The quality of Transatlantic television in recent years is frankly amazing. The small screen has become more challenging, dynamic and undoubtedly cinematic with showrunners and studios truly pushing the envelope in the strive for greatness. The campaign for 2014/2015 has already been exceptional; key shows such as Game
With so much on air, it can be a difficult task actually selecting a programme to watch, but if you are looking for something truly exceptional, ensure you set your Sky+ boxes to record for The Affair; Showtime’s towering yet intimate drama which is on-course to becoming the year’s finest original series.
Here are five reasons why this is must-see TV.
Co-created and penned by Hagai Levi (In Treatment) and Sarah Treem (House of Cards), the show focuses upon the psychological and psychical effects of two married people who engage in an affair. Noah Solloway (Dominic West) is a teacher and published author looking for inspiration for his second novel who heads to the Hamptons to spend the summer at his in-laws, whilst Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) is a local resident who works as a waitress in a local diner.
Whilst the plot foundations sound incredibly simple, Levi and Treem have applied incredible texture which layer and render the narrative beautifully, making this complex, profound and compelling viewing.
Each episode so far showcases a series of scenarios told from the perspective of each partner. The retelling of events between Noah and Alison differ in both vast and slight ways; each recounting key elements in contradictory manners which consequently makes the viewer instinctively play detective – who is being truthful? Who is misguiding or hiding essential information?
The Affair is already thematically satisfying but allowing audiences to interpret the content personally sparks much wider avenues for debate and makes the experience of watching all the more joyous.
British talent controlling US programming has become increasingly more desirable over the past decade, and for good reason. We have a cavalcade of remarkable performers to offer and clearly Showtime are aware of this. The pairing of West and Wilson is perfect; they both project vulnerability, unpredictability and intrigue in spades and this kind of content was surely designed for their acting range.
West’s portrayal of Noah is one of wide-eyed bewilderment – a man so vastly out of his depth and riding sharply on the fringes of control. He loves his wife Helen (Maura Tierney) dearly and prior to the family trip has clearly never been tempted by another woman.
Throughout the pilot we see the foundations begin to delicately crack; he isn’t able to be intimate with Helen without interruption from his gaggle of troublesome kids (seriously – his son Martin plays a prank so callous it’s painful to witness), he can’t enjoy any quiet time or quality for either himself or his marriage and then he sees Alison.
The manner in which West approaches his character is so humane and immediate than we quickly forget we are watching a seasoned actor, rather a weathered middle-aged man lost for a narrative idea despite being entangled in a story so dense. Beautifully ironic. The same can be said for Wilson – well perhaps even more so – as her role as Alison is one of crowning greatness; no wonder she scooped the Best Actress honour at the Golden Globes back in January.
Wilson’s role is supercharged with poignancy and despair, made all the more heart-wrenching by the cool facade she forces herself to wear. Alison and her potentially loose-cannon husband Cole (Joshua Jackson) [co-owner of a local horse ranch with his two siblings] have been struck by the cruelest of fates and had to bury their beloved child. Her personality shifts increasingly, but the changes are so finite that blink and you’ll miss them; she’ll pass a smile followed by two downward blinks, such little motions which perfectly showcase her emotional state.
Despite such horrors which plague her mind and heart, there is a variety of shades to Alison – a pallette of many greys if you will – which all become exercised dependent upon the current scenario, and more importantly who is recalling it. A kiss shared in her account of early events screens with sorrow and anguish, her lips vacant and requiring the sense of belonging, whilst Noah’s recollection is presented with stronger intimacy and lust.
Supremely clever and disarming performing from one of Britain’s brightest current names.
Sky Atlantic’s latest addition doesn’t just benefit from sublime storytelling and equally great performing, it is also a royal feast for the senses. Shot on location in Montauk, Long Island, The Affair‘s visuals sing with the freshest of sea airs; a sumptuous and sunny, yet fragile and tender community which plays as the perfect background for the events which unfold during the three breezy summer months. Due to such a stunning environment, the screen is littered with gorgeous cinematography – get used to the gentle sight of the sun setting on the shore before being swallowed by the vast ocean.
However despite how charming the aesthetic design is, the same levels of detail occupy not only the principal direction, but also the set designs and wardrobe. Everything on offer here is wonderfully dressed and framed but from the opening frame of the pilot episode, it is clear that thankfully this is a case of substance over style.
Another core component in creating the overall show is the tingling score which whistles and pings, charging enormous waves from the slightest of sounds. Silence is deafening and clearly the showrunners know this. Marcolo Zarvos’ keys and strings bound every scene in rich atmosphere as we become wholly immersed in the world of the show and the sagas that unfold.