No spoilers ahead | The process of recalling is tough. I do not know how your hippocampus works but mine is a lazy one, I bet. No jokes; today I am bringing two highly interesting proposals which conceptions are extremely polar but they share two brilliant things: the fade of the memories as the "main theme" and the interaction with the viewer/listerner. One is a new Showtime tv-series, The Affair (2014) and the other one is a podcast -fuck yeah!-, Serial (2014). I will try not to fail introducing the following narrative devices: the Rashômon effect and the Unreliable narrator but these ones are esential to understand why these shows have become such a game for the audience every week. Let's start by telling the premise of both of them:
The Affair debuted on October, 12 and a month later It had already been renewed for a second season. On the one hand the ratings have been a little letdown if we compare them with Homeland's, its companion timeslot on Sundays night which scored its best ratings during the third season last 2013 but on the other hand they have experienced a constant increase, coming near to double the premiere's numbers and almost 1 million viewers. But If I had to bet why the series has been given another new 10 episodes is the praise received by critics. And well... cutting off a debutant one does not look good in premium cable.
The Affair is -obviously- about an affair between a married man, a schoolteacher from New York City, and a married woman, a waitress from a town on Long Island. Nothing that makes the difference, right? I am teasing you, of course. First of all, we should take a look at their responsables: Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi. Where do they come from? They are behind In Treatment as writers and executive producers so that is a huge mini-point. Starred by Gabriel Byrne as psychiatrist Paul Weston; during its three seasons and 106 episodes, this HBO tv-series based its potencial and excellence on characters talking in a room for less than 30 minutes. So if they did not want to bore the viewers [*] , they needed to built gripping but fact-based dialogues and characters. I did not know this detail after several episodes were watched but every single large dialogue reminded me In Treatment's. This will be sound as a cliché but in The Affair, the characters drive the story and not the opposite as ussual [**].
[*] It was broadcoasted during working days; an episode per day. They also needed to built loyalty.
[**] Sleepy Hollow, How to get away with murder and even Homeland are the opposite.
But here comes the digression: the plot is told by two perspectives -hims & hers- and there are flashforwards. Rashômon effect is contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. The phrase derives from the film Rashômon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), where the accounts of the witnesses, suspects and victims of a rape and murder are all different. The unreliable narrator is indispensable in the game of trusting or not what you are been told. Like this Japanese production, The Affair embraces crime, drama and mystery to talk about vital issues such as love, sex and marriage. The balance between these genres is meritorious. Dominic West (The Wire), Ruth Wilson (Luther), Maura Tierney (ER) and Joshua Jackson (Fringe). The ladies are specially on fire in the acting.
And what the frak is Serial? It is just a podcast hosted by Sarah Koening whose aim is telling a 1999 murder from 2014 present week by week. How? Collecting the memories and testimonies of every single person involved in this -let's say- punchy and deceptive story. No images. Just voices and a leitmotiv. Apparently and that is what shocks me most, It is a real story. I said no spoilers, so I just invite you to listen carefullly to the podcast and start playing 'Who Strungled Hae Min Lee?'. Do not choke, please.