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'Betrayal' review: Whodunit

"Betrayal," premiering at 10:01 p.m. Sept. 29 on ABC. Credit: ABC

THE SHOW "Betrayal"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday night at 10 on ABC/7

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A gun is fired, and -- next scene -- the victim, a young woman, is carried away on a gurney. Who is she? Who fired the gun? What is going on?

Stay tuned for more exposition: Sara Hanley (Hannah Ware), a mother, photographer and wife to extremely ambitious legal beagle Drew Stafford (Chris Johnson), falls in love with Jack McAllister (Stuart Townsend). This tale of infidelity gets complicated because Jack is legal counsel to oily, shadowy Chicago industrial titan Thatcher Karsten (James Cromwell). However, Karsten's son, T.J. (Henry Thomas, of "E.T." fame), becomes implicated in a murder, and Sara's husband is named prosecutor. The defendant's attorney? You guessed it: Jack, who is also married to Karsten's daughter, Elaine (Wendy Moniz). One more piece of information: Sara was the one on that gurney. This new show is based on a Dutch series called "Overspel" ("adultery").

MY SAY TMI? Sorry, but to a large extent, "Betrayal" is all about TMI. The entire pilot is needed to set up the convoluted pretzel of a premise, but it also gives away a huge plot point in the opening seconds. That's not only a risky move but a confusing one for the obvious reason that we don't even know who Sara is at this point, let alone why anyone would want to shoot the poor woman. But this message is at least delivered: "Betrayal" is as much a mystery as romantic drama.

Does "Betrayal" work on either level? So far, not really. The fatal attraction story line is a long windup to a punchline you already know, and promos have revealed it as well. The mystery element is plopped down in the middle of that particular story like a lead MacGuffin -- possibly important, or maybe just a cheap plot stunt to get Jack and Drew in court. (Feels a bit more like the latter.) At least "Betrayal" has a pair of strong showrunners in the mix -- Patty Jenkins ("Monster") and David Zabel ("ER," "Detroit 1-8-7"). Maybe they can unravel this mess.

BOTTOM LINE Complicated setup, payoff feels forced.


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