In entertainment, the simple, well-executed ideas are usually the best. For instance: a steamy television drama about two troubled-but-otherwise happily married people engage in a torrid, forbidden affair. If done right, it could be Emmy gold, right?
This is the premise for Showtime’s sexy drama, “The Affair.” Thanks to freedom from restrictive broadcast censors and the need for edgy programming, “The Affair,” now in its second season, takes the delicious concept and brilliantly executes it with provocative, “are-they-really-doing-it?” sex scenes and ingenious dual-perspective writing. Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Golden Globe-nominated Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson round out an excellent cast.
Sounds like fantastic TV, right? It might be, but there's one tiny problem: I hate this show. In fact, I love hating it. It sounds bizarre, but hate-watching is a real thing, and a step beyond trainwreck television. It's when a show is so horrific that you hate it and the characters, but not enough to actually stop watching. It’s the entertainment equivalent to that co-worker that drives you crazy but you actively seek them out just to be annoyed by them. It’s simultaneously gratifying, because you were right, and aggravating, because they are just so irritating (Another show, I hate-watch: Bravo's "Apres Ski," which is complete with terrible employees, racial tension, and uber-rich snowbunnies set in picturesque Whistler, Canada).
Humans are nothing if not gluttons for punishment, as are the severely flawed nutjobs in Showtime’s infidelity drama. Here are five reasons why I love to hate “The Affair.”
Noah Solloway. In Noah’s mind, he’s a modern day Ernest Hemmingway—a writer for the ages who only hasn’t been discovered because of the collective dumbing down of America by “Twilight” and “50 Shades Of Grey.” In reality, the show's protagonist is an aging, drama-obsessed horndog who decides to forego the Corvette for his mid-life crisis and bone the waitress at a Hamptons diner one summer, thus blowing his and his family's life apart. He's a husband and a father who cannot put his children’s, or anyone's, needs above his own, and drags them into his downfall.
His worst transgression is an incestuous one—a high, naked hard-partying Noah slips into a hot tub with two kissing women while his fiancée was giving birth. One of the women is his own barely legal daughter. Where's Benson and Stabler when you need them? Honorable mention: he ignored his son’s chronic and debilitating stomachaches until he nearly died.
Helen Solloway. Season 2 expands to include Noah’s now ex-wife, Helen's (Tierney) perspective, and she’s not exactly the innocent housewife scorned. No one deserves to be cheated on, however, Helen coping mechanisms are anything but healthy. They reach a head-shaking crescendo in this season's fourth episode. After breaking things off with Noah’s longtime friend, she self-destructs by getting drunk, ingesting some edibles and driving to the hair salon, where she abuses her poor stylist. She forgets what day it is and drives to school to pick up her young children while drunk and high. Needless to say, she ends up getting arrested for a DUI. Where are social workers when you need them?
The Solloway children. Once you see the parents, you can understand why the children are are foul-mouthed, disrespectful little brats. And this is coming from someone who melts at the sight of most tiny humans, even in mid-tantrum. The younger ones may be acting out due to all of the turmoil in their lives, however, Whitney Solloway in particular is as much of a disaster as her parents. In season one, she hooks up with a man twice her age and gets pregnant. This season, she flies into scenes cussing out her parents and her dad's girlfriend, puts herself in dangerous situations (See the aforementioned scandalous hot-tub make-out session at a hurricane party), and flinging her teenage angst everywhere. If I ever even thought of acting that way, I’d probably get dentures for my 18th birthday. Then again, I wasn’t raised by morally corrupt whackjobs.
Self-indulgent pain and frustrating time-jumps. While the rest of the world fears mass shootings, police brutality, climate change, losing their reproductive rights and Donald Trump, everyone on “The Affair” feels that their pain is paramount to common sense and human decency. They are hurting so it's understandable that they cheat, abandon each other for yoga retreats or hurricane parties, drink too much, use cocaine, assault young literary critics or even commit arson.
But if you're going to manufacture such drama, then you should at least viewers get to enjoy the fallout, right? Nope. This fantastically acted, well-written show often skips over the consequences of their terrible characters' actions. Noah misses his daughter's birth, leaving Alison to do it alone during a hurricane, but we miss what happens in the first days after the birth.
Helen is arrested for a DUI, which took place with two children in the car, and the next relevant scene is a mere mention of the trial while she's riding in a limo. That's it. The characters' horrendous behavior would be more palatable if they suffered actual repercussions.
Someone is a murderer. Think I’m being too harsh? Someone murdered Scott Lockhart, who was—surprise—a boozin’ drug dealer and Whitney’s older lover.
Do you love "The Affair" or just love to hate it? Share your comments below.
You can hate-watch with me on Showtime at 10/9c on Sunday.
Photo Credits: shaqsy.com; enstarz.com; eonline.com
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.