told The Times on Thursday morning. “We thought there could be some fatigue on the subject matter; we almost resigned ourselves pre-emptively to that.”

FULL COVERAGE: The Emmys | Top nominees

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A thriller set largely in Washington, D.C., “Homeland” stars Claire Danes as a CIA operative tracking the movements of a potentially traitorous former American POW (Damian Lewis). Though it has been on the air for only 12 episodes, it garnered more Emmy nominations than any new series, including a spot in the coveted outstanding drama category. Danes and Lewis also each picked up lead acting nominations.

The Emmy nominations also offer a feather in the cap of Showtime President David Nevins. “Homeland’ was part of the first wave of new programming greenlighted by the executive, who inherited a group of aging series when he was named to the position just two years ago.

“Homeland” is based loosely on an Israeli dramatic series called “Prisoners of War,” but Americanizing the themes and adding a thriller aspect about a potential mole. Gansa and Gordon, who created “Homeland” with “Prisoners of War” creator Gideon Raff, said they were attracted to the timeliness of the subject matter.

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“There’s a disconnect between the civilian population and people who fight on our behalf,” said Gansa. “That seemed like a really interesting point to explore.”

For his part, Lewis said the response to the show has largely been driven by the nation’s still unsettled mood.

“I think [writers] have very cleverly captured a moment in time,” he said. “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction in the public mood — there’s an ennui about the war on terror, but also a specter of threat from this hidden enemy and a fear we’ll get blown up again. I think the show rides both those truths very well.”

Production of the second season is currently under way in North Carolina; the show returns to the air in the fall.

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steve.zeitchik@latimes.com

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