Tweetable Takeaway: An awkward birthday party culminates in a slap heard ’round the world but is it enough to sustain a series?
Thursdays at 8pm on NBC
By: Rikki McKernan, Contributor
Well, it’s been a while but I’m back reviewing another adaptation for The Tracking Board! Did you miss me reader? Jk. Anyway, if any of you watch NBC or the Today Show, you’ll know about the slap heard ’round the world. I didn’t know much going into THE SLAP – only that it’s a miniseries based on based on an Australian TV series (much like Gracepoint/Broadchurch). I knew that the pilot culminated with the slap of a child by someone other than that child’s parents. I knew that the series was going to be controversial. I knew that it starred every B-list or has-been actor you’ve ever heard of, essentially every person you’ve ever said “hey, they were in that thing” about. So allow me to shed some light on the slap.
The pilot begins by following Hector (the guy from An Education…Peter Sarsgaard) and his wife Aisha (the woman from Mission Impossible II…Thandie Newton). They’re your typical New York yuppies – he works in government, she’s a doctor and they have two pre-teen, loud kids – a boy and a girl. This could be the setting for any bland family sitcom on TV but instead it reads more like a self indulgent play. We follow Hector and his midlife crisis – he’s fantasizing about a young girl who works with his wife and babysits his kid. In short, icky. He hasn’t gone very far with the girl Connie – they kissed in his car once. Still, yuck.
Hector is on the eve of his 40th birthday and no one is looking forward to the party the next day. By 20 minutes into the show, I’m waiting to see someone I recognize other than Sarsgaard and Newton. After a short commercial break, the floodgates open and they all come pouring in. I’ll just mention a few here but suffice it to say: they’re introduced in such a rapid fire fashion, it’s like the Oscar Red Carpet – you’re not sure where to look first. First to arrive is Melissa George and her husband Thomas Sadoski followed by Brian Cox as Hector’s Greek (yes, Greek) father, Zachary Quinto (cousin to Hector) and his wife Marin Ireland. Then comes Uma Thurman (with a normal looking face) and her new boy toy Penn Badgley.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, Victor Garber is furnishing an intrusive and heavy handed voice over. I mean, if you can’t show me what’s happening to these characters in real time, don’t make it all the more obvious by having Victor Garber explain it to me! I’m not a fan of the VO narrator unless your name is Carrie Bradshaw or Ted Mosby.
Once we’ve (sort of) established all the characters and relationships, it’s time to get the show on the road. Hugo, son of Sadoski and George, is a terror and it’s easy to see why – he’s being coddled and pampered to within an inch of his life. This kid is going to make some woman very unhappy someday. Obviously, little Hugo is in for a slap. And if I didn’t already know that Quinto would be doing the slapping, I would have guessed it within two minutes of him appearing on screen. Right from the word “go,” dude is an asshole. And I don’t mean a Sylar-level psycho but in a charming way kind of guy. He is a straight-up d-bag.
Because Sadoski is some kind of hippie artist and Quinto is some kind of big used car salesman (yeah), they butt heads. Aisha gets into it with Hector’s parents who have given the family a trip to Greece. Aisha and Hector yell at each other…it’s a typical family gathering. The thing I don’t understand is: have these people never heard of repression? Maybe my Midwestern roots are showing but shut that shit down until you get home and you can talk about people behind their backs! Geez. It’s called manners.
So, on to the main event. Hugo is being a terror, as usual, and swinging a large wooden bat in the direction of some of the other kids. When Sadoski fails to stop him, Quinto leaps into action, taking the bat away and yelling at little Hugo. When he gets a swift kick to the knee, Quinto takes matters into his own hands and slaps the kid! This stops the party in its tracks.
Hector, who was about to start feeling up the babysitter, is snapped out of his daze for long enough to realize he was about to make a mistake. Everyone stops arguing to rush over. They’re all appalled by what has happened, with the exception of Hector’s parents and Quinto himself. Similarly, everyone else tries to take the blame except for Hector’s parents and Quinto himself. Everyone leaves, with Uma and Hector offering Sadoski a ride home (he’s drunk), and Sadoski and George threatening a lawsuit.
There is a bright side to the story, though, according to Victor Garber: the slap came at the exact right moment to stop Hector from making a life-altering mistake. He and Aisha make up with each other and get a little frisky in the kitchen. Where are their kids? Apparently it’s not important. A brief glimpse of Connie tells us that although Hector’s relieved he didn’t take things further, he can’t stop thinking about what could have been.
I think this was an interesting way to being this series – focusing on one character almost exclusively and follow him through the events that will change the course of at least some of these characters’ lives. And based on next week’s episode title “Harry,” this is a strategy that is going to stick around. I do wonder, though, if one slap is enough to sustain a series (even a mini one). Sure, it’s a huge deal and it’s going to make Quinto’s life much more complicated but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think its enough to change the lives of 10 characters going forward. Terrible? Yes. Life changing for minor character Brian Cox? Probably not.
Next week has lots more in store for the yuppie puppies. Quinto gets arrested while Uma confronts Hector about his babysitter friend who quits Aisha’s clinic. Uma also takes a pregnancy test, which I assume will be positive. With seven episodes left, they don’t have too much time to leave that up in the air.
In Rikki’s perfect world, she’s Queen of Westeros, best friends with Mindy Kaling, and her other car is a TARDIS…a girl can dream, right?