TV Review: “The Slap”

Synopsis (NBC): “The Slap” is an eight-episode miniseries based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas and Australian television series (“The Slap”) produced by Matchbox Pictures.  

Meet Hector (Peter Sarsgaard, “An Education,” “Blue Jasmine”), a public servant, husband, father and valued friend on the cusp of his 40th birthday. Meet Aisha (Thandie Newton, “Crash,” “Beloved”), Hector’s beautiful and intelligent wife who is planning his party filled with friends and his very boisterous Greek family. Sounds like the makings of a great day, right? Wrong.

As Hector tries to navigate family politics, awkward friendships and the young woman he is dangerously captivated by, the built-up tension explodes when Hector’s hotheaded cousin slaps another couple’s misbehaving child. Everyone is understandably stunned, and the party abruptly ends with the child’s parents vowing legal action. What the hosts and guests don’t know, however, is that this moment will ignite a chain of events that will uncover long-buried secrets within this group of friends and family … and vigorously challenge the core values of everyone involved.

“The Slap” also stars Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek,” “American Horror Story”), Melissa George (“30 Days of Night,” “In Treatment”), Thomas Sadoski (“The Newsroom”) and Brian Cox (“X-Men 2,” “Red 2”).

From writer/executive producer Jon Robin Baitz (“Brothers & Sisters”), executive producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald (“Gladiator,” “Men in Black” franchise) and executive producer Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are All Right,” “Olive Kitteridge”), who also directs the pilot, comes this unflinching look at how one little slap can have a huge impact.

My opinions:  SIGH. Big, big, sigh.

There are a couple of things I want to make clear before I start my review.

1.  I am not advocating child abuse.

2. I’m for having disciplined children, but I’m not about spanking or hitting kids.

With that said, The Slap is a waste of time. Perhaps this was made better in Australia, but the American version of this is pretty awful. It’s only worse because there’s big talent in it, like Thandie Newton, Uma Thurman, Zachary Quinto, and many others.

The Slap - Season 1

Maybe Americans haven’t figured out how to make compelling event series yet; across the pond, event series are regular series. Over here, event series are still seen as something special. They want to make it much more important than it really has to be.

Everything about this series is overwrought. The “drama” between the husband and the wife? I don’t care. The “drama” between the husband and the underage intern/college student? Don’t care. The “drama” of the husband being caught between the wife and his mother when it comes to the present she has given them (a trip to the husband’s family’s homeland, Greece)? DON’T CARE.

What I do care about is why this show wants us to care about two parents (the friends of the husband and wife) who don’t know how to properly parent and have a spoiled brat as a result. The boy doesn’t know any boundaries, thinks he owns everything, and his parents don’t even think to tell him he’s a guest in someone’s house. The mom even breastfeeds the boy, and he’s way past breastfeeding age (he’s at least 4 or 5).

Now, as I wrote up top, I’m not an advocate for laying hands on a child. BUT, I am an advocate for TEACHING YOUR CHILD SOME DAMN MANNERS! If there’s one type of parenting I hate is when the parents think their kids bad behavior is cute. THROWING TANTRUMS ISN’T CUTE TO ANYONE ELSE! IT’S NOT PRECOCIOUS! THE KID KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING! I may not be a parent, and I know that sometimes, kids don’t know an action might be bad. But kids are also smarter than adults give them credit for (even though we were all kids at one point). If you were a kid who knew how to get your way, don’t think new kids don’t know how to do that stuff, too.

The Slap - Season 1

All of the characters are redonkulous and the fact that this “drama” is centered around a boy getting slapped when everyone watching was rooting for it despite their best intentions (be honest) is both hilarious and horrifying. Why did the writers make the child hateful? Why write the child in a way that has the audience rooting for someone to slap the kid? Why does the show want to play on our emotions in this fashion?

It’s kind of a big backfire to do it this way, I think. If we’re really going to show Quinto’s character as a loose cannon at least make the kid a good, mannerable kid whom everyone loves and his dad an actually good person and not a jerk. Seeing how Quinto’s character feels attacked by the kid’s dad for virtually no reason and then seeing the boy about to start a new reign of terror on his nephews and niece, how is the audience not supposed to be on his side? The boy’s parents aren’t doing anything to stop him from acting out. It’s unfortunate that Quinto’s character is the only one willing to do something, but at the same time, Quinto’s character is the only one that makes the most sense.

The Slap - Season 1

I’ll just bring this up also; I know that there are many white families out there who adhere to whipping and spanking as punishment, but if you come from a minority family, I bet you The Slap is going to come across as pure comedy from the first time you hear the synopsis. I’m pointing out minorities specifically to point out that even though there are many minority families who don’t spank their kids, the history of telling spanking stories goes back generations. My family is relatively spank-free, and even I’ve heard horror stories from my parents about grandmothers telling bad kids to get switches off trees and extension cords and stuff. After you grow up with stories like that, a slap on the face seems tame.

However, like I said, I know there are a lot of white folks out there who couldn’t roll their eyes harder at this show. Everyone, regardless of race, won’t be able to identify with these characters, perhaps except for Quinto’s character and his mom. Perhaps if you’re extremely affluent and/or out-of-touch, you’ll be able to identify with someone in that group. Otherwise, I don’t know who this show is for and what it’s trying to say. Don’t even get me started on that ridiculous narrator, who makes all of the scenes come to an extreme halt. Or the kids, who never act like real children; they’re always fighting and whining to an insane degree. Who wakes up having a temper tantrum about their brother not playing with them? At least have breakfast first!

To prove my point, here are some tweets from viewers of the first episode:

What did you think about The Slap? Did you think it was stupid? Give your opinions in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Jeff Riedel/NBC, Virginia Sherwood

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4 thoughts on “TV Review: “The Slap””

  1. It sounds like you had a similar reaction that I had with the Australian version a couple of months back. I ended up loving the show simply because each and every character is extremely flawed. They never behave and win over the sympathies or favor of the audience. I mean..even people you think are “good” people. The Australian version is much better because there is a slow simmer under the surface through out the entire show until things just explodes. The tension is palpable.

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    1. I figured something had to have been lost in translation when The Slap came to America. Maybe our version can get to that “tension is palpable” type of drama. I think when Americans try their hand at European or Australian event series, they come across as too “try hard” instead of just making it the best series it can be. If they just concentrated on making our version faithful to the Australian version instead of trying to make it uber-important, then it would have been much more successful, in my opinion.

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  2. After watching the episode I can honestly say this:
    I want NBC to never show this again. It’s shit.
    Bad parenting all around and never let this pile of shit see the light of day.

    Like

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