NBC’s ‘The Slap’: A hit and a miss

The Slap - Season 1 NBC’s new show, The Slap, is a terribly titled network drama with a simple premise: our actions have consequences. I was pretty excited about this show because it seemed like the exact kind of subtle, character-driven drama that network TV needs. But the show fell flat for many, many reasons. (Spoilers below!) The premiere of this show reminded me of the The Affair. All the characters seem to be colored by the lens of the episode-title character. The idea of breaking a taboo as major as slapping another person’s kid was so, so promising! (Not condoning hitting kids here, guys.) But it totally fell apart two episodes in.

The show follows a group of wealthy New Yorkers, all reaching middle age, and figuring out their weird, messed up lives. The first episode centers around Hector, a man who’s been passed over for a promotion, has two noisy kids and seems deeply detached from his wife, Aisha (played by the amazing Thandie Newton! But she’s a horrible nag in this entire episode!). He’s in love with a 17 year-old girl, Connie, who works with his wife and who he inexplicably invites to his 40th birthday party. Because that’s a thing that teenagers want to do.

Hector’s cousin, Harry, is the slapper. He’s an annoying one-percenter who rants about the Iraq War as justifiable, has weird opinions about how to value art (considering he sells vintage cars for a living!), and is deeply traditional and entrenched in family life. They introduce him driving a Hummer or a Range Rover. In Brooklyn. Where he drove from Manhattan. Oh, and he’s also hit his wife on at least one occasion.

Hector’s good friends, Rosie and Gary, are the slappee’s parents. They’re crunchy hippies who make art. Rosie is introduced when she breastfeeds her bratty son, who appears to be around 4-6 years oldThey’re worried about the lasting impact of the slap on their son, so they sue Harry for damages. But they’re constantly worried about their son undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which to me indicates that they know that there’s something kind of weird about their son. Maybe he’s too aggressive (there’s a scene where he’s just smashing a toy truck against a brick wall) or just a brat, but either way, they definitely do not want him to go through with an evaluation.

Just from these descriptors, I’m sure you can tell that everyone here is a major caricature. Hector is detached from his spouse and overlooked at work–of course he’s going to have a vague affair with a teenager. He smokes and listens to jazz because he’s so sad. The only hope I have for him is that he doesn’t majorly mess up and ruin his family and his life!

The show is filled with tropes. The ranting and raving about the 99 percent? The attachment parenting cliche? They’re boring! It all creates an environment where there’s not one likable character on this show. Everyone is kind of awful. There’s not one person to root for. The show tagline is, “Who’s side are you on?” and perhaps it’s intentionally made all the characters be horrible, but I’m not on anyone’s side.

The Slap is on NBC on Thursdays at 8. I think past episodes are available on Hulu. Look for some great minor roles in this show, including Blythe Danner (with a weird, affected British accent) and Penn Badgley (now and forever known as Dan Humphrey AKA Gossip Girl).

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