How many of us have sworn never to turn out like our parents — then ended up making the same choices? Such is the conundrum put forth by Dirty Sexy Money.
Nick George (Peter Krause) has vowed to avoid following in the footsteps of his father, Dutch, who served as lawyer, counselor, and by the look of things, occasional babysitter, to the Darlings — an exceptionally dirty brand of filthy rich New York society family. Nick succeeds for a while, as a lawyer representing the needs of those less financially well endowed — like nuns and orphans. Then Dutch dies in a mysterious plane crash, and Nick is summoned by patriarch Patrick "Tripp" Darling (Donald Sutherland), who despite the protests of his unruly brood offers Nick an opportunity to go into the family business.
Seduced by the promise of $10 million a year to do good works in his father’s name, Nick enters into the devil’s bargain — and shortly thereafter his dubious wife, Lisa (Zoe McLellan), starts to find the Darlings’ incessant phone calls composing the soundtrack of her life — literally. And oh what a tribe they are.
The ambitious politician son, Patrick (William Baldwin), the attorney general of New York — though he’s no Eliot Spitzer by any means — is launching a Senate campaign while trying to keep his extracurricular shenanigans with a transgendered woman under wraps. The oft-married older daughter, Karen (Natalie Zea), carries a torch for her ex-boyfriend Nick, and can’t resist flirting with him even as she and her fourth fiance are firing up their Mark Cross pens to sign the pre-nup. Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald), the son who has chosen a life as a man of the cloth, spews bile better suited to the son of a jackal with "666" tattooed on his scalp. And the ne’er-do-well twins — insolent playboy Jeremy (Seth Gabel) and the Paris-Hilton-meets-Marion-Davies airhead Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) — just want to have fun, but can’t seem to do so without getting into trouble. They’re all presided over by mother Letitia "Tish" (Jill Clayburgh), who seems never to move without clinking the ice in the old-fashioned glass in her hand. The Waltons they ain’t.
In the midst of the madness, there remains the question of what really happened to Dutch, and whether the Darling family has a connection to his death. After deciding the Darlings’ life is not for him (I foresee the possibility of many such break-ups and makeups in the future), he returns, knowing that to learn the truth about his father’s fate, he’ll need to stay close to them.
The mystery of Dutch’s death and the quest to solve it will save DSM from becoming a "look-at-what-outrageous-things-these-crazy-rich-folk-are-doing-now" saga — provided that it doesn’t wander into bizarre Desperate Housewives second-season territory or introduce one too many flashbacks like Damages. Producers, please don’t let me down.
The cast looks like a group of people having a whale of a good time. I’d watch Sutherland read nursery rhymes for an hour (Come to think of it, why hasn’t someone thought of that?), and he suavely embodies power and excess, whether nattily attired in a business suit, swaddled in a fur coat, or rocking a velvet sport coat. Billy, the younger, thinner, less tyrannical-seeming Baldwin (yes, I know he’s "William" now, but he’ll always be "Billy" to me) lets rip with a spectacular scene-chewing send-up of his brother Alec. I look forward to watching Clayburgh, who stops short of camp, marinate. And it’s a delight to watch Krause play the moral compass of a show — accepting but not resigned to the fact that the rules for the rich are different than those for everyone else — freed from Nate Fisher’s Six Feet Under New Age angst.
Dan Rather, however, should have known better.
As one who bellied up to the TV on Friday nights in my footie PJs to watch CBS’ blockbuster lineup of Dallas and Falcon Crest (After The Dukes of Hazzard, of course), I love a healthy dose of devilish, campy soap as much as the next gal. And DSM dishes it right up — slyly and with a great sense of humor. Comparisons to Dallas and Dynasty have abounded, but what it really feels like to me is a modern, cynical take on Billy Wilder’s classic Sabrina — a parable on the kind of class divisions most of us never really deal with on a day-to-day basis, mostly because we can’t quite wrap our heads around what it’s like to have the kind of wealth that means never having to say you’re sorry.
What did you think of the premiere? Just dirty enough, too sexy, and just so "money"? Would the lure of the charitable foundation be worth it to put up with these people?