Oh, NowTV. Sky for people who don’t want to have Sky. It sucks you in with the new season of Girls (in my case, anyway. Your poison may differ), keeps you around for Game of Thrones and then handily schedules True Detective straight afterwards so that you stick around and keep paying your subscription. The thing about this subscription service is that, like many, I suspect, you often are just getting it for the one or two shows that you really want to watch. Given that its subscription is a similar price to Netflix and more expensive overall than Amazon, that’s a lot of money for potentially not very much content. (See also: Sky)
However, with being off work for a while and not being able to use my arms to do an awful lot, nor get to the cinema easily, TV has become my new best friend. And in order to make more of my Now subscription, I have subscribed to the movie package for a free trial month on the recommendation of a friend, and bought a now box so that I can watch via my sets rather than through the laptop or tablet. I got the package with a two-month film subscription in case I wanted to keep the films, but at moments I might leave them until the films I haven’t been able to see at the cinema these last few weeks make their way onto the surface as the range of films on there right now doesn’t inspire me that much-I’ve seen most of them.
I’ve always cancelled the TV package after the string of shows I wanted to watch has finished, but have never felt that I’ve got my moneys worth out of it even then. So given the time I’ve had off, I’ve tried to make a little bit more of the service by watching a few more series and seeing what now TV has to offer beyond the headline grabbers – hence this short series of blog posts.
First up, The Affair. Okay, so this is possibly a bit of a headline grabber, albeit a more muted one compared to Game of Thrones and True Detective. This series is most notable for being a US-centric drama starring two British leads (Dominic West and Ruth Wilson) and, indeed, the two leads are its chief selling point, at least for me. I like both of them in most things and being a Sheffield resident, I’ve always got to support West.
The storyline centres on two characters, played by West and Wilson, whose chance meeting leads on to a full-blown affair. The episodes lead us to discover how the affair began and progressed, its implications for the two protagonists and the ramifications on their friends and family. The narrative of the affair itself is also interspersed with a few subplots, including some flash forwards to police interviews, which are a bit of a ‘what will make them be in this situation?’ tease.
One of the key selling points of this drama has been its narrative approach. As well as flashforwards – and some flashbacks – it’s told the story from both perspectives switching between the two and often allowing us to see events through the different memories of both characters. In the initial episodes, this perspective shift is kind of interesting. It’s a nice little quirk that suggests there may be some nuance to the drama. However, playing with narrative is not in itself sufficient for a cracking piece of television and as the series progresses, you can’t help feeling that this drama could, and perhaps should, have been a little bit more adventurous.
When it works, we get a number of revelations about different characters in the story that often may come as a surprise either to us, or to other characters. In some ways, the revelations coupled with the different narrative shifts remind me of dramas like Damages and True Detective-albeit with a less interesting plot and series of characters than either of those shows.
The main problem with this show is the lead characters. Whilst the actors do a good job and are always watchable, neither character is in any way likeable and the affair between the two of them seems somewhat implausible, especially as it continues. It isn’t really that clear what they gain from one another that they don’t gain from their partners – particularly when they start falling out, as is inevitable. Whilst the narrative tries to make some suggestions as to why they have fallen for one another, the relationship never wholly convinces. Both characters just come across as being a bit dickish and inconsiderate, especially West’s character who is a father of four children.
The way the series ended could have been an interesting way to tie up the flash-forwards with the rest of the storyline, but it feels a bit too much like a cliffhanger to me, suggesting that any second series will pick up the story where it is left off. This is probably a little bit of shame as, like True Detective and The Syndicate (why yes I did compare those two shows what of it?), I think this is a show that might benefit from resetting each year so that we see different characters and different affairs per series-preferably characters that we care about a little bit more than these two.
I didn’t hate this series, although it sounds like I did. I watched it from beginning to end (not something you can do on NowTV at the moment, as it’s one of those annoying things where they only retain the most recent few episodes) and some of the plot elements were interesting. However, it was much less than the sum of its parts. It had a great cast, lovely visuals and a few interesting ideas-but the characterisation and plot needed much more thinking through in order to make the storyline really engaging.