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Slap This

I’ve been watching an NBC show called “The Slap” of late. It’s an adaptation of an Australian TV series which is based upon a novel of the same name. I make no apologies for watching the show, despite its absolutely sucking. This is just the way it is, sometimes.

The series revolves around an incident at a 40th birthday party in Park Slope, Brooklyn for a guy named Hector who is the son of Greek immigrants. One of the attending couples comes with their five year old son, Hugo. Hugo is a problem child. He busts into Hector’s vintage jazz record collection, uproots carefully potted tomato plants, and screams bloody murder at any adult trying to control him. Hugo’s parents dote over him in a permissive fashion that’s both smothering and disinterested. His mother still breast feeds him. When the other kids form a pickup baseball game, Hugo goes ballistic after striking out and starts swinging the bat wildly at everything within reach. Hector’s cousin Harry, observing that his own child is at risk, goes to retrieve the bat. Hugo swings the bat at Harry and kicks him in the leg, prompting Harry to slap him across the face. Thus, a premise and title are born.

I’m not a big fan of hitting children . But the hysteria that ensues after this slap suggests something more suited for Kent State in the early 70s. Harry, it is quickly established, is a prototypical alpha male with prominent brow and dark, challenging eyes. He takes the sole conservative stance in conversation, much to the horror of the others. He’s a ‘self made man,’ owns a vintage car dealership, and is banging his assistant. (Hector, too, is having an affair with a teenage girl, but unlike Harry he wrestles hourly with his conscience.) Harry also hits his wife, for good measure. Hugo’s parents, or more specifically his breast feeding mother, decide to pursue a lawsuit. Police, judges and attorneys become involved. One slap sets a series of events in progress that threatens to dismantle a closely knit family and group of friends.

Though it would never get past network censors, “The Pussies” would have been a more suitable name for this series. Somebody who knew a thing or two about obsessive child rearing must have been involved in choosing Park Slope, Brooklyn, for the setting of this particular adaptation. The neighborhood seems to be the east coast epicenter for indulgent parenting. There was a news item recently about an incident in Park Slope where a six year old kid on a push scooter (the expensive kind that are standard issue items and rites of passage for all area four year olds) ran a middle aged woman off the sidewalk. The woman, understandably shaken, berated the child loudly, suggesting that he watch where the fuck he was going. This prompted the kid’s mother to dress the woman down while threatening to sue and demanding a formal apology. Was this, she wanted to know, any way to address a six year old child? Well, in my opinion .. fuck yes.

I’ve attended musical performances in the neighborhood at Prospect Park where parents bring their kids of all ages, from infancy to early teens. These aren’t, generally speaking, Metallica shows, but more subdued performances with a cultural flare and decibel levels that rarely exceed that of a living room television. Still, these parents make the kids protect their precious ears by donning high tech, noise canceling headsets. What’s the point of taking your child to a musical performance if he can’t hear anything that’s going on? There’s nothing more infuriating or idiotic looking than some one year old kid, still relegated to a safety chair and sporting a pair of headphones like he’s working the runway at JFK or testing jet engines at the Boeing plant in Seattle.

“The Slap” could have been a better show had it chosen to treat its subject matter with levity or even a trace of irony. Instead it forces a kind of earnest solemnity on the viewer which demands that it be taken deathly seriously. There is no humor and its players all struggle to come to grips with some form of imagined modern enlightenment. In the process they become cardboard cutouts. Worse yet they’re boring, ineffective wimps, in need of Chris Farley being air lifted into the occasional scene with a Matt Foleyesque “LA DE FRICKIN’ DA ..” It makes me long for the days of my youth when shows set in Brooklyn were of the “Welcome Back Kotter” or even “Honeymooners” variety. Jackie Gleason provided more soul with one “Baby you’re the greatest” than “The Slap” does in eight episodes .. or at least this is how it seems to me.

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One Comment

  1. url url'>neese kelly wrote:

    i am trying to get my dad into the v.a. in junction city, kansas (nearsest one is in topeka, kansas). he has some serious problems since birth that were never addressed propperly. i feel it is my duty as his oldest son to stear him toward wellness, without being a thorn in his side. i am comfortable with the way the v.a. will handle it. you ready to rock the house yet ? new band name idea “klamato jane”. let me know room 109. will be around this evening. p.s. saw steven king roaming the streets here. very interesting place.

    Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

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