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Dirty Sexy Money: Pilot episode reviewed

Dirty Sexy Money

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of Channel 4’s new import Dirty Sexy Money.

What’s the story? When attorney Nick George (Peter Krause)‘s father dies, Nick takes over his law practice and must take care of the super-rich Darlings and their problems, including human trafficking, illegitimate children, and affairs.

Was it any good? Yes and no. It was watchable tosh but more Nip/Tuck than Damages, despite the presence of a heavyweight cast. On the plus side, there are some dark undercurrents emerging, such as the search for Nick’s father’s killer. And Donald Sutherland is an immensely watchable actor no matter how indifferent the material.

But on the downside, the pilot felt as though it was attempting to juggle too many storylines involving one too many Darlings so that viewers were unable to really get a handle on any of them. As a result, it failed to grip as tightly as other pilots, such as Damages, Lost or even Dexter.

Digging a little deeper: As slick as the pilot of Dirty Sexy Money was, the gloss only went so far in papering over the episode’s many cracks. It’s a concern that of the many Darling children (and just what an incredible libido father Darling must have had!), only a couple really stood out as characters you’d want to spend more time with.

Peter Krause, too, spent most of his time making his Katie Holmes’ look-a-like wife promises he clearly wasn’t going to keep, and running after the family members he’d vowed not to pander to. Is he weak? Maybe… Is he living in his father’s shadow? For sure. Will he develop a backbone? Possibly, especially in light of the revelation that his father may have been killed.

Of the Darlings themselves, Donald Sutherland offers the most obvious appeal as Patrick (Tripp) Darling, an imposing central figure who may or may not be the murderer Nick is seeking. He clearly has a fondness for Nick and knows how to get what he wants. And the scenes between Tripp and Krause’s Nick were among the most sparkling in the pilot episode.

William Baldwin’s weak-willed attorney general Patrick Darling could well be another character to keep an eye on, given his political background and the obvious parallels with the current US political scene. But as intriguing as the seeds of his story arc were (including his liaison with a transvestite hooker), it’s also clear that he lacks the gravitas or comic timing of older brother, Alec (whose transition to TV on 30 Rock has been effortlessly entertaining).

Seth Gabel, meanwhile, showed glimpses of potential as the self-loathing Jeremy Darling, whose inability to measure up to his father makes him something of a kindred spirit to Nick. It’s obvious, though, that Jeremy is going to be used to reflect many real-life celebrity sons who struggle to live up to their father’s achievements.

The jury’s still out on Samaire Armstrong’s talentless actress Juliet Darling, even though she failed to illicit any sympathy following her suicide attempt. But one suspects this was down to the woefully short screen-time her character was afforded more than any failings with Armstrong’s performance. The actress has already proved she’s got talent in TV shows like Entourage and movies such as It’s A Boy Girl Thing.

Of the characters that failed to make any kind of impression, however, Natalie Zea’s Karen Darling provided a lacklustre temptress (and old flame of Nick’s) who looked good in a red gown but struggled to really convince as a viable threat to his marriage, and Zoe McLellan, as Nick’s wife, who was alarmingly short-changed in terms of material. She existed to express reservations and throw wobblies every time Nick received a new phone call. Let’s hope it’s not merely a thankless “moaning wife” role.

Worst of all, however, was Glenn Fitzgerald’s Brian Darling, who shouted, ranted and raved over-hysterically as a volatile priest with a grudge against Nick and an illegitimate child he needed to get into a top private school. Over-played and (arguably) over-used in this pilot episode, Fitzgerald’s OTT performance contributed more than anything to the uneven tone of this first hour.

Dirty Sexy Money has, according to reports, been guaranteed a second series in the US and is one of the more successful shows of the past TV season. But while it offers a kind of car-crash appeal at the moment, it’s got a lot of work to do to measure up to both the hype surrounding it, or the quality of some of its leading stars.

What did you think?

  1. More Nip/Tuck than Damages? Um, how about more Dynasty or Dallas? This is great fun. Not everything has to be serious. I agree about William Baldwin though

    James    Mar 27    #