September 29, 2013

PREMIERING TONIGHT: THE SKED Pilot Report – ABC’s “Betrayal”


Read All Our Fall Pilot Reports here and Midseason Pilot Reports here.

BETRAYAL:  Sunday 10PM on ABC  – If Nothing Else Is On…

BETRAYAL is certainly on brand for ABC.  Its pilot, just like the one for Revenge two seasons ago, starts by flash-forwarding to a shooting, and the action that follows takes us back 6 months to catch up to that climax.  Betrayal, though, has a less eye-catching premise than Revenge.  Based on a Dutch format (don’t any American writers have ideas worth developing anymore?), it’s a gooey adultery-plus-intrigue story that seems like it could have starred Bette Davis and Leslie Howard back in the day.

She (Hannah Ware) is Sarah Hayward, a photographer married to ambitious prosecutor Drew (Chris Johnson), and mom of a painfully cute little boy.  He (Stuart Townsend) is Jack McAllister, husband of Elaine (Wendy Moriz)–two teen kids–and son-in-law of real estate tycoon Terence Karsten (James Cromwell, with a shaved pate and full beard), for whom he also serves as in-house legal counsel.  Sarah and Jack meet at an art show that features her photographs; their gazes lock, and the rest is just a matter of time.  As for the intrigue, Jack’s father-in-law also has a son, TJ (Henry Thomas), who was apparently brain damaged in an accident from which Jack rescued him, although that’s left somewhat vague in the pilot.  By the time the hour is over, a colleague of Karsten’s has been murdered, TJ is the main suspect, and guess who’s on opposite sides, representing the prosecution and the defense?

Although presumably the show, created in its US version by David Zabel (a busy man, he’s also showrunner of ABC’s Lucky 7), has more complications in mind, that’s about all there is to the pilot’s basic story, and neither the murder mystery nor the romance are all that engaging.  It doesn’t take a graduate degree to figure out that Karsten will know more about the murder than he’s letting on (Cromwell, Powers Boothe from Nashville, and Henry Czerny from Revenge could found their own ABC chapter of the Untrustworthy Millionaires Club, and that’s not even counting Gregg Henry, who recurs on Scandal), and so far there’s a shortage of additional plot threads.

As for the affair, Ware was one of the best things about Starz’s Boss, and at least it’s good to see her in a role where she isn’t constantly strung out on drugs or sheer misery, while Townsend is an appealing enough actor, but there’s nothing particularly unique or gripping about their assignation.  Even though the show tries to push the envelope a bit in terms of broadcast network sexuality, it doesn’t compare in heat to The Good Wife, let alone what’s available on cable–particularly obvious since it airs tonight directly against Showtime’s Masters of Sex.  (Betrayal doesn’t seem to be suggesting the possibility that the romance is connected to the murder case in some kind of conspiratorial way, which would be contrived but at least interesting.)   The pilot, directed by Patty Jenkins of Monster and the pilot for The Killing, is slickly professional, but it lacks any special zing.

Betrayal follows Revenge on ABC’s Sunday schedule, which makes perfect sense (it will then be replaced in March by the horror serial Resurrection, a far less logical move).  Of course, having Revenge as a lead-in isn’t worth so much after that show toppled into a creative abyss last season, and its ratings followed accordingly (the season finale managed a 1.7), but unlike Red Widow and 666 Park Avenue, at least Betrayal fits with Revenge to make a cohesive block of television–and airing against The Mentalist, the show doesn’t face enormous competition.  (Neither of course, will come close to denting Sunday Night Football.)  So Betrayal should have some time to figure out how to make itself more exciting, or at least engrossing, than it is right now.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."