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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
DIRTY SEXY MONEY (ABC)
(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)
The network's description: "Some people say money is the root of all evil. They may be right. Nick George's whole life has been lived in the shadow of the Darling family, but as an adult he's leading the perfect life as an idealistic lawyer, until his father's suspicious death. The absurdly wealthy Darlings of New York have asked him to take over his father's job as their personal lawyer, but the money that will allow him the freedom to be an altruistic do-gooder is only part of the picture. That same money pulls him into the dubious doings of the Darling clan. Power, privilege and family money are a volatile cocktail."
What did they leave out: Dan Rather, yes - Dan Rather, makes a brief cameo as himself.
The plot in a nutshell: An interview with a magazine reporter (Victoria Pratt) frames our introduction to Nick George (Peter Krause), the idealistic lawyer for the famed New York family the Darlings. And despite the family's storied history (they've been accused of everything from insider trading to vehicular manslaughter), Nick spins her a tale of how normal they really are, of how honored he was to take over the job from his recently deceased father and of how he himself is treated like an extended member of the family. The flashbacks themselves (cleverly labeled as 343,989 hours ago, 532 hours ago, 164 hours ago, etc.) however tell a different story - Nick's father was anything but the perfect dad as he always chose the Darlings over his own family, eventually driving Nick's mom to kill herself. His death then not surprisingly opens up plenty of old wounds as the Darlings - patriarch Tripp (Donald Sutherland), matriarch Letitia (Jill Clayburgh), golden boy Patrick (William Baldwin), wild child Jeremy (Seth Gabel), unlucky-in-love Karen (Natalie Zea), celebutante Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) and reverend Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) - once again emerge in Nick's life, which now includes his loving wife (Zoe McLellan) and cute kid (Chloe Moretz). Following the funeral, Tripp comes to him with an offer - take over for his dad in exchange for $10 million each year to do with as he pleases for his pro bono work. And despite the knowledge he'll be making a deal with the devil, he reluctantly accepts. And with that it only takes a few hours before Nick's putting out fires for the entire Darling clan (each of which gets their own cell phone ringtone) - cokehead Jeremy has won a yacht while playing poker, inheriting the problems that come with it; Karen - revealed to be Nick's first love - needs him to look over the prenup for her fourth marriage; Brian needs help pressuring a prestigious school to let his illegitimate child in (no, you didn't read that wrong); aspiring senator Patrick is trying to cover up his affair with a transvestite; and Juliet's acting ambitions are falling apart. It's a situation that quickly rubs Nick and his wife the wrong way prompting him to quit. But as they say - once you get out, they always find a way to pull you back in.
What works: Very much "The Colbys" to "Brothers & Sisters'" "Dynasty," "Dirty Sexy Money" has all the elements of the latter mixed its own unique brand of WASPy dysfunction. Shouldering said burden is the great-to-see-back-on-TV Krause, as he makes loving and loathing the Darlings both all too easy. The family itself also proves to be an amusingly colorful bunch - whether it be Karen's unedited nature (she casually tells her fiance that Nick deflowered her, in front of Nick), Brian's unexpected volatility (despite being a man of the cloth he gets into fistfights and had an affair), Jeremy's matter-of-fact excess (he notes that his coke dealer taught him origami) or Juliet's unabashed selfishness (her frequent comeback is yelling, "Yeah, well you're poor!"). They're all characters that could easily teeter into caricature, but Zea, Fitzgerald, Gabel, Armstrong and company thankfully keep them grounded enough to be believable. The real selling point however are the show's far too delicious final twists, which again thankfully aren't overplayed. It's just one of those shows that you know is going to turn into something great.
What doesn't: "Brothers & Sisters" has turned family dinner scenes into a virtuoso art form at this point, so it's almost unfair to note that "Money's" are a little broad and all over the place by comparison. Individually all the characters hit their marks but there just isn't that effortless chemistry when they're all together quite yet. In its defense, "Brothers" started off little rockier - and a lot darker - only to turn into one of my favorite shows on television right now.
The bottom line: It'll undoubtedly be labeled as the east coast version of "Brothers & Sisters" and I'm happy to say it lives up to that standard.