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Tubegazing: Sleeper Cell

(Showtime, starts Dec. 4, 10 p.m.)

As Muslim terrorists in Showtime's new dramatic 10-part series get ready to execute their master plan, they await a final piece of information about their target, a high-profile location in southern California. One of the men comments that it would be too bad if it were Disneyland, because he's always liked the Happiest Place on Earth.

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This casual coexistence of a grown man's affection for an innocent pleasure alongside his hardened disregard for human life is the most chilling and compelling part of the program. While the series is well written and the action sequences are as good as any on TV, it is the human side that makes this drama worth watching. The premium cable channel's new show follows a Muslim undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated the cell. Darwyn Al-Sayeed, played by Michael Ealy, volunteers for this task because he wants to show what his faith really means. But, in order to maintain his cover, he participates in numerous gruesome tasks, including murder. This commitment takes its toll on him, but it also highlights the difficult process of gathering meaningful intelligence in a global guerrilla-style war. "Sleeper Cell" is fiction, but the wake-up call civilized countries face in combating terrorism is not. Grade: B+

Showtime will air "Sleeper Cell" in repeating cycles beginning Dec. 4, culminating in a two-hour finale on Dec. 18.


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