Sex! Murder! Twists! The latest evening soap opera to join ABC's rotation of singularly-named sleek dramas (Revenge, Scandal, Nashville) hits all the same marks as those shows, just without all the campy fun.
The premise of Betrayal is one that somehow manages to be both overly complicated and overly convenient. A beautiful photographer named Sarah (Hannah Ware, who seems to have graduated from the Claire Forlani and Lena Heady School of Beautiful Pouting) begins an affair with a handsome attorney named Jack (Stuart Townsend) after a chance meeting. The two make eyes at each other and say unbearably corny things to each other ("You never found your treasure?" … "Still looking, I guess"), decide they can't be apart from one another, and eventually give in to their urges for the least pulse-pounding sex scene on television.
Now, both Sarah and Jack are married (with children) to other people. Jack's wife is a different beautiful brunette named Elaine (Wendy Moniz) whose father is a wealthy tycoon with the hilariously villainous name Thatcher (James Cromwell). Jack works as the counsel for Thatcher, whose mentally disturbed son T.J. (E.T. star Henry Thomas, whose performance borders on offensive, though in his defense, this character is clearly used as a sympathy manipulation tool) is the key suspect in the murder of Thatcher's brother-in-law and business partner Lou. Got all that?! Hang tight, there's more.
Sarah's also good looking husband Drew (Chris Johnson) is a prosecutor with big political dreams… and he just so happens be on Lou's murder case...where he'll face off in court against – you guessed it – Jack. Yup, of all the gin joints in all the world, Sarah had to step into Jack's. And just in case that wasn't enough, the pilot episode is book ended by the image of a bloodied Sara after she has been shot. She's rushed into an ambulance where a man holds her hand. Both of them are wearing wedding rings, but is it Jack or Drew? Who shot her? Was it Jack or Drew? If only they made us care!
And therein lies the biggest problem with Betrayal: none of the far-too-many interweaving story lines are all that interesting. I don’t particularly care who killed Lou (you'll know him for all of five minutes before he meets his watery end) and Jack and Sara's blossoming affair is more lukewarm than scalding hot. Of course, these stories could get juicier as the show goes on, but I wasn't hooked by any of these characters to find out their fate.
While Betrayal attempts to take cues from aforementioned shows like Revenge and Scandal, the key component of fun is missing. This is a glossy, cold, oh-so-serious drama. The actors are all quite good, but the material is so weak that it all falls flat. Whatever levity comes in the first hour is all strictly unintentional, like how the characters make sure to explain in the most inane ways what "betrayal" is, in case you were lost. ("After the first betrayal, there is no other." Oh please).
I'm sure that Betrayal will become even more jam-packed with twists (something tells me the evil Thatcher has something to do with Lou's murder) and Showtime After Dark-quality sex scenes, but there are so many other shows that do it…and do it better. Betrayal better become top-shelf crazy like Revenge or give us more compelling characters like Scandal to pique any interest.
Betrayal premiered on Sunday, September 29 at 10 PM ET on ABC.
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