The Complete First Season
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All photos © ABC
Reviewed by Will Harris
nto every TV season, there comes a guilty pleasure. For many critics, that spot in the 2007 – 2008 season was taken by “Gossip Girl,” but since that show’s target demographic was supposed to more or less be taking it seriously, there wasn’t anything terribly guilty about the pleasure they got out of it. On the other hand, however, almost everything about ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” screamed, “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
When the concept of “Dirty Sexy Money” was first floated, there were a lot of mutterings about how it had the potential to be the straw that would break the camel’s back when it came to television spotlighting lifestyles that the average viewer couldn’t possibly relate to. After viewing the pilot episode, however, it became pretty clear that the producers were approaching the scenario with the intention of poking as much fun at the rich, powerful, and irresponsible as possible, even daring on occasion to make them seem almost – gasp! – human. Even better, however, was the fact that the show had attracted a cast consisting not only of big names but, even better, big names who were really good actors.
Let us set the stage: the Darlings are one of the wealthiest and most famous families in New York City, with patriarch Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland) and his wife, Letitia (Jill Clayburgh), having produced a diverse brood of children. There’s Patrick Darling (William Baldwin), a politician who’s rising through the ranks in search of a Senate seat. His sister, Karen Darling (Natalie Zea), is known less for running the family foundation than for having been married three times (so far). There’s also Rev. Brian Darling (Glenn Fitzgerald), who’s probably the grumpiest Episcopal priest you’ll ever have the misfortune to meet, and let us not forget the twins, Jeremy (Seth Gabel) and Juliet (Samaire Armstrong), whose tendency to pop up in the tabloids puts Paris Hilton to shame.
Standing outside the Darling family (if often not as far outside as he might like) is Nick George (Peter Krause), an attorney whose father, Dutch, served as the Darling family’s attorney – a relationship which lasted until Dutch’s untimely death in a plane crash. Upon his father’s passing, Tripp invites Nick to take over his father’s position within the family, but it’s a suggestion that immediately disconcerts Nick, who spent his entire life struggling to find a place in his father’s life, which was constantly run at the whim of the Darlings. In the end, Nick agrees to Tripp’s suggestion, but only after demanding that Tripp provide him with ten million dollars a year to maintain a charitable fund in his father’s name.
Nick quickly discovers that life as the Darling family attorney will be just as filled with trials as his father’s was – a fact which is humorously demonstrated when his cell phone is programmed to ring with different tones for each member of the family. (Example: when Juliet calls in, we hear Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl.") It’s interesting to see how far the perception of the rich has changed in a few decades; whereas “Dallas” and “Dynasty” were all about how the fabulous lifestyles, “Dirty Sexy Money” spends most of its time reminding us that rich people are awful, spoiled, and live so far outside of ordinary reality that they can barely function outside of the upper echelon of society.
Patrick is naïve enough to believe that he can be married with two kids yet see a transsexual on the side and get away with it without having his political career tarnished. Karen is so horrible with relationships that she decides that she wants a divorce before her wedding reception is even over, spending more time trying to break up Nick’s marriage than looking for someone who’s actually available. Jeremy tries to get a job in the real world, only to find it challenging to make it as a valet. Also swirling throughout the entire first season is the mystery of who was responsible for Dutch’s murder – or, indeed, if he was murdered at all (though if he wasn’t, then Season 2 is going to top “Heroes” as the show with the most disappointing sophomore season ever) – and Blair Underwood turns up a few episodes into the season as Tripp’s business rival, Simon Elder.
“Dirty Sexy Money” has that nighttime soap feel, even as it pokes fun at the character types that are its primary focus. It got a little old at first that Nick’s wife, Lisa (Zoe McLellan), was constantly harping on about the fact that “this isn’t part of your job description” and “your dad wasted his life on these people, don’t you waste yours as well,” but Lisa finally began to come into her own as a character toward season’s end. The series can be over the top at times, to be sure, but with Bryan Singer as a producer for the show, at least you can be confident that it’s done with a wink at the audience.
Special Features: The set has been decked out quite nicely with bonus material. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette (“The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money”), and the backstage material continues with “Enter the Penthouse: The VIP Set Tour” and “Haute Couture: Dressing the Darlings.” We also get a specific look at transgender actress Candis Cayne in a featurette teasingly entitled “The Other Woman.” Also included are audio commentaries from the producers and stars, deleted scenes, and – yes! – dirty sexy bloopers.