My Irrational Anger Towards ‘Betrayal’

ABC/Jean Whiteside

ABC/Jean Whiteside

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

Into every new TV season, a show I’m irrationally angry about must fall.

Last year it was Emily Owens, M.D. I still have PTTD (post-traumatic TV disorder) over that show. I shudder every time I think of it. Back in 2008, I couldn’t stand The Ex List.

This season, I’m BEYOND annoyed with Betrayal, premiering Sunday at 10/9c on ABC. (What is with TV shows and the one word titles? Coming soon on Sunday night Embezzlement followed by Annoyance).  Yes, clearly there are more offensive shows this season (that would be Fox’s Dads). There are ones that are more laughably bad (that would be the CW’s Reign). And there are certainly ones that are a more egregious waste of talent (I’m talking to you CBS’s The Millers). But those are all shows I can calmly and reasonably dislike. They make me want to turn off my TV, not throw something at it.

In Betrayal, professional photographer Sara (Hannah Ware)  and lawyer Jack (Stuart Townsend) meet cute on a rooftop over looking Chicago. They talk at the same time. He gives her his coat because she’s cold. The only problem? They’re both already married to other people. (Warning to husbands everywhere – if you’re wife gives you a new tie, you better pretend to like it. And you better not work too hard or care about your career too much.)

Now I’m not a fan of adultery in real life (obviously) but I don’t mind it on my TV shows. Sure, we don’t need another ruthless man and the woman who-can’t-help-loving-that-man-of-mine. That kind of couple already permeates nearly every cable TV series. But sometimes adultery can make for fascinating story telling. Part of the reason Scandal is such a fun, over the top show is because the President is in love with Olivia Pope.  And my favorite Sex and the City story line occurred when Carrie cheated on Aidan with Big. The complex fallout from Carrie’s indescretion resonated for many seasons. And Nurse Jackie wouldn’t be Nurse Jackie without her affair with Eddie.

But Betrayal played it all wrong. The set up for the show doesn’t make for a legitimate serious drama.  And instead of treating the show like campy fun, it takes itself way too seriously and seems to think adultery is an IMPORTANT topic. And that they are telling an important story. The music is dramatic. Their conversations are dramatic. (Sample line: “After the first betrayal, there is no other.” Well, okay then!) The slow motion is dramatic. The dramatic pauses are dramatic. It’s all utterly exhausting.

A show like Betrayal has got to immediately make viewers sympathize with the two characters who are about to do something very bad. Do I feel for Sara because she is the good girl who never did anything wrong until now? Not really. Do I sympathize that Jack fell into a marriage because he was grateful to his wife’s family? Not particularly. Did I buy that each of them never realized that something was missing in their marriage until they met each other? Um, no.

The pilot also sets up a Revenge like scenario involving Jack’s ruthless father-in-law Thatcher (James Cromwell) and the episode begins with Sara being shot and then immediately flashing back six months. Who is holding her hand as she is rushed away in the ambulance? Her husband or her boyfriend? Yeah, I so don’t care. And this whole “let’s begin and the end” storytelling device is so overdone.

There are a few bright spots – Henry Thomas (E.T.) stars as Jack’s brother-in-law.  Wendy Moniz (The Guardian) is Jack’s wife and Merrin Dungey (Alias) is Sara’s boss Alissa. I like all of those actors and am delighted to see them. I just wish it was on a better show.

Are you planning on watching Betrayal? Are there TV shows you are irrationally angry about? Talk about it below.