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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Married . . . with chagrin on USA network's Satisfaction

Posted By on 08.20.14 at 08:00 AM

Stephanie Szostak, Matt Passmore, and Roy McCrerey
  • Richard Ducree/ USA Network
  • Stephanie Szostak, Matt Passmore, and Roy McCrerey
"Would you risk your marriage to save it?" That's the tagline for the new USA dramedy Satisfaction. It also was one of several provocations used to promote the show as an exploration of life after happily ever after. But for all the tantalizing trailers, the show is little more than a run-of-the-mill relationship drama, and a whole lot of male fantasy.

Satisfaction, which premiered on July 17, follows Neil Truman (Matt Passmore), our Dickensian-named everyman (if the average guy is a money manager who drives a Mercedes), and his wife, Grace (Stephanie Szostak), a struggling interior designer. They have a teenage daughter and a gorgeous home, and all the trappings of a successful married life.

But Neil, who narrates from time to time, wonders if there isn't something more or, at least, something else. His wife is probably pondering the same thing, but we never really get inside her head. Instead, we watch Neil shake off some of his middle-aged ennui: he flips out on a long-delayed flight, which leads to him quitting his job in a spectacular fashion. He rushes to tell Grace the good news, and catches her having sex with Simon (Blair Redford), a much younger man.

Despite being initially shocked, Neil soon decides that the best way to understand (read: combat) his wife's infidelity is to indulge in a little of his own. A case of mistaken identity introduces Neil to the world of male escorts (getting paid for sex is never once referred to as prostitution on this show). He earns thousands of dollars for one night of sex with a beautiful, possibly bored (again, we're never really clued into what motivates the female characters) married woman (fantasy number four). This bit of freelancing lands him on a pimp's radar (Katherine LaNasa).

As for Grace, she's invested in her home and family and wants to re-enter the workforce. She eventually lands her first design job, begins to reconnect with Neil, and continues to see Simon. Still, we get only her actions, not her motivations.

Frankly, Neil's character isn't all that developed either, even after five episodes. Any real examination of his life is immediately upended by the fairy tale he ends up inhabiting. He worries about getting older, then teaches the young upstart at work not to mess with him. He catches his wife cheating, then trumps her infidelity by getting paid for his. Ultimately, this isn't a show about midlife crisis as much as it is about a second adolescence.

Satisfaction, USA, Thursdays 9 PM

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