I wasn't sure what to expect from Satisfaction Season 1 Episode 1 because people in the know told me it's bleak and depressing and will be damned difficult to watch.
Judging from the premiere, Satisfaction deals with a subject many of us do as we reach the middle of our lives: We wonder what the hell we're doing. Whether married or not, it's easy to understand how Neil and Grace Truman wound up, after 18 years of marriage, unsure of their happiness, their relationship, their work and so much more.
Satisfaction is at times hilarious; darkly comedic with moments that make you want to stand up and shout. It's also bleak and distressing, but somehow it lifts itself above becoming depressing with the realization that even when the protagonists make the wrong choices, they make them for the right reasons.
As the pilot begins, it's pretty clear that Neil is struggling. He knows something is missing, but he doesn't know what it is. He has it all -- a beautiful wife and daughter, a great job, a beautiful house and the biggest 3D television on the market. When his neighbor suggests Lexapro, Neil says he needs to feel more, not less.
At his investment banking office the next day, Neil is singled out as a superstar. He's such a success that they're sending him on a trip to New York to close one of the firm's most important deals. When his boss asks what he thinks in a conference room full of people, it's the first time Neil cracks.
I don't know what to say because I hate this job. None of what I do really matters. I don't even get to see what I'm trading on a daily basis, it's just numbers on a screen. It's not real. We don't contribute anything to the world in any meaningful way. We just hoard money, and I always thought you were an asshole for making that a virtue.Neil
The scene seems almost surreal, and while you might have waited for a second to see Neil snap out of his dream state, every word he said was aloud. His boss laughs and congratulates him on his ability to be so forthright and funny.
As you would be, Neil is kind of shocked to learn his big Jerry McGuire moment wasn't taken seriously and he makes plans to go to New York, missing his daughter's talent show at school as he always does because of work. He takes a moment as he's mulling things over to think about the pool. We learn later they bought the house for the pool, but nobody uses it anymore.
The pool is the symbol of the Trumans' relationship, once it was the best feature of the house and now it lays in waste, collecting leaves in the back yard. Even the pool guy doesn't bother to keep it well cleaned.
Neil's flight to New York is delayed and they spend over 5 hours at the gate without refreshments or air conditioning. Neil tries several times to engage the flight attendant to assist, but she doesn't care. Eventually they've been there so long the flight crew needs to switch over and as the attendant greedily gulps a bottle of water, Neil snaps again.
Shocked and envious passengers record Neil's outbreak, in which he takes command of the flight intercom for a rant, opens the jet door and releases the escape slide. He ends up on the no-fly list and breaks a third time in his office, finally quitting by tossing a baseball through a television set.
If you've ever had a job and told your boss to shove it up his arse, you understand the euphoric feelings Neil was experiencing as he arrived home, on top of the world to discover Grace being sexually pounded against the wall by an unknown man.
Six months ago, when Grace tried to reenter the job market, she met obstacles. She's left to one night a week with her friends and raising her family. One night the girls are together talking about books and drinking wine when she suddenly takes them all out. She meets Simon, gets in a bar fight and starts an affair.
It's not until Neil follows Simon out of the house and tries to beat him down that he discovers his wife is paying for sex. Simon believes Grace loves her husband, but she has other needs. In a very strange turn of events, Neil winds up with Simon's phone and taking a couple of his clients.
It would be easy to think the tit-for-tat situation would be a really bad move on Neil's part. Instead, he learns from the first married woman he's with why she is seeking sex outside of marriage. On his second visit, he runs into an old business associate, turns down an offer to manage his portfolio and discovers the woman he's with runs a service for male escorts -- she offers him a job.
By lying and doing things completely outside his moral compass, Neil sees his situation in a new light. He understands that both he and Grace have been searching for something and that they've been phoning in their marriage.
Neil, especially, has placed his career above his family and thought that by providing for Grace it would be enough. Hearing a stranger say she wants her husband to feel as much pressure about the success of their marriage as he does pressure about doing a good job at work really turns Neil's head.
Grace visits Neil at work and finds out he's no longer there. She and her friend find his airline meltdown on YouTube. By the time he arrives home, his boss is there. The fellow Neil ran into at the party demands he run his hedge fund. Neil's breakdown earned him a substantial promotion and insight into the woman he has been married to for 18 years.
Neil and Grace are both doing morally questionable things that seem, at least for now, to be bringing them closer together. Neil has a lot more information on the topic than Grace, but he seems willing to overlook her indiscretion because of what he did. At the end of the premiers, the Trumans are together as a family, finally using the pool. Grace has a sexy new bikini. Things are looking up.
When Grace places a call to Simon and Neil has the phone we're left to wonder: What next? Will Neil admit what he's done, what he knows? Was Grace calling for an appointment or to stop what she has been doing with Simon? How far will both of them go to better connect and can taking the questionable path really benefit them in the long run?
I have to admit I've not been this intrigued by a pilot in a long time. Delving into the depths of middle age and marriage, even with a somewhat unrealistic bent, is a gutsy movie for USA Network. If the series holds up against the pilot, their bet should pay off.
Odds -n- ends:
- The scene with the Buddhist monk was perfect. It would be easy to be freakin' zen if all you did was meditate all day. Just like it would be easier to have that perfect body with a trainer and a nutritionist pushing at you.
- Anika Truman is a lot like her parents. Her song at school, outing an affair between two teachers was fantastic, but not as much as her proud father giving her a standing ovation after the school stopped her performance.
- I wonder how many episodes we'll have to wait until we find out if (when) Neil takes Adriana up on her offer. He's a betting man, would he really turn down the chance to study women from a unique angle and all that extra money?
- It seems right now that Neil has the better end of the stick, and the best way for that to change would be for him to allow Grace to continue to see Simon and end it on her terms. Will he be able to do that?
- Simon seems like a decent guy. I don't want this to turn into a higher-class version of The Client List, but it would be interesting to learn more about him and for Neil to cut him some slack.
There were some lines to be remembered in the pilot, so visit the Satisfaction quotes to see what we caught. Hit the comments with your thoughts on this amazing premiere. Was it too much for you to take or did it hit the right notes?
Grade the Satisfaction pilot:
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.