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DIRTY SEXY MONEY (ABC)
(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c beginning October 1)
The network's description: "The absurdly wealthy Darlings of New York City continues to mix with the wrong people and become embroiled in untenable situations. Fortunately for the preeminent family, idealistic lawyer Nick George is there to take care of their legal needs -- which often run into shady territory -- on the Second-Season Premiere of "Dirty Sexy Money," WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. The mysterious and unsolved death of Nick's father, Dutch George who'd been the Darlings' consigliere initially made Nick reluctant to follow in his father's footsteps. Now he finds, as he strives to keep the Darling name scandal-free, that he's connected to the family in ways he'd never imagined. In the season premiere, "The Birthday Present," Tripp and Letitia Darling throw Nick a lavish birthday party on a yacht, despite the fact that the day before, Nick and his wife, Lisa, had been planning to celebrate privately. That was before Tripp called Nick to broker a reconciliation between himself and his eldest son, senatorial candidate Patrick, who's going through a rough patch in his own marriage as he searches for his missing transgendered mistress. Meanwhile youngest son Jeremy reveals his feelings for Lisa to the lovely and mysterious Nola Lyons; the relationship between Karen and Tripp's nemesis, Simon Elder, enters a new level of intimacy; the de-frocked Brian is reunited with his illegitimate son; the whole Darling family is dealt a blow by the death of one of their own, and someone is arrested for murder."
What did they leave out? Samaire Armstrong is out as Juliet Darling while Lucy Liu is in as the mysterious Nola Lyons.
The plot in a nutshell: Six months have passed since we last saw the Darlings, our favorite dysfunctional upper crust family. Season one wrapped with patriarch Tripp (Donald Sutherland) and prodigal son Patrick (William Baldwin) at odds over his senatorial campaign; Karen (Natalie Zea) getting into bed - literally and figuratively - with Tripp's rival Simon Elder (Blair Underwood) to gather intel for her dad; Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) being defrocked just in time to watch his illegitimate son move to Brazil; Jeremy (Seth Gabel) finding himself attracted to Lisa George (Zoe McLellan); and her husband Nick (Peter Krause) still holding all of the above's hands and cleaning up their messes, despite the constant strain on his marriage. Season two then opens as Nick has miraculously brokered peace between the Darling men. But it's a short victory as, during Nick's birthday celebration, the NYPD crashes the party. Cut to 48 hours earlier and we get the real scoop: Patrick's poll numbers are fading as his wife Ellen's (Bellamy Young) frustration with his obsession to find Carmelita has grown increasingly public; Simon has said those three little words to Karen and she's surprised by her reaction; Brian's been recruited by Tripp to calm Ellen down, much to his chagrin; Jeremy still can't shake his case of the Lisas - even after being solicited by a mysterious woman (Lucy Liu); and Nick's, well, still Nick. So how did we get from here to there? The catalyst is too juicy to spoil, but suffice it to say Nick will be faced with doing the one thing he swore he'd never do and the central mystery from season one takes an interesting turn.
What works: While most of the shows we'll talk about this week are taking the "new pilot" approach to their season premieres, "Money" takes the opposite approach and simply throws you into the deep end of its mythology and storylines. And while that seems foolishly bold in today's anti-serial TV marketplace, it works to some extent within the context of the show. Nick's life isn't a slow burn toward doing things - he's constantly putting out fires. After all, the rival-African-American-technology-geniuses-raised-in-Russia and the transsexual-love-affairs-of-future-Congressmen don't get built up to, they simply got dropped in Nick's lap. We definitely are reminded that the Darlings' foibles and shenanigans are enough to overwhelm a team of lawyers, let alone one guy with a good heart. And he's just about to have two huge bombs dropped on him.
What doesn't: "The Birthday Present" ultimately however proves to be more soap than substance - sure there are a lot of fun twists and turns but it doesn't quite have the emotional heft the show found by the end of its abbreviated freshman run. And while some connections like Tripp's to Nick ("You are a son to me," he explains. "Let us love you.") and Karen's to Nick (wait until you see her birthday present for him), others either get lost in the soap - from Patrick's quest to find Carmelita to Brian being reunited with his son - or just feel out of place (Jeremy as a premeditated homewrecker is most definitely an unwelcome shift). Having seen all the episodes of the show to date I "get" all of the above, but those new to the table may need a little refresher. If anything, the season premiere is more about laying track for upcoming storylines than about offering a refresher course in all the things that make "Dirty Sexy Money" great.
The bottom line: I'm a true believer in Team Berlanti so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.