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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Slap is a drama about a family rift that occurs after a man slaps a young child in the face. Children may find that altercation scary and disturbing, and they may not be interested in watching family members argue fiercely and insult each other. Characters smoke cigarettes on-screen and drink alcohol and beer, then blame alcohol for their bad behavior. An underage character is given beer, with a wink, at a party. A married man is carrying on an affair with his family's high school-age babysitter. References to sex are made, and characters are shown naked (no private parts) and having sex under sheets and on tables.
What's the story?
Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) is a little bored in his marriage to his wife Aisha (Thandie Newton) and has a thing for the family's high school babysitter, but things could be worse, really. But then, disaster, deceptively passing as a rather minor family fight, strikes at his 40th birthday party, when his volatile cousin Harry (Zachary Quinto) slaps Hugo, age 4, in the face. For his part, Harry feels Hugo deserved the slap. But Hugo's parents, Rosie (Melissa George) and Gary (Thomas Sadoski), disagree, and suddenly what seemed like a happy family is falling apart in many directions at once. Each episode focuses on a different character and his or her life.
Is it any good?
Media buffs say that voice-over narration nearly always means a drama has gone off the rails. Portentously, The Slap's very first episode is lousy with narration: "His reverie shattered, Hector took solace in the clarity of his life's limits and in knowing his few transgressions existed only in his dreams." Um. Yeah. Who said that? And could you not? The Slap is better when the omniscient narrator isn't blathering, but the show does seem determined to make its characters hateful: The husband with an eye for a high schooler, the cranky one-percenter, the ineffectual hippie mama trailing waves of woo.
It's a rather interesting choice, in fact, to make a show's characters so smugly unlikable. The Slap seems to be courting hate-watchers by concentrating on its characters' faults. This one is gossipy, that one is obnoxious, the other one is a smug cigarette smoker who forces everyone to listen to jazz while eyeballing the babysitter and plying her with beer (and she's the kind of wise-beyond-her-years teenager who seems to exist only in the fantasies of middle-aged television writers). Viewers who don't need to like the characters they're watching may enjoy seeing the family strife. But if you let the young ones watch, do watch along to counter any iffy messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the central event of this drama. Is it ever OK to hit another person? Another child? Does it matter if it's your child or someone else's?
Which, if any, of the characters on The Slap is supposed to be likable? Which of the characters is the audience supposed to relate to? How can you tell?
Where do the people in this drama live? Are they wealthy or poor? Well educated? What about the way in which the characters are presented gives you these clues? Consider: dialogue, setting, costumes.