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Betrayal gives ABC another single-word string-a-long


It’s a crowded field of betrayers in Betrayal. ABC photo

Premiering: Sunday, Sept. 29th at 9 p.m. (central) on ABC
Starring: Hannah Ware, Stuart Townsend, James Cromwell, Henry Thomas, Chris Johnson, Wendy Moniz, Elizabeth McLaughlin, Braeden Lemasters
Produced by: David Zabel, Lisa Zwerling, Alon Aranya, Rob Golenberg

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ABC is the network of Scandal, Revenge and soon, Betrayal. Perhaps Avarice, Envy and maybe even Sloth are in development.

For now, though, Betrayal will follow Revenge on Sunday nights. Launching Sept. 29th, it’s the saga of a married photographer named Sara Hanley (Hannah Ware), whose chance meeting with a married lawyer named Jack McAllister (Stuart Townsend) leads to sexual fireworks. But this happens only when soulful Jack says she’s made him “feel the magnitude of things in a way I never did” after everything previously seemed “so small” to him. Now how are you gonna resist a guy like that? Their first coupling is to the tune of some other guy singing, “Feel for me, baby.”

Viewers immediately are tipped, though, that things eventually don’t go all that well. That’s because Betrayal’s first and last scenes are Sara getting shot and then holding hands with an unknown guy in an ambulance. How long it takes to get to this point is anyone’s guess and typical of the way ABC strings viewers along with its expanding roster of heavy-breathing serial dramas.

Betrayal also includes the glowering countenance of James Cromwell, who won an Emmy last Sunday for playing a demonic surgeon in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum. He plays powerful Chicago businessman Thatcher Karsten, who suspects his brother-in-law, Lou, of somehow “ripping us off.”

Lou is soon fished out of the Chicago River after being perforated by two slugs. Suspected of causing his death is the Fredo-like T. J. Karsten (Henry Thomas of long-ago E.T. fame), who’s been a little weak upstairs since almost drowning as a kid. Jack, who rescued him, now serves as the Karsten family lawyer. And guess who the prosecutor is going to be? Why it’s Sara’s husband, Drew (Chris Johnson), a politically ambitious sort who expects this high-profile case to catapult him to the top of the Windy City’s political pecking order.

“Obama did it, Rahm Emmanuel did it, I can, too,” he reasons. It’s enough to make Sara drop the bottle of red wine he’s brought home to celebrate. Earlier in the hour, Cromwell’s character angrily overturns a drink tray. If the spirits are moving, the flesh is weak. Or something like that.

The premiere episode of Betrayal briskly and soapily sets up all of its domino effects while also laboring with a stilted script.

“Why do I get the feeling that you’re always playing some kind of game with me?” Sara wonders while encouraging Jack to play on.

“You make me want to connect,” he later tells her. Groan. Meanwhile, Jack’s dutiful wife, Elaine (Wendy Moniz), who’s also Thatcher Karsten’s daughter, is none the wiser during this first hour.

Adapted from the Dutch series Overspel (adultery), Betrayal is consistently overwrought. But this is the ABC way, and the network has wrung multiple seasons out of both Revenge and Scandal. So why stop when the going’s good? Even if the goings-on in Betrayal tend to be less bracing or stimulating than a watered-down cocktail.


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