×

TV Review: ‘The Slap’

With:
Brian Cox, Melissa George, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Sadoski, Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, Marin Ireland, Penn Badgley, Maria Tucci, Makenzie Leigh, Lucas Hedges, Dylan Schombing

Adapted from a novel turned into a compelling Australian series that received sparse U.S. exposure via DirecTV, “The Slap” arrives on NBC with a sensational cast and ambitious premise, following the repercussions of one impulsive act from multiple perspectives as it reverberates through numerous lives. Novelistic in its approach — with a sober narration that brings to mind the movie “Little Children” — it’s the kind of admirable experiment that, for broadcasters, has seldom paid off. Hewing closely to the earlier program at the outset, “The Slap” will need good fortune to make a mark in this inhospitable Thursday timeslot.

Certainly, the logline is calibrated to entice viewers: An adult slaps an ill-behaving child who is not his own at a birthday party, sending shock waves through the assortment of friends and relatives on hand.

The eight-episode event series, however, unfolds from the singular perspective of different characters, meaning the story doesn’t play in completely linear fashion.

Things begin with Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), the 40-year-old birthday boy, whose seemingly ideal Brooklyn existence is filled with complications, from being denied a promotion at work to having a flirtation with the 18-year-old babysitter (Mackenzie Leigh) that, he realizes, will jeopardize his marriage to Aisha (Thandie Newton).

Sarsgaard is always interesting, and he fully capitalizes on this showcase, painting a subtle portrait that’s the epitome of midlife crisis and unfulfilled dreams. Moreover, he perfectly captures the central conceit, which is to cause one’s perspective to shift uncomfortably, since all of the players are flawed, and none wholly sympathetic, even as the stakes and tension escalate.

The entire cast is first-rate and loaded with ready-for-primetime players, including Zachary Quinto as Hector’s hot-headed, financially successful cousin; Thomas Sadoski (“The Newsroom”) and Melissa George as a pair of arty New Age parents; Uma Thurman as Aisha’s friend; and Brian Cox as Hector’s dad.

Written and directed by Jon Robin Baitz (“Brothers & Sisters”) and Lisa Cholodenko (fresh off HBO’s “Olive Kitteridge”), the premiere crisply races through the dizzying roster of characters, while focusing squarely on Hector’s predicament. And frankly, the shifting lens no doubt helped account for the splendid casting, which advances the story in almost anthological fashion.

“The Slap” comes at an interesting moment, with networks trying some big-swing concepts (ABC’s “American Crime” being another) that come closer to territory generally associated with cable. Alas, those projects not only have a mixed track record, but need more care and feeding than an 8 p.m. Thursday slot is likely to provide. On the plus side, as adaptations of prestigious imports go, “The Slap” is a lot more appealing than Fox’s “Gracepoint.”

Based on two episodes, it’s premature to give the show an unqualified endorsement. But it does represent the kind of drama that should appeal to a sophisticated palate if the ongoing quality justifies first impressions.

Granted, the birthday celebration within “The Slap” is the awkward sort that everyone dreads, but give NBC credit for taking a crack at a show that’s partying like it’s 2015, not 1999.

TV Review: 'The Slap'

(Series; NBC, Thurs. Feb. 12, 8 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York by Parkes/MacDonald and Matchbox Pictures in association with Universal Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Jon Robin Baitz, Lisa Cholodenko, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Michael McMahon, Chris Oliver-Taylor; producer, Rudd Simmons; director, Cholodenko; writer, Baitz; based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas and the Australian TV series; camera, Frankie Demarco; production designer, Dan Leigh; music supervisor, Michael Hill; editors, Plummy Tucker, Allyson C. Johnson, Sheri Bylander; casting, Avy Kaufman. 60 MIN.

Cast: Brian Cox, Melissa George, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Sadoski, Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, Marin Ireland, Penn Badgley, Maria Tucci, Makenzie Leigh, Lucas Hedges, Dylan Schombing

More TV

  • NFL-Sunday-Ticket-DIRECTV

    AT&T CEO Expects DirecTV to Keep NFL Sunday Ticket Exclusively

    AT&T believes it will hang on to DirecTV’s exclusive rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket, even as the league has said it’s considering ending the satellite operator’s exclusivity to extend the out-of-home games package to streaming platforms. “The exclusivity [of Sunday Ticket] should remain as we go forward on DirecTV,” AT&T CEO and chairman Randall [...]

  • FC Edmonton defender Albert Watson (5),

    Mediapro Buys Tri-Lite TV, Sets 2019 Roadmap

    Furthering its expansion in  North America, Spain’s Mediapro has purchased Canadian services company Tri-Lite TV. Put through by Mediapro Canada, the deal comes days after Mediapro confirmed the acquisition of 10-year rights to the Canadian Premiere League, a new soccer competition to launch April 27 across the country. Mediapro has also announced global revenues for [...]

  • BBC Studios' ‘Great Bake Off’ to

    APOS: BBC’s ‘Great Bake Off’ to be Reheated in Thailand

    BBC Studios Distribution has sold the Love Productions format “The Great Bake Off” for production in Thailand. It is the cooking competition show’s first localized version in Asia. “Bake Off Thailand” will be produced by APJ&CO, a local production house known for producing the recent seasons of “The Voice Thailand.” Over eight weeks, 12 of the country’s [...]

  • Lutz Schüler Replacing Tom Mockridge at

    Lutz Schüler Replacing Tom Mockridge at Liberty Global’s Virgin Media

    Lutz Schüler is taking the reins at U.K. cabler Virgin Media, replacing media industry veteran Tom Mockridge who is stepping down. New Zealander Mockridge is exiting to move base himself in Italy with his family. He has had a long career in pay TV and newspapers. In TV he worked at several Rupert Murdoch baked [...]

  • Movistar+ Announces Ambitious Original Series ‘La

    Movistar+ Announces Ambitious Original Series ‘La Unidad’

    MELILLA, Spain — Spain’s pay TV leader Movistar+ has announced its newest original series, the anti-terrorist police drama-thriller series “La Unidad,” which started filming last week in the small autonomous Spanish community of Melilla, located on the Moroccan coast. One of the biggest international plays to date for Movistar +, the pay TV/SVOD unit of [...]

  • Visitors arrive at the Hudson Yards

    AT&T Sells WarnerMedia Hudson Yards Space to Pay Down Debt

    AT&T has cut a deal to sell and lease back its WarnerMedia office space in New York’s glitzy Hudson Yards development for $2.2 billion to help pare down its enormous debt load. AT&T said Tuesday it has set a deal to sell its office space at 30 Hudson Yards to an affiliate of Related Companies, [...]

  • Japanese actor Ken Watanabe poses on

    Ken Watanabe to Star in Japan Edition of 'The Fugitive'

    Warner Bros. International Television Production and Japan’s TV Asahi network are teaming to remake “The Fugitive” as a special program that celebrates TV Asahi’s 60th anniversary. Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai,” “Godzilla,” “Inception”) will star in the title role made famous by David Janssen in the 1963-1967 U.S. TV series and then by Harrison Ford [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content