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Spring 2015 Review: The Slap

23 Feb

The Slap

The Slap isn’t really a good show, but it’s not really a bad show either. What it definitely is is one of the stranger high-concept network series I’ve seen in a while. The Slap definitely displays some serious ambition, and though that ambition is misplaced and mishandled, there’s something worth saying for at least the effort. 

Everything about The Slap is both strange and screams of wanting to be important and meaningful. The show begins with a third person omniscient narrator who, over the course of the episode, chimes in occasionally but not very often, making one wonder why the show possibly bothered having a narrator at all. The narrator starts to tell us about Hector’s day. It’s Hector’s 40th birthday, and he’s anticipating a big promotion in his job in city government. He’s extremely disappointed when he’s passed over, but does his best not to show it. Hector is stressed out about his job and his upcoming birthday party and chooses for some reason not to reveal his lack of promotion to his wife, who assumed the promotion was a mere formality.

All this stress highlights Hector’s lingering fantasy of having an affair with his wife’s teenage coworker, who also serves as their babysitter. Although it was hard for me to tell if this was real or fantasy, it seemed like they had kissed once but nothing more; it wasn’t too late to come back from, and Hector knows an affair with a teenager would be a terrible idea, but he can’t help dwelling on it.

The party causes additionally stress when his overbearing Greek parents and his wife fight; his parents bring way too much food and overstep their bounds (ethnic parents, right) and buy the whole family plane tickets to Greece without checking the dates with anyone else. Additionally, some other couples at the party get into some serious political bickering. Ur-capitalist suburban car dealer Harry and liberal creative-type Gary argue and argue, to the annoyance of their wives and just about everyone else. Different couples’ kids are playing in the yard, and Hector who wants to be anywhere but at this party, moves to talk and flirt with the babysitter in the corner and seems on the verge of making mistakes he wouldn’t be able to take back. Meanwhile, one of Gary’s kids is not behaving and is dangerously swinging a bat around.

And then, forty minutes in, right-wing Harry, in the spur of the moment, with no thought, frustrated by his indiscriminate bat-swinging delivers the titular slap to Gary’s child, prompting chaos and anarchy as different guests yell at and over one another, Harry defending the slap, Gary threatening to beat him up, sue him, or both, and everyone else taking sides. Hector is incidentally saved by the slap; as everyone disperses in the wake of Slap-gate, he finally tells his wife about his promotion gone wrong, they make up, and he realizes how lucky he is to have been interrupted before making a huge mistake.

Presumably, every episode will be from a different perspective of someone at the party, and will investigate how the slap changed his or her life. The Slap really is a strange show. There’s narration, as mentioned above, but just a little and serving no real purpose. Is there supposed to be a grand narrative, or merely a series of vaguely related vignettes? The very meaningful themes and subtexts of political bickering, child abuse, and parental rights would lend credence to the former, but choosing to start the series focusing on a character whose mini-arc is only peripherally slap-related seems to be point to the latter.

The Slap is hardly awful by any means but it is puzzling and none of the characters nor the writing are intriguing enough to actually watch further episodes; the most interesting aspect is the odd set up but while it does kind of make me want to know what’s going on it doesn’t really make me care enough to watch more. In another world, everything could have been a little more put together, a little sharper, and this could have been a legitimately interesting show. In this world, though, it’s just one shade off of interesting in about every way.

Will I watch it again? No. The Slap was actually a weird pleasure to watch the pilot of; too many mediocre pilots are just incredibly boring, while The Slap was just strange and all over the place. So it has that going for it. But that doesn’t make it good.