Scandal, Homeland, the rise of the political thriller

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They are two of the most successful dramas of recent years, thanks as much to their strong female protagonists as their compelling storylines. But just why are we so obsessed with what goes on in the corridors of power? examines the rise and rise of Scandal and Homeland

Last week, the fourth series of Showtime's Homeland drew to a close. recapped Season 4 Episode 12, where Quinn and Carrie's long-awaited kiss was watched by millions of viewers. The show returns with new episodes next year and fans have been extremely impressed by this year's storylines, especially given the doubts cast over the show's future following the death of lead character Nicholas Brody at the end of Season 3. Lauded by critics for her superb portrayal of CIA agent Carrie Mathison, Claire Danes has landed a nomination at the SAG Awards 2015 for Homeland, alongside The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Another of television's most iconic female characters, Scandal's Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has enthralled viewers since the show's debut in 2012. And they're not alone. House of Cards, Veep, The Good Wife, the list of gripping political thrillers goes on. Are we seeing a new trend in television?

Of course, the success of compelling and well-cast political dramas is nothing new. HBO's The Wire, Fox's iconic 24 and NBC's The West Wing all received critical acclaim not only for the performances of their lead actors, but also for their incredibly accurate portrayals of what goes on behind closed doors in the political world. Scandal and Homeland, dealing with public relations at the White House and CIA operations in the Middle East respectively, continue in this tradition, while breaking new ground by putting complex, challenging and fallible women centre stage. Again, this is not to say that well-written, substantial female characters are a recent phenomenon - Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy springs immediately to mind - but the success of Scandal and Homeland is undoubtedly due to the superb way in which their lead characters are written. Carrie Mathison, in particular, is one of the most engaging and thought-provoking characters ever featured on screen, with Danes recently receiving a nomination at the 2015 Golden Globes.

So, commendable attention to detail, compelling scripts and two extremely talented lead actresses. A sure-fire recipe for a hit? Tempting as it is to ascribe the shows' popularity to Washington and Danes, the fact remains that as viewers, we're obsessed with what goes on behind-the-scenes with the great and good. Some argue that two such high-profile female leads, endowed with all the faults and shortcomings of male characters, make Homeland and Scandal feminist successes. However, it's impossible to deny that, as a general rule, we're obsessed with the private counterpart to the public image. To a certain extent, we want to be shocked. This may go some way toward explaining the popularity of such hit shows as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Jersey Shore or the now legendary Big Brother. Essentially, we want the cameras to be on when we know they are supposed to be off. Why do you think Scandal and Homeland are so successful? Let us know your thoughts!