Wednesday, 26 March 2008

DIRTY SEXY MONEY 1.1 - "Pilot"

Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Writer: Craig Wright
Director: Peter Horton

Cast: Donald Sutherland (Patrick "Tripp" Darling), Natalie Zea (Karen Darling), Samaire Armstrong (Juliet Darling), Zoe McLellan (Lisa George), Glenn Fitzgerald (Brian Darling), Jill Clayburgh (Letitia Darling), Peter Krause (Nick George), William Baldwin (Patrick Darling), Seth Gabel (Jeremy Darling), Victoria Pratt (Naomi Leeds), Tommy Nelson (Young Brian), Elle Fanning (Kiki George), Alexa Gerasimovich (Young Karen), Laz Alonso (Colin Davidson), Michelle Krusiec (Mei Ling Hwa Darling), Kiersten Warren (Ellen Darling), Candis Cayne (Carmelita), Selenis Leyva (Detective), Shawn Michael Patrick (Clark), Daniel Cosgrove (Freddy Mason), John Ellison Conlee (Duncan McAndrews), Brooke Smith (Andrea), Rae Ritke (Clare George), Laura Margolis (Daisy), Tamara Feldman (Natalie Kimpton), Roxana Brusso (Maria) & Trevor St. John (Dutch George)

A man is persuaded to follow in his dead father's footsteps, and become the family lawyer to multi-millionaire family the Darlings...

"You have all the money you're ever gonna need. You're never gonna have
to work a day in your life. 30,000 people die of starvation every day.
Did you know that? Every day."
-- Nick George (Peter Krause)

It's another flashy new US drama; this one revolving around the fantastically rich Darling family of New York, headed by patriarch Patrick "Tripp" Darling (Donald Sutherland). But the emphasis is actually on idealistic lawyer and family friend Nick George (Peter Krause), who grew up with the Darlings because his father worked tirelessly as their lawyer...

The Pilot opens with Nick watching his father's light aircraft being winched out of the sea. His father's body is missing, but is seems clear that he has died in these mysterious circumstances. Early on, the episode does a brilliant job at highlight how the media-frenzy over the Darling family comes at the expense of everything else, as Nick has difficulty gaining access his own father's funeral purely because the Darling family's presence has resulted in a huge crowd and police protection.

There are a lot of characters to meet in the course of this episode, and Craig Wright's script does a good job of introducing us to the Darling family without it becoming tiresome or stunted. Tripp Darling, as played by the snow-haired Donald Sutherland, is the well-meaning figurehead who offers Nick $10,000,000 a year to takeover his father's position as the family lawyer and general "fixer". Together with his graceful wife Leticia (Jill Clayburgh), Tripp exudes the American dream of success, power and family -- but the truth is that their children are unruly and cause them nothing but problems...

The eldest of their children is Patrick Darling (William Baldwin), the attorney general for New York, whose political career could possibly take him all the way to the White House. The only potential hitch is that his girlfriend Carmelita is a transexual (played by real-life transgendered actress Candis Cayne).

Next up is Karen Darling (Natalie Zea), a beautiful woman who runs the family foundation. We meet her current fiance Freddy in this episode, but it's clear that Karen has unresolved feelings for Nick that causes him discomfort around his wife Lisa (Zoe McLellan). Brian Darling is the reverend of an Episcopal church who actively hates Nick and considers him a leech the family should squish underfoot.

Juliet Darling (Samaire Armstrong) is the typical spoiled rich kid in her twenties, who longs to be taken seriously as an actress but doesn't have the talent. This episode sees Tripp buy her a role in a theatre production, which causes her great distress when she finds out. Unlike many of the others in the Darling dynasty, she can't wait to break free of them and find her own path in life.

Jeremy Darling (Seth Gabel) is the youngest Darling, and twin of Juliet, who is basically wasting his life away in the lap of luxury. As a disaffected youth, Jeremy spends his days playing high-stakes poker and getting into trouble with the police; escapades that requires Nick to bail him out.

As mentioned, Nick himself is happily married to Lisa, a curator at a SoHo art gallery, who isn't a fan of the Darling family, but can't really let him turn down a £10-million-a-year salary to be their personal lawyer. Nick and Lisa have a 7-year-old daughter together called Kiki (Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota, who co-starred with Peter Krause in The Lost Room.)

With so much to cram into the first episode, it's little more than a steep learning curve at times, but the performances all twinkle and Krause makes for an engaging lead through the mega-rich world of the Darlings. I can already sense Dirty Sexy Money is going to be a glossy, excessive, guilty pleasure of sorts; with the Darlings a modern-day equivalent to the Ewings from Dallas, with Donald Sutherland as the new J.R.

By the end of the Pilot, Nick has agreed to replace his father as the Darling family lawyer, but is shocked to learn that his dad had a 40-year-long affair with Leticia Darling. Is that secretive relationship connected to his father's mysterious fatal air crash? Did Trip discover his wife's affair with his trusted lawyer and confidante? No, that's too obvious. Did he uncover a family secret one of the Darlings were willing to kill over to protect?

Dirty Sexy Money doesn't really appeal to me on a surface level, as watching the misadventures of wealthy socialites isn't something I can get that excited about. I like Krause as an actor, although it's worrying to note the similarity between Nick George and his role as an undertaker in Six Feet Under (with both characters taking over their father's "business".) Donald Sutherland is a great actor who deserves a TV "rebirth", and there are signs William Baldwin may come out from under brother Alec's shadow (who also decided career longevity lies in TV, scene-stealing in 30 Rock.)

Overall, the Pilot was slickly written and worked well as a fast introduction to the dynamics of the show's "dead father" mystery and the Darling/George family units. There was nothing here to demand I tune in for more, but I can see potential in the premise, I enjoyed the performances, and it should provide the kind of soapy fun of Desperate Housewives and Dallas combined.

21 March 2008
Channel 4, 9.00 pm