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Satisfaction – Pilot – Advance Preview: “Middle Class Malaise”




It seems as though the USA network is going through a bit of its own mid-life crisis . Sure they still have quirky character driven shows like Suits and fun action packed dramas like Covert Affairs. But with Psych and Burn Notice in the can and White Collar being on the way out very shortly it feels like the dog days of USA’s ‘blue skies’ formula may be coming to a grinding halt. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

It started with last summer’s premiere of Graceland. It was definitely a darker and grittier show than anything this side of an SVU marathon that airs on the USA network and continues with a bold choice to get into the original scripted comedies game(if you haven’t watched Playing House do it now and thank me later). While Rush (Satisfaction’s lead-in) definitely still very much fits the mold of what USA is known for its very obvious that the network is trying to branch out while still trying to maintain a balance of what their viewers want (formulaic as it may be).

Satisfaction, or at least its pilot, is a curious case. At first blush this show seems a little bit like HBO’s Hung but instead of economic hard times being the mitigating factor in the male lead becoming a gigolo; it’s a mid-life crisis or perhaps a bout of depression or maybe even a bit of both. But dig a little deeper and you come to find out you don’t actually know what’s going on due to the endless parade of plot twists as well as a slew of moments you can live vicariously through (everything from the hero on plane that is stuck on the tarmac and actually getting off it, to telling your boss what you really think of him and your job).

In the pilot we meet Neil Truman (Matt Passmore). He seems to have the quintessential upper middle class life: a loving wife, a neglected daughter who is desperate for her parents’ attention, a great job and nice house in a nice neighborhood. But from the very first scene you can tell that this family is going through the motion. No one is happy and everyone just seems to eking out their niche in this mundane existence. But this family is full of surprises.

After years of soul crushing investment banking, Neil Truman has had just about enough. He knows that he spends way too much time at work but he doesn't know how to correct this problem until a series of events leads him to quit his job and sets him on a new path of “enlightenment” unfortunately that moment is cut short when he discovers his wife is having an affair. It seems as though his world is about to come crashing down all around him. Maybe the old Neil would have just left to go cry in a corner but not this new Neil. This Neil actually confronts his wife’s lover. He gets his ass handed to him in the confrontation but he does learn that this affair is more of a business arrangement.

Simon (Blair Redford), his wife’s lover is a male escort. For some reason this isn’t a deal breaker to Neil and he keeps his knowing about Grace’s cheating a secret. He goes about his life for a little while harboring the secret and being passive aggressive. Until he realizes that he has Simon’s phone. He answers it and goes out on a date (and has sex with) one of Simon’s new clients. The date is a revelation to Simon and gives him a little insight into just why his wife might have been seeing Simon. But it doesn’t stop at just one date he goes another as well and gets a job offer to boot.

Grace getting suspicious of Neil goes to his old workplace to discover he quit and is a rising YouTube star thanks to the stunt he pulled on the airplane. She manages to convince his boss to give him his job back and the family seems to be getting back on the right track. Heck they are even spending quality time together around their neglected pool.

Simon does manage to hunt Neil down to his place of employment and threatens him. Simon wants his phone back or at least access to his contacts online. But Neil hands it right back to him and in more adult manner by threatening to get the IRS to audit Simon and it isn’t clear if Neil is doing it out of spite or because he wants to stay in the gigolo game.

Right when it seems like things are going great and Neil and Grace are in a good place, Grace makes a call to Simon and Neil sees it (because he still has the phone) and the episode fades to black with a curious look on Neil’s face and everything up in the air.

Themes of hypocrisy, the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness are the main themes presented in the pilot but it barely scratches the surface despite the premiere being quite long. I’ll wager a guess that the crux of what the show wants to explore is, what does happily ever mean and how is doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. Or maybe it’s a scathing satire on married life at the midpoint in life. Perhaps it’s morality play on the ethics of lying… I’m not quite sure what Satisfaction is striving to be but I know I like it. While the topic of bad marriages might feel done to death on TV Satisfaction feels more complex and gray.

The tagline for the show asks an interesting question: Would you risk your marriage to save it? From a marketing standpoint, I don’t know if the show is being properly explained or perhaps it’s that the network is not quite sure how it wants to proceed with the subject material. But from a casual viewer standpoint I’m intrigued and the way the pilot ends I definitely want to know more about these characters.

Satisfaction premieres tonight at 10 PM on USA.

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