Showtime's The Affair, and why I'm starting to prefer single season shows
This last weekend I had a four-day break for Easter. My plan was to job search (which I DID do), read (which I didn't), do some grading and planning (which I did do...but not as much as I should have) and write up reviews for the two books I finished recently--99 Days and First There Was Forever--or any of the five or six movies I could review (which I didn't even come close to doing). What I ended up doing instead was binged watched the third and fourth seasons of HBO's Girls and the first season of Showtime's The Affair. While Girls was exactly what I was expecting, I've watched the first two seasons already, obviously, I'm finding myself torn on my feelings for The Affair.
The Affair, if you are unfamiliar with the show, is about, well, an affair. This aforementioned affair takes place between a married man in his, I'm assuming, late 40s who is spending the summer in Montauk with his wife's affluent family. Noah, the married man, has one published, mostly unread, novel under his belt, and is struggling to write his second. He has that vague unhappiness that often seems to settle on middle-aged family men. He dislikes his in-laws, even though (although maybe because) they pay his children's private school tuitions and his mortgage.
Allison, the woman with whom he has the affair, is a local woman. She is also married and is struggling to get over the death of her young son. While she loves her husband, she feels trapped in the small town where she has lived her whole life. On top of that, she cannot look at her husband without seeing her son.
The show itself is pretty riveting. From the opening credits sung by Fiona Apple (one of my all-time favorite singers), I was enthralled with the story. I liked the flash-back manner in which it is told interspersed with the present time in which Noah and Allison are separately being interviewed by an officer about an at-first unknown death. What makes the show different is that each episode is broken up into two parts: Noah's POV and Allison's POV. While certain aspects are the same, there are often pretty large discrepancies in the ways in which our main characters see the same events. This lends to an interesting dynamic of two unreliable narrators and leaves the audience to discern the truth. Everything about the show is well-done. It's intriguing, the actors are all wonderful in their roles, and the writing is original. So what's my problem?
It's this: the main story is the mystery of how the person (who you do find out) died (which you do not find out). In my opinion, it's hard to maintain interest in a mystery when several months pass in between seasons. As I got closer to the last couple of episodes it become more and more obvious that I was not going to get the answers that I desperately needed to know...and probably won't until late fall of 2016. I didn't know anything about the show when I started watching, besides the fact that a good portion of the actors were nominated for awards this last award season with Ruth Wilson, who plays Allison, winning a Golden Globe. If I had known that I would be left feeling so unsatisfied, I don't know if I would have watched it. Like what I've been doing lately with book series, I would have probably waited until all seasons were out before I started watching.
In this day and age of instant gratification, it's hard to hold people's interest. While I hate waiting for the next season of epic shows like Game of Thrones--and I seriously hate waiting--again, I feel like it is different when what you are dealing with is a mystery. Shows like Law & Order, NCIS, and Criminal Minds are so popular because you find out whodunit at the end of the hour. While I personally don't care for those shows (although I find myself putting them on as background noise a lot lately), to make an audience wait for three years is asking a lot. Also, imagine if they decide to drag it on for even longer now that it is getting so much attention!
So what's the solution? Personally, I love this new format of single season shows like True Detective and American Horror Story. These single seasons attract stellar stars (Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, etc) who will sign on for one season where they probably wouldn't for multiple seasons. Because the writers and producers stay the same, however, the audience feels comfortable knowing what to expect. I don't know about you, but I often don't even watch shows I may be otherwise interested in for the first year or so because they get cancelled so often. Finally, and most importantly, with single season shows, the audience knows that shit is going to get wrapped up. You are going to find out whodunit. You are going to see how it all plays out in 10 or 12 or 15 episodes instead of 3 or 5 or 8 years.
So will I watch The Affair when it comes back on the air this fall? I honestly don't know. I may wait until I know the show is over before I continue watching, or maybe I'll find myself sucked in once again. The fact that it has the delicious Joshua Jackson isn't hurting it, that's for sure. What I can say is that I wish it would have taken these other show's leads and told the story in a single season, but patience has never really been one of my biggest virtues.
How do you feel about this subject? Have you watched The Affair? Do you like the single season format? Sound off below!