TV Review - Satisfaction

Stephanie Szostak (left) and Matt Passmore
in a scene from "Satisfaction" on USA
The first episode didn't have an opening credit sequence, but one that I imagined featured the Rolling Stones song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Therefore, I wasn't surprised when the opening credit sequence in the second episode featured that same Rolling Stones ditty. I could have done without that credit sequence and that second episode. It's not to say the second episode wasn't good. It simply wasn't needed. Writer Sean Jablonski created a first episode that was long but so well-contained that not a single minute or moment more was required. The characters and world they inhabited were so incredibly crafted and translated on screen that it's darn-near perfect that additional episodes could only serve to bring it down. That and the prospects of what the show could be aren't all that appealing, and what it could be is another take, a slightly classier or perhaps slicker version of Showtime's Hung.

What would keep me coming back is the attractiveness of the cast. All of whom are great. The cast is led by Matt Passmore, who is very attractive, but not in the way that Tom Ellis is. Tom Ellis is the star of the TV series Rush, which is the companion show to this one on the USA cable network. Passmore is handsome for sure and is in great shape, but there is an awkwardness to him, a conservativeness that would prevent him from doing something outrageous or as risqué as being a gigolo or male prostitute.

Therefore, you can imagine his surprise when Passmore's character Neil Truman, a possibly upper 30's, mild-mannered financial manager, comes home to find his wife Grace Truman, played by Stephanie Szostak, in flagrante delicto with male prostitute Simon, played by Blair Redford. However, Neil doesn't say anything in that moment and in fact Grace never realizes that Neil saw her having sex with Simon, a gigolo who is significantly younger. Neil never makes it known to her, which works for the pilot episode and the episodes that follow, but is one of the reasons I think hurts the show moving forward.

Instead, Neil waits until Grace and Simon are done. When Simon is away from Grace and alone, that's when Neil jumps him. At first, he tries to fight Simon physically. When that doesn't work in a great comedic bit, Neil confronts Simon by berating him and then later by stealing his phone.

Of course, at first, Neil tries to be tough, but eventually he starts to wonder what it is about Simon that would make Grace go to him. Neil not only steals Simon's phone, he also steals his identity. Neils intercepts calls from potential female clients who haven't met Simon in person. Neil then pretends to be the gigolo that those female clients were recommended and Neil goes spelunking.

It's not just finding out his wife is having an affair with a hooker. Neil is motivated into becoming a hooker himself after things snowball for him at work. Neil works in finance, and while this has afforded a lot of money for a lot of materialistic possessions, spiritually he feels rather poor or lacking. He actually tries to quit his firm, but his boss Victor, played by Spencer Garrett, doesn't let him. Instead, Victor sends Neil to New York for a new client.

Neil reluctantly goes. That's when he gets stuck on an airplane with the worst flight attendant in history on a runway that refuses to let the plane take-off. In brilliant direction by Kevin Bray, we get a sense of Neil's building frustration until he explodes literally having a mental breakdown on the plane, as well as becoming a YouTube sensation.

The beauty about what Jablonski has written is that one assumes that this entire story will be told from Neil's point-of-view, but a third of the way through the episode if not quicker, the show rewinds and proceeds to tell the events leading up to Neil's breakdown, but reversely told from Grace's point-of-view. It's immediate that this show will be an even-handed depiction of this marriage.

Grace's story is not unlike that of the titular character of The Good Wife. She went to school for interior design and possibly architecture. She gave up pursuing a career in that field shortly after her marriage to Neil when she got pregnant with their daughter Anika, played by Michelle DeShon. Grace focused on being a mom, and now that Anika is a teenager not too far from leaving college, Grace is wanting to get back to her career.

She wants to share this with Neil and she tries but he was so obsessed and so focused on his career that she felt alone or lacking. Therefore, she turned to Simon. However, Neil's breakdown changed things and seeing his wife's affair changed him. Ironically, it put him on the path of being a better husband. In a very mature move, he wasn't necessarily angry at Grace or blamed her. He almost instantly jumped into introspection.

By the end of the first episode, Neil has done some soul-searching and learns some things that one assumes prepares him to repair his marriage to Grace. Grace herself might not be ready yet, and that's the sense with which Jablonski leaves us. The rest of the series seems more to get Grace ready to have the kind of satisfying sex with Neil that she has with Simon.

The problem is that the two are right there. The two just need to take one last step, which Jablonski purposefully denies in order to drag out this series. That last step is Neil telling Grace that he knows about her affair with Simon. Neil doesn't take that last step and he doesn't for the next four episodes which is all that I've seen. I think because he believes the show would be over, if Neil took that last step, and rightly so.

The next two episodes do a good job of extending the series, but both operate under the illusion that the characters learned nothing from the pilot, or Jablonski's resistance to have Neil take that last step with his wife. I'd prefer not to see Jablonski dance around the obvious last step, which Neil should just take. I'd also prefer not to see Jablonski continually move in the direction of making Neil a gigolo. I'm not interested in that unless Jablonski is going to do a real story about male prostitution. The show gets into that a little in Episode 3, when Neil looks into the finances of Simon and sees his life isn't all that glamorous. However, Jablonski should go further and explore how it's not so glamorous and how a lot of it is gay prostitution between young boys in desperate situations.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 10PM on USA.


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