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LJ Idol Week [30] - "The Affair" Affair

“The Affair” held an affair of its own at Noon on Sunday, December 7, 2014 at the tony Bryant Park Hotel on 40th Street. We were promised brunch, a screening of that night’s episode and a Q & A with several of the cast members and one of the program’s producers. We were not disappointed.


The Cellar Bar at the hotel is dual leveled, stocked with stuffed cubes and comfy couches for lounging and, in our case, stocked to overflowing with food for our brunch. One of the centerpieces of the show is the restaurant where Alison (Ruth Wilson) works. It’s called The Lobster Roll, so naturally, there were lobster rolls being served, and they were the hit of the brunch. Chicken sliders, BLT croissants, mini pancakes (with matching mini forks) and steak and egg shooters all made their way around the room, served by waitresses NOT wearing yellow uniforms (the costuming from the TV series).

I chatted with a couple who happened upon the show because Arlene, the wife was scanning TV for something to see, and caught a glimpse of Ruth, whom she first noticed in the Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson “loosely based on a true story” “Saving Mr. Banks.” When she stopped to watch, she was hooked.

The brilliance of "The Affair" really is threefold, we decided as we chatted. The cast is magnificent and everyone in it from littlest daughter Stacey (Leya Catlett) to matriarch Margaret (Kathleen Chalfant) are all exquisite in their performances. Of course, the writing is incredible, especially when you take into account that there are two storylines running, that they don’t always match and that they need to make sense to the viewer in context of each other. And finally, there’s the chemistry of what happens when the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. And that’s certainly what we are starting to see as the narrative continues.

We were led down a tight staircase into a high end screening room, similar to the one Robert De Niro has in his Tribeca Film Center. Cushy chairs with cupholders for your drinks in the padded armrests.

The episode was screened and we were, as usual, impressed by both what we observed and how it was executed. Then castmembers joined us to talk about the show.

I learned three intriguing things from the discussion. The first was that the actors are often not sure of the direction their storyline is going to go until they see the script, so that it’s very similar to living a life. It also is very challenging for them to have to work in that manner, with the differing views of the two lead characters, Noah (Dominic West) and Alison(Wilson, who could not attend our gathering, even though she is in New York – she is about to open a new play on Broadway called Constellations with Jake Gyllenhaal).

Second, the owner of the Lobster Roll, Oscar (played by Darren Goldstein), is constantly getting harassed by people who think he really is a douche in real life! Clearly, he is not, and is as charming and personable as you would hope an actor to be.

And finally, they hinted that the wildest part of the ride we’ve been on for now eight episodes, was going to come crashing like a wave on the shore in the final two that will air on December 14th and 21st to conclude their first season.

“The Affair” has become a critical smash and is appointment television for many who view it. It doesn’t hurt that they continually add in brilliant actors to the ensemble, this week’s new edition was Blair Brown as a therapist for Noah and his wife Helen (Maura Tierney).

But the mystery is looming over everything. The death of one of the characters is still out there, and the Detective trying to gather the puzzle pieces and make them all fit together is continuing to work it out. That’s why this is such an addictive show: as you watch, you have to pay close attention, since you don’t know what may be a clue, what might prove important!

The one problem, which is always a tricky and sticky situation for a writer, is when you have a mystery, how much do you withhold from the viewer? Are you simply keeping things to spring as a surprise later or is the course of the storyline a natural one? It’s a very real question for the show runner and writers on this program because, as we all know, when we are told something that isn’t accurate or something is purposefully hidden, then, we later discover it, we feel cheated. With all the loose ends in this tale, it takes a team of very focused people to make sure that doesn’t happen. So far, so good.

Sarah Treem and Ryan Selzer are the women who are giving a unique voice and tone to the story and their perspective is both vivid and needed. In a medium where the male voice is always heard loud and long, to have a program where women are in charge makes a big difference in both the style of storytelling and in the care of the characters, all of whom show a sympathetic side at some point, even Oscar the diner sore, and Bruce the successful author who seems to use a poor choice of words whenever he opens his mouth.

I was able to meet a few of the actors, and the guy who plays Detective Jeffries (Vic Williams) actually came up to me and we had a brief chat. He wouldn’t explain to me why his character told Noah he was divorced and why he told Alison he’s been married for 25 years and still going strong. But I guess I’m happy he didn’t!

Certainly, after my visit with the actors, the crew and all the great people that helped to make the event work, I am even more of a fan of “The Affair.” I’m just sorry there are only two more episodes left in the season.

//

This review was written for LJ Idol with the prompt “Critical Hit”

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
i_17bingo
Dec. 9th, 2014 11:55 am (UTC)
Blair Brown? Maura Tierney?

Sign me the hell up. I'm hesitant to add a new show to my current list--there's only so many hours in your life--but you've really sold it.

The first was that the actors are often not sure of the direction their storyline is going to go until they see the script, so that it’s very similar to living a life.

This is a brilliant method of production; I've always wondered about this with certain shows.
i_17bingo
Dec. 9th, 2014 12:01 pm (UTC)
(Oh, and brilliant use of the prompt.)
roina_arwen
Dec. 10th, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I've never watched this show, but you do make it sound quite intriguing! :)
halfshellvenus
Dec. 11th, 2014 01:19 am (UTC)
I seriously have to dig this show up and watch it. It has that Rashoman effect, but on a season-long scale, and I'm a complete sucker for that kind of thing. :D
jem0000000
Dec. 11th, 2014 05:40 am (UTC)
It sounds like a really interesting show. I like the idea of not telling the actors the script ahead of time -- it saves them from having to worry about accidentally letting the audience know the solution from their behavior.
anyonesghost
Dec. 11th, 2014 07:29 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent way to run the prompt; well played.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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