Memory plays tricks in 'The Affair'

* THE AFFAIR. 10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime.

* CRISTELA. 8:30 tonight, 6ABC.

* LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER: THE NANCE, STARRING NATHAN LANE. 9 tonight, WHYY12.

 

YOU KNOW those "misty, watercolor memories" Barbra Streisand sang about in "The Way We Were"?

You can't trust them. Because watercolors run. That's one takeaway from Showtime's new drama, "The Affair," which premieres Sunday.

Dominic West ("The Wire") and Ruth Wilson ("Luther") star as the principals in an extramarital relationship set in the Hamptons, where West's character, a schoolteacher named Noah, is summering with his wife, Helen (Maura Tierney), and their four children at his in-laws' estate. Alison (Wilson), married to a volatile local named Cole (Joshua Jackson), is a waitress.

Not so much a he said/she said story as an examination of how bias - and wishful thinking - can shape our recall, "The Affair" unfolds in a series of sometimes contradictory flashbacks, triggered by police interrogations.

Why the questions? Is someone dead? Missing? The circumstances remain as mysterious as those of HBO's "True Detective."

Showtime, which often sends critics multiple episodes of its series, made only the pilot available (and posted it on multiple platforms, including YouTube, earlier this week). So, the second installment could turn every one of my suppositions on its head. That may even be the point.

For now, I'm assuming neither of our narrators is reliable, though Wilson's Alison seems both more damaged and less delusional. Or maybe that's my bias?

"The Affair" sets a high bar for Noah - the man who would cheat on the wife we see here isn't likely to get the benefit of many doubts. I don't think we're in "Gone Girl" territory, but it's too soon to declare him a dog.

Written by Sarah Treem ("House of Cards"), who co-created it with Hagai Levi ("In Treatment"), "The Affair" leans heavily on the performances of a strong cast, which includes Philadelphia's John Doman ("The Wire," "Gotham") in a recurring role as Noah's obnoxious father-in-law.

I'm not yet entirely sold on the story, but I'm certainly curious.

This, by the way, is as explicit a pilot as you'd expect from a Showtime series called "The Affair," but the most startling moment, early on, involves a child and has nothing to do with sex.

 

'Cristela' on ABC

In ABC's "Cristela," premiering tonight, Cristela Alonzo plays a Mexican-American woman in her sixth year of law school who lives, not exactly friction-free, with her sister and brother-in-law (Marie Canals-Barrera and Carlos Ponce), their children and her mother (Terry Hoyos).

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias plays a family friend whose advances she's not inclined to encourage, and an internship in a corporate law firm gives her another set of comic foils.

There's nothing cutting-edge about "Cristela," and there doesn't need to be.

Not only does it have the hard-to-resist Alonzo as its creator and star, but it's following Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," now in its fourth season of not reinventing either the wheel or the multicamera sitcom.

 

Lane in 'The Nance'

There's a treat on PBS tonight for fans of Nathan Lane ("The Good Wife") as "Live from Lincoln Center" presents him in "The Nance," a play by Wyomissing, Pa.-raised playwright Douglas Carter Beane ("To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar"). Lane plays a burlesque performer whose camp onstage character bears little resemblance to his life as a discreetly gay man in 1930s New York.