I was a 24 fan for all eight years that it was on. I never cared when it strayed so far into ridiculousness that it seemed like a fantasy show; the characters kept it anchored, for the most part, and the show remained fun. However, based on the pilot, I've got to say... it seems like we're in for a much funner ride that's based on reality much more than 24, even though the creators of Homeland are the same as 24.
The show revolves around two characters: Carrie (Claire Danes), a CIA analyst who suffers from some sort of strange psychological condition. Despite this, she's a brilliant analyst that notices things other people do not. Her paranoia seems to somewhat stem from being unable to stop 9/11 (we don't get a complete answer at this point), and eight years after that day, she visits Baghdad after an informant for the Iraqi's is to be executed before he can give up his information to the CIA. Carrie learns from him, just before he dies, that an American P.O.W has been turned by Abu Nazir, a terrorist who seems to be planning an attack on American soil soon.
Skip ahead ten months and we find the release of Nicolas Brody, an American soldier who has been missing for eight years. His family (Morena Baccarin from V plays the estranged wife and she does a fine job here) reunites with him and all seems to be heading back to normal. However, Carrie suspects he is the P.O.W that the informant was talking about. She bugs his house, and with the help of some old friends and a mentor named Saul (a jaded looking Mandy Patinkin), she looks into him.
To give away too many plot points would be a shame. All I have to say is that the writing is top notch, finding a pretty good balance between moving fast and slowing down. They know what scenes to let stretch out and which ones to power through. Also, Claire Danes is giving her finest work here as a brilliant but troubled CIA agent. It should be entertaining to watch her flex her acting chops here, especially after how good she did in Temple Grandin. This is a different role but equally good. Everyone else does a great job as well.
The episode ends on a semi-cliffhanger. Right now, the show is starting off on the right foot. It's a great pilot and establishes the characters and plot well; now, we just need the show to keep up the pace, the quality and not let the plot get tooconvoluted.