#Are you satisfied? Not yet, but keep going

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Television is a poor arena in which to challenge marriage norms. Most of the time, what’s on TV is already normal; Ricky and Lucy in two twin beds in the ’50s or Mitchell and Cameron on “Modern Family,” appearing as a run-of-the-mill gay couple that raises no eyebrows at all. So the premise of “Satisfaction,” USA’s new show airing Thursday about nonmonogamy in marriage, is perhaps not quite on the cutting edge of societal issues but rides a little farther back on the blade as is traditional for the medium.

“Satisfaction” brings the audience into the home of a wealthy white man (Matt Passmore) and his decoratively thin and tastefully foreign white wife. They have a beautiful daughter who attends private school and a well-designed pool they never use. This idyll belies an identity crisis for Neil Truman, an average guy who enacts a meltdown mashup made of Jerry Maguire, the dad from “American Beauty” and that flight attendant who went viral with his rage-quit a few years back. His daughter acts out her #firstworldproblems in a hilarious song. His wife contracts the services of the best-looking male prostitute ever to drive a penis metaphor across the small screen. To get revenge, Neil gets into the white-collar, and apparently low-risk, prostitution business for himself. Sexy hijinks ensue.

Though the show does not deliver any real shocks in its attempt to look at the phenomenon of nonmonogamy — a relationship model gaining popularity and cute euphemisms such as “open,” “monogamish” or “polyamorous,” what it does deliver actually surprises. Some tired moments bloom into laugh-out-loud surprises and gasp-worthy moments. Fans of more explicit programming (“Game of Thrones,” “True Blood” and the oddly similar and now-defunct “Hung”) may find the action and coy angles a little tame, but there is heat here to make up for the lack of softcore pornography.

The creators of “Satisfaction” created the #AreYouSatisfied? campaign to promote the show, but one facet of satisfaction seems unclear: staying power. The pilot throws out so much — an affair, prostitution, rage-quits, flashbacks and the Walter White double-phone gambit — that it’s hard to know where the writers can or will go from here. If satisfaction is what they’re after, a good start is less important than a strong finish. Audiences will have to wait and see whether the first season leaves them with an O face or a face that just says, “oh.”

“Satisfaction” premiers July 17 on USA.

 

Contact Meg Elison at [email protected].