21 March 2008

Dirty Sexy Money: Initial Thoughts


So the latest US hit drama to hit our screens comes executively produced by none other than Bryan Singer, the man behind The Usual Suspects (which I love) and X-(Men)2 (which I also love). He is also responsible for House and the American version of Footballers' Wives, which we shall conveniently gloss over. It first aired tonight (oh zeitgeist, how long I have wanted to capture thee. So pretty, so precious... it is just as I imagined), and - well - it was rather a game of two halves.

There was once a glorious TV series from that home of glorious TV series HBO. This particular one was called Six Feet Under and it was dark and lovely at the same time. A short while later someone at one of the networks took its template and turned our funeral director brothers into playboy plastic surgeons, but that it a topic for another sermon (seriously, I have only seen season one of Nip/Tuck - and liked it! - but its episodes follow the exact same 'here's our customer and while we cater to their needs, here's a bit of grand narrative to tie the episodes in). Anyway, 6FU was great, but it had to end. A moment please.

Since then, the stars of that programme have gone on to other things, with varying levels of success. Perched atop the podium with a show both watched and complimented is Michael C. Hall (he was David). He plays Dexter in the Showtime programme of the same name, about a serial killer who works for the police. But it is actually good. Write-up of the first season is on the way. Apparently. Less successful, though returning for another season, is Rachel Griffiths, who played Brenda and is now part of the ensemble snooze-fest Brothers and Sisters. That is also apparently being written up.

Languishing at the bottom of the pile was poor old Peter Krause, who played Nate Fisher, partner to Brenda and brother of David. He turned up, like a seaweed-covered corpse washing onto the beach, in mini-series The Lost Room, which not even I watched. But now he stars in - and finally the preamble ends - Dirty Sexy Money (from this point on to be referred to as DSM). It's all rather reminiscent of Bros and Sisss in that it concerns the dysfunction of a wealthy family (this one called Darling) with an inescapable patriarch. This one differs in that the protagonist is actually outside the family. He reckons one of them killed his dad and he is going! To find out! But yeah, dead dads abound in these shows nowadays.

More than anything else, this premise rather reminds of An Inspector Calls for the Fab Life generation. Perhaps this'll turn out like the Priestley play, wherein all family members were partly to blame for the untimely demise of the victim. We shall see. I'd be both impressed and disappointed if that did turn out to be the case, though I have no idea how I would physically express two such differing emotions at the same time. I'd probably just have to alternate really quickly like a flick-book.

What I do know is this is pretty corny fare. As the Krause voiceover opened with 'love of money is the root of all evil', knew - knew! - he would follow up with 'well that's what they say', and sadly the dialogue didn't really improve from there. There was one nice line late in the episode, but it wasn't so nice as to prevent me forgetting it. There was a nice touch in reference to Krause's character's dad and the patriarch in which he and one of the sons got into the kind of playground fight they might have done as kids. I guess you had to be there: it was a plush anniversary party and everyone emerged from a lift to see them rolling around (a la Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).

Which brings us to the family. I suppose it's a decent enough set of stereotypes - you have the ditzy blonde daughter, the young playboy son, the slutty daughter, the evil minister (OK, that's a decent break from the norm) and the wannabe senator who loves his cross dressing hookers (all right, another one. Plus he's played by a Baldwin. And between you and me, his cross dressing hooker friend isn't half bad...) - even if most of their character profiles have been ripped straight from Arrested Development . Not the best idea to pitch your drama so close to a recent comedy that parodied this kind of thing so well, but that comedy got tragically cancelled after two and a half seasons so what do I know? The casting is pretty strong from what I can tell; not only is Krause generally very good, but the ditz is played by the delectable Samaire Armstrong (from the never-forgotten O.C.), we have the aforementioned Baldwin - apparently William, not that I could have guessed - and his melting face and the heretofore unknown (by me) Glenn Fitzgerald impressed as Rev. Brian.

There is promise to this one, notably in the acting, the minister with his secret family and the fact that Singer's involved, but I dunno. The pilot was a tad too hackneyed, the script a bit weak and there is very much a sense of 'been there, done that'. Plus, with the Darlings being such a charismatic bunch, there is a very real danger of - and echoes of the storyline here - their overshadowing his actual family. Ooh. Especially as our man's dad spent too much time with the Darlings in the first place, rendering him overshadowed as a kid, which made him initially promise he would never have any more to do with them and he'd be a proper dad to his kids. Double ooh! But yeah, the whole thing is that on-the-nose.

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