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TV Picks: 'The Flash,' 'Homeland,' 'Transparent'

TV Picks: 'The Flash,' 'Homeland,' 'Transparent'
Grant Gustin as The Flash. (Warner Bros. / MCT)

"The Flash" -- Let Fox go noir ("Gotham") and ABC get tense ("Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D") with their super-hero adjacent series; after experimenting with both tones in "Arrow," the CW just wants to spin off and have a little fun.

Enter (andexitandenteragain) "The Flash," a bright and promising addition to television's comic-book wars and one of the best new shows of the fall.

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Barry Allen, portrayed by Grant Gustin as a fresh-faced forensic specialist, is always running from something. First it was bullies, then it was his own tragic past -- as a child, Barry witnessed a strange, gravity-defying incident in which Mom was killed; Dad was subsequently wrongly convicted of murdering her.

Now, Barry runs mostly from his feelings for best friend and foster sister Iris (Candice Patton) and his own imperfect relationship with time; he's always late.  But not for long, of course.

When a freak lightning storm coincides with the inauguration of S.T.A.R. lab's super-groovy, physics-changing particle accelerator, high-power electricity runs amok in Central City.

Barry comes out of a nine-month coma only to discover that not only is he pretty ripped for a coma survivor, but he can also now travel at super-human speeds And it's a good thing too, since speed is not the only power the malfunctioning particle accelerator bestowed, and not everyone hit was as nice as Barry.

Bedazzled with all the young adult charm creators Greg Berlanit, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns (also of "Arrow") can muster, "The Flash" is everything it should be: fast-paced, occasionally witty and amazing to look at. CW, Tuesdays, 8 p.m.

"Homeland" -- From its glorious first season through it's troubled third, Showtime's award-winning spy drama has been praised, denounced, parsed and deconstructed within an inch of its life. But there is no doubt that "Homeland," for better or worse, is reinventing itself this year.

The end of Season 3 saw the solution of the main problem facing a story that wanted to be an ongoing series rather than a limited narrative. Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the soldier turned traitor turned soldier again, was finally killed, mostly because his character had become more distraction than asset, forcing the show's true star -- Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) -- to act, on more than one occasion, not so much bi-polar, which she is, as completely stupid, which she's not.

Also, he got her pregnant.

Season 4 opens six months or so after Brody's death. Carrie has parked the baby with her sister and is the CIA station chief out of Kabul, all those internal conflicts, painful doubts and tortured misgivings deep-sixed and masked by the cool and collected power-dame we saw at the start of the first season, before Brody became not just a possible terrorist and potential threat but a damaged human not unlike herself.

After calmly launching the bombing of a warehouse in which a target is hiding, Carrie brushes off the possibility, and then the actuality, of civilian casualties as the price of a war we didn't start.

Saul (Mandy Patinkin), long the official heart and soul of the show, has been sidelined to some desk job in New York, which leaves the role of protesting human to Quinn (Rupert Friend), who can't quite believe what Carrie has become, which seems to be a symbol of blinkered military leadership in general and the American military in particular.

So the "Homeland" reset button involves making Carrie part of the system she previously abhorred; inevitably, this will change. How complex the story line will become remains to be seen; early episodes seem stripped down but promising.
Showtime, Sundays, 9 p.m.

"Transparent" -- I know I put this on my picks last time, but Jill Soloway's show is an amazing thing and everyone should watch it.

Mort, a retired professor (Jeffrey Tambor) has finally found the courage to live truly as himself, which entails transitioning to a woman, Maura. But how to tell his adult but not terribly mature children, who all have (mostly self-inflicted) troubles of their own.

"Transparent" is gorgeously grounded in modern-day Los Angeles, where there is nothing but third acts and endless support for both transformation and stagnation. The cast, which includes Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass as "the kids," is universally good, but the show belongs to Tambor.

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In early episodes he plays both Mort and Maura, and with stunning subtlety makes it miraculously easy to see why this person who has been living as a man is indeed a woman -- and, more important, why it is never too late to be true to yourself. Amazon, beginning Friday, anytime.

Twitter: @marymacTV

A previous version of these picks identified "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" as a CBS show; it is on ABC

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