Buena Vista // 2007 // 427 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 19th, 2008
At long last, a television program that contains no characters in lower tax brackets!
"Come on, go to the photo shoot. There's gonna be lions there."
Nick George (Peter Krause, Six Feet Under) spent years living in the shadow of his powerful father. The late Dutch George was an attorney for one of the most powerful families in the world: The Darlings. Despite their cuddly last name, the Darling family is a genuine band of cutthroats. Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland, Space Cowboys) is the family patriarch, an immensely powerful man who has influence over...well, almost everyone. His is married to the relatively sensible Leticia (Jill Clayburgh, Running With Scissors), a woman who may have a strange secret in her past. Tripp and Leticia have several colorful children. Patrick Darling (William Baldwin, The Squid and the Whale) is an aspiring senator whose political aspirations are in danger of being undone by his side activities. Patrick has been seeing a transwoman named Carmelita (Candis Cayne, Mob Queen), and he worries that it will get out sooner or later. Brian Darling (Glenn Fitzgerald, The Sixth Sense) is the most hostile and bad-tempered child, who has oddly decided to become a minister. He has a young son that he refuses to admit is actually his. Karen (Natalie Zea, The Shield) is the family diva, about to take on her fourth husband. Her first boyfriend was Nick, and she still isn't quite over him (despite the fact that he is happily married). Juliet (Samaire Armstrong, The O.C.) is a sweet but not particularly bright girl who has convinced herself that she is an immensely good actress. She most assuredly is not. Her twin brother is Jeremy (Seth Gabel, The Da Vinci Code), a wild party child who loves to spend money and get high as often as possible.
These folks are difficult to manage, and Nick has no intention of being involved with them in any way. Well, okay, he'll agree to do just one thing for them after his father suddenly passes away. Well, okay, maybe he'll do a little more than that. Well, okay, he's being offered a whole lot of money to take on a really important position. Before he can say, "I stand by my principles," Nick finds himself serving as the new Darling family attorney. It's going to be one crazy ride.
Ten episodes are spread across three discs.
* The Lions
* The Italian Banker
* The Chiavennasca
* The Bridge
* The Game
* The Wedding
* The Country House
* The Watch
* The Nutcracker
Dirty Sexy Money may not be great art, but it is most assuredly entertaining trash. The show is soapy, pulpy, and often a little bit shameless. Nonetheless, it proved to be one of the most addictive new shows of the strike-shortened 2007/2008 television season. It's about as much fun as you would hope for a show called Dirty Sexy Money to be, and it's pulled off quite well by an overqualified cast.
Peter Krauss is best known for his excellent work on Sports Night and particularly Six Feet Under. While Dirty Sexy Money isn't quite as substantial as either of those fine programs, Krauss lends it a great deal of credibility. He's sympathetic, three-dimensional and compelling as Nick George, the show's almost-unshakable moral center. For all of the corruption he's asked to participate in, he always keeps his heart in the right place. Just as good is the splendid Donald Sutherland, evidently having a great deal of fun. Sutherland absolutely nails every single scene he appears in, and brings some surprising kindness to the role. William Baldwin also makes a strong impression as the closeted Patrick, meaning that viewers got a solid performance from one of the Baldwins twice a week (Alec on 30 Rock).
More entertaining on a "guilty pleasure" level are all the "rich people behaving badly" scenes. Temper tantrums, wild indulgences, bizarre public behavior...it's all here in spades, and everyone in the cast dives into it with glorious gusto. A plethora of fun subplots are tossed out left and right. Some resonate; some disappear once they're wrapped up, but almost all of them are engaging. The difference between this and something like Gossip Girl is that this show actually has a sense of clever wit about it. Some of the characters may often be remarkably dumb, but the show itself is smarter than it may appear on the surface. Rather than simply attempting to cheaply dramatize events often seen on TMZ, it either satirizes them or finds the intriguing elements of human nature that create them. Both approaches work pretty well and there's typically a nice balance between the two.
One of the really interesting things about the show is that it dabbles into the entire spectrum of comedy and drama. On the comedy side, sometimes we get sharp satire, sometimes we get absurd screwball material, and there's even a bit of slapstick here and there. On the dramatic end, part of the material leans towards the soapy Dallas/Dynasty vibe, some of it goes for gritty honesty, and some of it is deeply melancholic. The great thing is that the cast is able to make almost all of this stuff work. I know that a lot of critics weren't crazy about Dirty Sexy Money when it premiered, but I urge folks to give it a look. It's a lot harder to pull off some of the stuff this show manages to pull off than it looks. I've often referred to the show as a "guilty pleasure" (as I did in the previous paragraph), but after a second viewing, I think I'm cool with simply calling it "a pleasure."
The transfer is reasonably solid, highlighting the vivid and bright color scheme. Blacks could stand to be a little deeper. Sound is solid, with a pop-rock score a whole boatload of hip top forty hits are pumped in pretty aggressively.
We get a decent batch of supplements here. Disc one spotlights a commentary on the pilot featuring creator Craig Wright, executive producers Greg Berlanti & Matthew Gross, director Peter Horton, and actors Peter Krause and Natalie Zea. It's a pretty engaging track, but with such a large crowd, it's difficult for anyone to say much before being interrupted. Disc two has a commentary for "The Bridge," featuring Wright and Krause again, this time joined by actors Seth Gabel & Zoe McLellan and writers Jess Brickman and Peter Elkoff. Disc three offers a commentary on "The Watch" with Wright, actors William Baldwin, Glenn Fitzgerald, Candis Cayne, & Will Shadley, director Andrew Bernstein, and writer Yahlin Chang. The same criticism applies to both of these tracks; they're simply too crowded. I wish they had kept the commentaries to no more than three or four people per episode (perhaps you could spread everyone out and create more commentaries). Oh well. At least these tracks don't suffer from dry spots.
The rest of the extras are included on disc three. There are eight deleted scenes, running about fourteen minutes total. "The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money" is exactly what it sounds like, a making-of featurette. There are some interesting comments and behind-the-scenes footage here, even if it's a bit clip-heavy. I like Krause's description of the show as, "a nice mix of substance and brain candy." It runs about twenty minutes. "Enter the Penthouse: A VIP Set Tour" is a look at the show's opulent set design, which runs seven minutes. "Haute Couture: Dressing the Darlings" is also seven minutes, and checks out the costume design. "The Other Woman: Candis Cayne" is a five-minute discussion of the much-talked-about decision to include a real-life transsexual as a significant character/love interest in the show. It may be a little self-congratulatory, but you have to hand it to them, it's a pretty bold move for a network television show. "Tripp Ups: Dirty Sexy Bloopers" gives us three minutes of giggling and blown lines. Finally, there's a one physical extra, a mock gossip rag with all sorts of articles about the Darling family, which is kinda nifty. It's a pretty decent collection of bonus material overall.
The long-arc plot development of the show isn't quite as compelling as it's obviously intended to be. Nick is attempting to find out whether or not his father was killed. Maybe it's the fact that we don't really know much about his father, or maybe it's the fact that that the clues we're given aren't too gripping. The bottom line is that almost everything related to this plot feels like dull filler. The "big secret behind everything" shouldn't feel so bland. Hopefully things will improve on that front in the second season.
Come on. It's called Dirty Sexy Money. You know you want a bite.
Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 427 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site