“Whose side are you on?” asks The Slap, the new Australian drama premiering on ABC1 tonight. The eight-part series, which is an adaptation of the controversial, award-winning Christos Tsiolkas novel, looks at how an event — an adult slapping another person’s 4-year-old child — affects the family and friends present at a birthday barbeque, where the incident occurs. All the guests walk away from the party forced to choose sides, and in turn they start to look at their own lives and reassess their own values.
Who’s in it: An all-star Australian cast that includes Jonathan LaPaglia (Hector), Melissa George (Rosie), Alex Dimitrades (Harry), Essie Davis (Anouk), Sophie Lowe (Connie), and British actress Sophie Ononedo (Aisha).
Where it works: The Slap follows the same format as the novel, in that each of the eight episodes revolve around a particular character. The first episode is mostly about Hector, who is affected by the slap because it happens at his birthday party, and also because the slapper is his cousin, Harry. The episode does a good job of keeping the focus on Hector (he’s battling his own demons, wondering whether he’ll commit adultery with the beautiful teenager who works for his wife) while still introducing the rest of the characters, though there’s a lot going on. One of the strongest things about The Slap is the quality cast, who each give convincing, raw performances as characters who are heavily flawed. The Slap also doesn’t try to shape the viewers’ opinions on who’s right and who’s wrong.
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Where it doesn’t: It’s hard to fault The Slap, though the characters don’t have many redeeming qualities and can be hard to warm to (it comes from the book). If you’re unfamiliar with the novel it may be hard to keep up with the characters and who’s related to who, because a lot is packed into a one-hour episode.
You might like this show if: You’ve read the book or are a fan of quality Aussie drama.
When it’s on: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC1.