My chief complaint about Dirty Sexy Money is that no one took my suggestion and changed that stupid title. However long it stays on the air, I will continue to think of this show as crazysexycool. (Abbreviating it DSM does me no good; my mind translates it as DMSR.)
I may just have to get used to the TLC/Prince allusions, though, because this show could be around for a while, if only because it so squarely hits the bullseye of ABC’s current core mission: quirky ensemble dramas about the problems of people who have way more money than you.
The Darling family (no relation) are Manhattan’s favorite celebrity billionaires, led by patriarch Tripp (Donald Sutherland, playing to type) and matriarch Letitia (Jill Clayburgh). The kids are disappointments of various stripes: scandal-prone attorney general Patrick (William Baldwin); serial monogamist Karen (Natalie Zea); arrogant, philandering Episcopal Rev. Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald); dilettante “actress” Juliet (Samaire Armstrong); and dissolute playboy Jeremy (Seth Gabel). The family has survived their recklessness and irresponsibility largely because of their longtime family lawyer, fixer and enabler, who has, unfortunately, just died.
But his son Nick (Peter Krause) is still alive, kicking and practicing law, albeit of the do-good philanthropic kind. Nick detests the Darlings–or at least what working for them did to his Dad–but Tripp reaches out to him anyway, to fill his old man’s shoes. Nick accepts, because–well, there’s a pledge of charitable money involved, but essentially because there wouldn’t be a TV show otherwise.
What follows in the first hour is an amusing, expository welter of catastrophes that Nick must step in and make better for the Darlings; his job, he discovers, is to be the highly-paid janitor for a family that is not used to cleaning up its own messes. Bastard children must be gotten into private school; angry tranny mistresses must be appeased; police run-ins must be kept out of the headlines. Oh, and Nick’s marriage must be preserved, because Karen, whose expensive virginity Nick dispensed with long ago, still has a thing for him.
In a way, DSM is the opposite of Bionic Woman–a pretty effective pilot that has the potential to become tiresome, depending which way it goes. The Darlings are broad stereotypes to a person, with an average of 1.3 dimensions apiece. The pilot has benefited from being graded on a curve, in a weak pilot season, and from coming out a year and a half after Arrested Development–which had more interesting things to say about wealth and America–went off the air. (Think about it: Juliet = Lindsay; Brian = GOB; Nick = Barry Zuckerkorn with a touch of Michael Bluth.) And Nick’s decision to take the job, which he’s obviously bound to despise, seems contrived–though the pilot ends up giving him a strong enough reason to stay that this may not matter in the long run.
Still, this is a funny, fast-paced pilot for a strongly cast show (Krause’s trademark blend of earnestness, sarcasm and slightly off-putting piousness is put to perfect use) and a pretty good time all around. Nick has a lot of contempt for the Darlings, but he also has a kind of affection for them, and it’s contagious. The Darlings may be much richer than you and me, but in the end, their core flaw is not that foreign to us: they just don’t think that much about they do. If you don’t think too much about DSM either, it should be a fairly dirtysexycrazycool time.