As much as it pains me to admit, all of the marketing that NBC’s The Slap forced on me while I was binge watching The Blacklist OnDemand worked and I was one of 5.1 million viewers to tune in to the live premiere last night. I watched for two reasons – the ensemble cast and the intriguing premise. The commercials leading up to the premiere revealed a dynamic family party featuring a fired up Zachary Quinto…slapping the shit out of a young child. It’s not ideal behavior; it’s not normal for TV; it’s provocative. I had to find out just why any grown man would behave in such a way. I also had one burning question – how could this entire show be based on one crazed moment? Turns out, there’s a whole lot more going on in Brooklyn.
So how was The Slap and is it worth your time? I break down my thoughts about what worked and what didn’t work below. You can decide if it’s the kind of thing for you.
What The Slap Delivered:
- The cast really is phenomenal. Peter Sarsgaard makes me giddy like a little girl. After watching his breathtaking performance as Ray Seward in AMC’s The Killing, I knew that I would watch him in anything he did going forward. Add Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman, Thandie Newton, Melissa George, and Brian Cox and you have the potential for a true knock-out success.
- The show is about more than a slap. This group of friends and family is twisted and their history, convoluted. Each character brings something different to the table and their interactions are what will make this really interesting. (Just to give you a taste, we have a man having an affair with his babysitter, an artist, an abusive husband, and a set of overbearing wealthy Greek parents.) The storylines of the show already go way beyond child rearing and discipline. In the first hour, the show introduces themes like adultery, social class distinctions, working man vs. rich man, relationships, career struggles, parental interference in relationships. And that’s just some of it.
- The show makes you think. This is not an example of mindless television. It’s the polar opposite. Each theme, and each character, somehow forced me to think about how our own personal choices can deeply affect other people. I’m also still trying to figure out with whom I’m empathizing with most. I keep wondering things like, What would I do if someone slapped my nonexistent kid? Would I have slapped a kid who kicked me? Many people are also questioning the choice to make Hugo (the five-year old who gets slapped) a child that is still breast-feeding. While I understand the aversion to this sensitive topic, I’m actually glad that they chose to include it. It drove home the point for me that normal is relative and what I consider normal is far different from what someone else considers normal. Despite that, respect must still be a two way street. I still can’t decide if I think Hugo deserved the slap from Harry (Quinto), but the bottom line is that this show still has me thinking and questioning a day later. I’m pulled in.
What The Slap Whiffed On:
- The voice over narrator. At random points in the episode, a third party voice chimed in with narrations about what was happening on screen and what the character was thinking. It felt out of place and a little bit insulting, as if the audience isn’t smart enough to catch on to these things, or the actor wasn’t talented enough to convey it.
- Confusion. Family relationships aren’t 100% clear. Right now, I’m still not sure if Harry is related to the child that he slapped, or if he’s simply a family friend. While it was evident that most of this group of people were very familiar with each other, and some of their family ties were made clear, there is still some confusion. In a show that is this driven by relationships, you would think they would have done a better job of letting us know exactly who was who.
While I’m still not convinced that this show will be winning any Emmy’s next year, I have decided I’m going to stick with it and see it to the end. I think The Slap is smart and I appreciate any TV that has great acting and intriguing stories. I’m invested in these people and this incident and I want to know what happens. Though I do have to admit, I was relieved when I found out that this show is only going to be an eight-episode mini-series. If it does turn out to be a let-down, I can forget it ever happened and let The Slap fade away like a real nasty bruise.