Matters of the heart have long been fodder for TV plots, from soap operas to dramas to reality fare. But a new spate of shows is blatantly tackling the touchy topic of cheating.
And like the Facebook status says: It’s complicated.
Grace is cheating on Neil and so Neil cheats on Grace — but they love each other — in USA’s new drama Satisfaction. On FX’s Married, a hapless Russ is comically struggling with his sex life with wife Lina. (Both shows air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT) And now Showtime is prepping an intense drama set to debut in October called The Affair.
“A generation ago, you never talked about having an affair. Then Oprah got us all talking about these things. And now that we’re all talking, the next step is we’re living things out more and less afraid — and TV’s catching up,” says relationship coach Donna Barnes, founder of DonnaBarnesDating.com.
While infidelity is certainly featured on each series (with varying degrees of spicy sex scenes and humor), the adultery is just a launching pad for shows, say the people behind them.
“It’s really about the notion of when neglect has infected a marriage, how do people cope with it? And about infidelity as a reaction to marriage, an exploration of how that happened,” says Jackie de Crinis, EVP of original programming for USA Network, who describes Satisfaction as “a postmodern love story.”
Postmodern, in this case, means Neil is fed up with his long hours at his big-money job and then finds out that his wife, who has been at home raising the kids for the past decade, is getting it on with another man. “It’s about all those different things that life throws you at different points,” de Crinis says.
Executive producer Sarah Treem makes the same case for The Affair. Despite the title, she says, “we really do think of the show as a show about marriage more than a show about an affair.”
There’s a similar scenario in the July 17 opener of FX’s half-hour comedy series Married as Russ can’t seem to connect to his wife, who spends her time running errands and raising their three daughters. She tells him maybe he “should go be with someone else.” She doesn’t want a divorce. She’s just too tired for sex. He winds up trying to find some satisfaction with a waxing-salon employee. It doesn’t go well.
“We knew there was some comedy to be mined,” says Married creator Andrew Gurland. “One thing that friends say to me a lot: ‘Oh, monogamy is not natural.’ And I always say, ‘Well neither are toilets, but when you don’t use them, things get very messy.‘”
*Article originally published on USA Today.