Showtime has always been between Starz and HBO with regards to original series programming, creating a great many more memorable series than the former but never quite reaching the consistent quality heights of the latter. Dexter, Weeds, and Californication are arguably Showtime’s most successful efforts alongside the historical dramas Tudors and Borgias, all of which are good shows worth watching. The premium channel’s sudden jettisoning of all of their “adult programming” series by 2010 might further evidence their desire to be seen more like an HBO than just a cheap knockoff, or maybe they just realized that nobody watches scripted softcore porn shows.
While The Affair might not exactly herald an Age of Showtime, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The first hour is split down the middle in order to separately follow both Noah and Alison, both recounting the day they first met at a summertime getaway. We meet Noah, played by Dominic West, as he and his family get ready for their summer. They fight, as any family does, but they’re happy. Noah and his wife roll their eyes as their kids do kid things. They reach their destination and meet Ruth Wilson’s Alison, a waitress at the little diner, and when Noah’s daughter starts choking Alison stands by helplessly and later bursts into tears as Noah thanks her for the lunch. One thing leads to another and it’s clear that Alison is a whole lot more reckless than Noah.