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STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 426 minutes
- The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money
- Enter the Penthouse: A VIP Tour
- Haute Couture: Dressing the Darlings
- The Other Woman: Candis Cayne
- Commentaries and deleted scenes
A ripped-from-the-headlines premise involving a wealthy family looked after by a lawyer who has to clean up all of their tabloid messes.
Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, William Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Blair Underwood, Natalie Zea
The Darlings are a wealthy family. How they became so wealthy, I have no idea. They never explain exactly what it is that patriarch Patrick ‘Tripp’ Darling (Donald Sutherland) did to create this Trump-like (at least as far as wealth is concerned) empire. But that’s the crux of this show. They’ve got money, and lots of it. They have banks all over New York City that are littered with gold bars and stacks of money. They have lavish and luxurious penthouses and pricy sports cars. And with that wealth, of course, comes trouble. Taking a page from the over-glorification of socialites like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, they are under a microscope at all times. At the inception of the series, Nick George (Peter Krause) is a successful attorney with his own modest practice. His father had been the family attorney for the Darling family for over 40 years but his plane has just crashed, killing him, and then Nick is asked to take his place by Tripp. So the show is about how Nick juggles bailing the family out of all their day-to-day troubles while simultaneously investigating whether or not his father was murdered. There’s Tripp’s wife, Letitia (Jill Clayburgh), the politician, Patrick (William Baldwin), the ever-marrying Karen (Natalie Zea), the priest, Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) and the bratty twins, Jeremy and Juliet (Seth Gabel and Samaire Armstrong). Blair Underwood plays Simon Elder, a billionaire who may or may not have the answer to who killed Nick’s father.
Where do I start? Is it with the bad writing and the surprisingly low-budget (green screens galore!) presentation? Or is it with the cliched, done before storylines littered throughout (a politician having an affair? a sex-tape scandal? Ohh!)? I really can’t decide. All of these features come together to create an extremely flawed look at an extremely annoying family. As great as Peter Krause is in almost everything, he cannot save nor elevate this show that surprisingly didn’t die after this lame 10 episode first season. Is it a drama? Not really, but it tries to be. Is it a comedy? Same answer. What we really have is something in between that can’t find the meaningful side of either.
The main problem is, this show isn’t funny enough to be considered a comedy, and the times that it approaches anything resembling an endearing drama, it falls flat. What does this show try to be? Dynasty or Dallas or a modern soap opera. You know what this show feels like? Arrested Development with a forced dramatic angle. But with comedic situations that feel uninspired and familiar. Everything feels cartoonish, and this show’s characters are so one-dimensional it hurts. I don’t know who I hate more: Jeremy Darling, the spoiled brat who is trying to write a single with Justin Timberlake and then having his birthday party on the Brooklyn Bridge, or Brian Darling, a reverend who had an illegitimate son and when he is forced to raise him, he lies about who this toddler is to his wife, explaining that he’s Swedish and his family died in a bullet train accident. I can’t even fathom how writers thought any of this would work. There’s another storyline involving Patrick, the one who’s trying to run for the senate in NY, and his tranny mistress. It’s sad that this is one of the more believable storylines in the show. The remarkable thing that I keep focusing on is that Tripp has created this multi-million (billion, really) empire and he’s extremely sheepish when it comes to his family and how he runs it. There’s no way we can believe that someone who worked that hard to build an empire would act that way, yet the writers are forcing us to accept it. He’s crying tears of joy because his twenty-something year old son doesn’t want to cash in one of his trust funds but instead get a job for the first time in his life.
Superficiality can be funny, and even entertaining. But in this case, it’s not. It’s horrifyingly uninteresting and was a waste of Peter Krause’s post-Six Feet Under time. I sorta hated everything about this show, except for him. But as I said before, there’s nothing he can do to make this worth watching. Since this show was cancelled right around the time the economy in this country went into the toilet, I’d like to imagine that people stopped watching because of what this show represented: the reign of the haves over the have-nots and how privilege makes some people act. And since we see enough of that for real every day on the news, why would we want to watch it fictitiously AFTER the news, too? It’s sad, because with a little creative restraint this show could have been so much better. It’s so concerned with all the flashy aspects of a wealthy life that it becomes the forefront of everything and there’s no room for characters you can care about. Peter Krause deserved better.
In a way, I think Peter Krause (who is really struggling to say nice things about the show) sums it up best in the making of feature “The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sex Money” when he says “With Dirty Sexy Money, you get some substance and you get some brain candy.” Yeah, that’s about right, if you forget about the substance. It’s hilarious when creator Craig Wright says “It’s really in the title: it’s dirty and sexy and how are you gonna handle that?”. Wait, what? The featurette is 20 minutes and features mostly quotes like that about how deep this show really is. I didn’t really pick up on any of that subtle majesty, so I must have had my eyes and ears shut when I was watching it, then. The commentaries are equally as perplexing. As I expected, tons of visual effects are used since the show is featured in New York but shot in Los Angeles. As I had noted previously, the green screen presentation is very poorly done. I don’t expect Industrial Light & Magic, but holy wow the effects are bad. Enter the Penthouse: A VIP Tour is just like it sounds: a step-by-step tour of the set. It’s rather elaborate and well done and clearly more care was put into it than any of the scripts.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars