In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, USA
There is something of a pyramid of US TV networks, which has premium cable at the top, basic cable in the middle and network at the bottom. If it’s on premium cable, it’s liable to be top quality and have as much swearing, nudity and violence (aka ‘adult themes’) as your little heart desires; if it’s on basic cable, it’s probably not going to be as good as premium cable, but it’s still likely to be a cut above the usual; and then there’s the potluck of network TV at the bottom – could be good, could be bad, unlikely to be great.
As a result, there’s something of a ‘trickle down’ effect with this pyramid. Since premium cable has the biggest budgets and the most creative freedom, it gets the best pitches and makes the most innovative shows. Every other channel just has to play catch-up.
Case in point is USA’s Satisfaction, which sees Matt Passmore (The Glades) growing increasingly dissatisfied with his job and life before erupting in rage and giving it all up, hoping to seek enlightenment, before reclaiming his life. Sounds a lot like HBO’s Enlightened with Laura Dern, doesn’t it?
Not so fast, though, sonny Jim. Because along the way he discovers his unsatisfied wife, Stephanie Szostak (Iron Man 3), is paying an escort for sex. And when he finds himself in possession of said escort’s phone, he soon discovers the surprising number of rich single and married women prepared to pay him quite a lot of money for sex, too. Hmm. Sounds a lot like HBO’s Hung, too, doesn’t it?
So – two HBO shows rolled into one. Should be twice as good as one HBO show, shouldn’t it? Well…
It’s called trickle down for a reason.
Here’s a trailer.
A provocative drama that explores modern marriage at its midpoint. Through the lens of one couple, Neil Truman (Matt Passmore, “The Glades”) and his wife, Grace (Stephanie Szostak, “The Devil Wears Prada”), this series answers the question, “What do you do when having it all is not enough?” by delving into their shocking and unconventional choices. Michelle DeShon (“Hollywood Heights”), Katherine LaNasa (“The Campaign”) and Blair Redford (“Switched at Birth”) also star. SATISFACTION is from Universal Cable Productions (UCP) and executive producer/creator Sean Jablonski (SUITS, “Nip Tuck”). Russ Krasnoff (“Community”) of Krasnoff/Foster also serves as executive producer. The series is set to film in Atlanta, Georgia.
Is it any good?
Well, it’s got a dreadful first half hour, insanely rich characters with problems that superficially seem similar to normal people’s but aren’t, its pretence at imparting wisdom mainly consists of telling the audience “You’ll get bored of life if you never did anything exciting with your life” and the idea that a 40+ hedge fund manager would be irresistible to married women and an option for anyone bored with life is ridiculous. But it’s not without wit or interesting moments.
Certainly, after half an hour in which an ultra-rich, white cog in the financial services industry that brought the world to its knees a few years ago begins to wonder if perhaps working 70 hours a week for pure evil isn’t conducive to either happiness or a good family life, I was prepared to go round the house of the show’s creator, Sean Jablonski, with a branding iron, ready to permanently imprint him with “No shit, Sherlock.” Falling Down had Michael Douglas go postal on a walk through LA, he was so dissatisfied with his life and society; this ‘weak-assed shit’* had Passmore stand up on a plane and use the intercom to rant about inflight catering and pollution, where he becomes a YouTube sensation.
However, once that initial pain barrier was overcome and we edged into the escort side, the show became a lot more interesting. There was even a time jump. Ooh, how non-linear. Unfortunately, it was an implausible as a talking tiger trying to sell you sugar-frosted cornflakes, so any relevance the show might have had to ‘the modern marriage’ that Jablonsi imagined it might have had took a swift dive into the nearest unchlorinated swimming pool. Ooh, itchy.
All the same, the interplay between the characters was moderately interesting, it’s subtly done and well acted, and there are some surprisingly good set pieces, such as the daughter’s performance of a somewhat inappropriate song at her school, Passmore’s visits to a Buddhist monk, and the exchanges between the Redford and Passmore.
The trouble is that Satisfaction feels like it’s done already. It’s told its story and wrapped up everything with a reasonable bow. To explore the stories any further is actually going to feel like a repeat of the entire pilot again, it seems. By the end of the story, (spoiler alert) Passmore is back with his firm in a better job, his marriage is spruced up, he’s getting to spend time with his daughter again. The only fly in the ointment is that Szostak still wants to shag Redford. So what’s Passmore going to do? Become a professional escort on the side to get back at her? Is that really the learning we’re supposed to have taken from this?
Effectively, we’re all going to have to tune in next week just to find out what Satisfaction is going to be about. And given the first episode wasn’t exactly HBO quality to begin with, that’s hard to justify. The show has some charms, but beyond stroking the egos of really rich guys who think that given half a chance, lots of women would pay them to have sex, no matter how much effort they put in, it’s a show that doesn’t really seem to have a function.
* To use an official critic’s term
A new and shiny feature of this blog that I’ll probably get bored of within a few weeks is an ‘immigration summary’ for the main cast of any new show. Just to prove my point that US actors probably can’t actually find jobs as leads on US TV shows any more, I’ll be looking at the nationalities of the main cast of every new show to expose the secret Brits, Aussies and anyone else who can’t get a job in their own country or fancied a much bigger salary in the US.
And in Satisfaction, we have:
- Matt Passmore: Australian
- Stephanie Szostak: French
- Blair Redford: American
- Deanna Russo: American
So 100% of the two leads, 50% of the main cast (excluding kids). See what I mean? No? You will…