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How did prime-time TV become an adulterer's paradise?

December 28, 2011 | 10:43 am

Damian lewis claire danes homeland

Adultery is nothing new on television, but the proliferation of cheating as a plot point is making prime-time TV look like an ad for Ashley Madison, the online dating service for married folks, where the message is, "Life is short. Have an affair."

On "Homeland," the Iraq War hero turned secret terrorist falls into a reckless affair. Central characters on "The Good Wife," "Revenge," "Boss," "Ringer," "Nurse Jackie," "Justified" and even "The Walking Dead" engage in infidelity.

Cynicism about marriage is one of the factors leading to an increased depiction of adultery. "People believe marriages don't work anyway, so seeing affairs on TV kind of serves as a model for how things can and will go bad," said Julie Albright, a sociologist at USC.

But showrunners insisted they don't treat the topic lightly. Liz Brixius, creator of "Nurse Jackie," said of her cheating heroine: "We've never used cheating to be juicy. We use it to show Jackie's living a double life and making terrible decisions."

Brixius and her team had to assure Showtime and producer Lionsgate that Jackie would, indeed, get her comeuppance in the new season this spring. "It was not an easy sell for us to have Jackie continue to skate by without suffering for what she'd done."

There's more on TV adultery in this feature.

ALSO:

2011's most gruesome TV deaths

"Homeland" finale: A critical salute

Primetime TV gets in bed with adulterers

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