What’s Worth Watching: The Slap

The Slap
Virginia Sherwood/NBC
The Slap

The Slap, “Hector” (Thursday, Feb. 12, 8/7c, NBC)

Even if only for the blue-chip cast, the eight-part miniseries The Slap merits a serious look. But first, you need to get past some seriously intrusive pseudo-literary voice-over narration—”His reverie shattered, Hector took solace in the clarity of his life’s limits …”—SHUT UP!)—to appreciate the work being done by terrific actors including Peter Sarsgaard, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman, Thomas Sadoski, and Melissa George. Sarsgaard, the movie actor who made such an impression in the penultimate season of The Killing, brings his usual brooding sensitivity to the central role of Hector, a discontented city planner whose 40th birthday party stirs up forbidden desires (for a much younger woman, though he hasn’t acted on it) and long-simmering tensions among his sprawling Greek family and assorted bohemian friends.

In the pilot episode, written by playwright Jon Robin Baitz (Brothers & Sisters) and directed by Lisa Cholodenko (Olive Kitteridge), the passive-aggressive interactions build to a disturbingly aggressive climax when Hector’s arrogant cousin Harry (Quinto) hauls off and violently smacks the bratty son of Hector’s friends (Sadoski and George). Not only is the party over, but the fallout could prove ruinous to more than a few relationships. A bold though peculiar experiment on NBC’s part, The Slap feels more like the sort of indie-film storytelling you’d find on cable niches like SundanceTV. (An earlier Australian adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’s source novel is available on Hulu.) And why something this edgy and adult is airing as early as 8/7c is anyone’s guess. But if you’re looking for something provocative and different, interpreted by a first-rate ensemble, The Slap might provide just the bracing jolt you need.