Fall 2013 Review: Betrayal

30 Oct

Betrayers and James Cromwell Sometimes you watch a show,and you ask simply, “Why?” Not because it’s so bad, though you wouldn’t ask it if it was good. Even with bad shows you can often see why they were made, or the path they took and where it went wrong, or who they were trying to appeal to. There was a plan, and whether it was intended to be good, or simply popular with one particular demographic of television viewers, you can guess what it was, even if it doesn’t get there in the end. No, what I mean are shows that make you ask “Why” because they seem pointless and forgettable and you wonder why they kept getting moved through all of the many stages required to get a show from idea to production to on air. A show so forgettable and just whatever that you’ll probably not remember anything about it within an hour of viewing it, and that absolutely no one will remember its existence even a couple of months after its debut.,

Betrayal is such a show. If I had to guess at the thought process, I would suppose that ABC was probably making another attempt to imitate vastly slowed down first season hit Revenge, but the only reason I’m suspecting that is the two shows share one world title that are pretty similar. Here’s your Betrayal primer, nevertheless, so you know all you ever need to know about the show and more. Sara Hanley (Hannah Ware, who played the daughter, the worst character on Boss) is a successful magazine photographer married to Drew, an ambitious and busy prosecutor. Jack McAllister is a talented lawyer stuck working for his father-in-law in a possibly shady business. He’s married to Elaine, a marriage he fell into young. Both Jack and Elaine have kids, and after meeting at a gallery displaying Sara’s art, they find they have a spark that they simply can’t ignore and begin an affair.

I’m sure they both have perfectly good reasons to be unhappy in their respective marriages but the spark is certainly hard to discern from a viewer perspective. Jack feels stuck being around his family all the time at work and at home, and feels totally controlled by his father-in-law. Sara, well, her husband is really busy I guess and doesn’t have time for coffee when she shows up in his office in the middle of the day without calling ahead. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards them and empathize with their infidelity, or more than that, at least feel swept up in it even if we don’t think it’s moral, but I didn’t feel anything. Feeling that they were both wrong is not necessarily bad but feeling nothing at all certainly is. Both felt guilty after Sara received a phone call from her husband right before they were about to consummate their affair and they decide to break it off. Later in the episode, however, Jack made a surprise visit to Sara’s studio.  They decide, at this juncture, that even though they’ve spent just about a day with one another, that they can’t possibly live without one another and have sex right then and there in the studio. I don’t really get it and more than that as mentioned before I just don’t care.

The shin hits the fan when Jack’s brother-in-law, his boss’s son, is considered a prime murder suspect in the death of his boss’s brother-in-law, who his boss suspected of shady dealings against the family interest which Jack discovered. That’s a long complicated sentence which I could have spent more time parsing out but it’s really not worth it. The important upside is that coincidentally or maybe not, Sara’s husband is the prosecutor, who believes that a conviction of Jack’s brother-in-law could make his career, setting up a run for political office. The episode ends with Sara breaking down after finding this out, her infidelity reducing her to a pile of guilt.

Betrayal really is probably going for something in the Revenge sphere, but it’s so far off that I have a hard time believing it. Revenge was trashy, soapy, fun. Betrayal, well, it’s soapy if soapy just means being about people having affairs, but it’s not at all fun. It’s super duper serious, ponderous, and uninteresting.

I entirely forgot to mention that the show tries to grab you with my least favorite plot device, the flash forward (which Revenge used as well), which appears at the beginning of the episode, but which I forgot about by the end, when it reappears briefly.  In the flash forward, Sara is shot and well, I couldn’t tell what else happened, and I didn’t really care to watch the scene again to figure it out. This device is intended to let me know big, interesting things are going to happen, because you might not realize that after one episode, but it always misses the point. If you can’t interest people in some aspect of your show after one episode, you’re not doing a very good job. A cheap trick won’t help.

Oh, I should probably mention James Cromwell plays Jack’s father-in-law. That’s pretty cool.

Betrayal is not as bad as a bad comedy because bad dramas usually aren’t as bad as bad comedies. It was a frustrating, sub-mediocre watch, but it wasn’t out and out laughably awful. It was merely pretty bad. Again, I ask. Why?

Will I watch it again? No. Betrayal is so anonymous that you probably won’t remember it exists if I ask you about it tomorrow. That’s not a good thing.

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2 Responses to “Fall 2013 Review: Betrayal”

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  1. Fall 2013 Review: Reign | Television, the Drug of the Nation - November 20, 2013

    […] a recent review of the ABC show Betrayal, I wondered how that show every made it through all the steps that go from conception to airing, […]

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