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“Betrayal” Pilot Review

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Yes, this is a show about an affair. Infidelity has always been a plot device in television, but this is the first show that puts it at front and center.

The story begins when the affair starts. And therein lies the problem. Here, writer/creator David Zabel has created a world that begins after the affair starts. The way the show is shot also contributes to its highbrow world/low melodrama feel, which is surprising when you learn that the pilot was directed by Patty Jenkins, of Monster fame. The last pilot she shot was much more beautifully done, and well written, too: AMC’s The Killing.

The cast is headed by two foreigners. Sara, the wistful photographer, is played by Hannah Ware, who was excellent in Starz’s Boss. Ware is miscast here, as a frustrated, lonely mother who still manages to be an in-demand photographer. It’s not the latter that’s the headscratcher. It’s seeing the beautiful, silky Ware as a mother, and it’s seeing somebody as beautiful as her struggle after being told by her husband her choice for a tie is wrong.

Her partner in this crime is Jack, played by Stuart Townsend. He never seems fully present in his scenes, and always looks like he’s thinking about something else. Maybe that’s on purpose, to show how distracted his character is, how unhappy.

The rest of the cast should be strong enough, based on their resumes alone, especially James Cromwell and Henry Ian Thomas, who play Jack’s father-in-law and brother-in-law, respectively. But it’s the writing, and the contrived situations they’re put in, that really forces them to sound like they’re hamming it up. Cromwell, especially, as the aging criminal who knows his mentally ill son messed up. “After the first betrayal,” Cromwell booms, “there is no other.”

ABC has teased that this is a limited-event series. It’ll run for 13 episodes, straight through, and assuming it comes to a conclusion, maybe that will be for the greater good of everyone. Infidelity certainly is a hot button subject these days – Showtime has a show aptly titled, The Affair, coming up – but to put it on air in a show that’s not very well-written and treats the subject with a somewhat light touch, well, that’s cheating.

Written by: Josh Feldman