‘Homeland’ Returns, More Winter Games, Eric Clapton, HBO’s ‘Here and Now’

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland
Antony Platt/Showtime
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in HOMELAND

A selective checklist of notable weekend TV:

Homeland (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): Bucking the trend of playing dead against the Winter Olympics, Showtime launches the seventh season of the still-potent and once again relevant political thriller. It’s off to a strong start as the conflict between Carrie (Claire Danes) and paranoid new President Keane (a chilling Elizabeth Marvel) percolates in the wake of Keane’s incarceration of 200 intelligence agents, including Carrie’s mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). While Keane’s civil-rights abuses are alarming, so as usual are Carrie’s reckless methods, alienating everyone include her family as tries to expose the new regime. They’re both pussycats, though, compared to the lunatic ravings of alt-right radio host Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), who’s hiding from authorities while spreading a message of dissent and revolution. I’m not sure where this is headed, and that’s a good thing.

The Winter Olympics (8/7c, Saturday, 7/6c, Sunday, NBC): While the prime-time showcase is what most of us will focus on, opportunities for a weekend wallow in winter sports are available around the clock on NBCSN and streaming on nbcolympics.com. Highlights of the evening package, much of it live in all time zones, including the Figure Skating team event and men’s and women’s Alpine Skiing on Saturday and Sunday.

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (Saturday, 9/8c, Showtime): This intimate documentary portrait, directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, includes extensive interviews with the influential musician who’s the only artist inducted three times into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. The film traces a half-century of musical history as Clapton reflects on his career and turbulent personal life, including battles with substance abuse and the accidental death of his 4-year-old son.

Here and Now (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): I wish IFC’s Portlandia would stick around long enough to parody Alan Ball’s (Six Feet Under, True Blood) laughably self-important new drama, set in Portland, Oregpn, all about the woes of TV’s most enlightened family, and don’t they know it. The grown kids, all but one adopted from global hot spots, see themselves as living “advertisements for how progressive … our parents were.” Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter are solid but strain under the burden of playing such unappealingly whiny characters. He mopes that “Everything’s over” upon turning 60, and she pines, “I hoped I’d be so much more.” Their gay Columbian-born son (Daniel Zovatto) is having apocalyptic and supernatural visions that somehow involve his Iranian-American therapist (Peter Macdissi), whose own fraught Muslim family, including a gender-fluid teen, is much more intriguing. And about the show’s generic title: Was Whatever taken?

Inside Weekend TV: Celebrate the legacy of Frasier dad John Mahoney, who passed away Feb. 4, with COZI TV’s 13-hour marathon on Saturday of some of his best episodes as curmudgeonly Martin Crane (starts at 9 am/6c). … Adapting the recurring animated comedy bit from CBS’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Showtime presents a toothless series version of Our Cartoon President (Sunday, 8/7c) as a weekly series. It’s like a weak Saturday Night Live sketch that never knows how to end, and nothing in it is as inspired as SNL’s depiction of Steve Bannon as the Grim Reaper. … CNN’s six-part documentary series The Radical Story of Patty Hearst (Sunday, 9/8c), opening with back-to-back episodes, relives the 1974 kidnapping of the publishing heiress and her controversial association with the terrorist Symbionese Liberation Army.