Peter Krause narrates that “The love of money is the root of all evil” to start off the new show Dirty Sexy Money. He is Nick George and is watching a plane get pulled out of the water. His father was the lawyer for the Darlings, a super-rich family, and that job ruined Nick’s family. His mom left and his dad neglected him. Yes, that “root of all evil” thing is a bit of a mission statement for this show.
In the present, Nick is one of those lawyers who somehow manages to be successful working for the common man. Nick blows off meeting with his dad, and shortly thereafter, the elder George is dead in a plane crash. The funeral is a giant ordeal with the church barricaded off. Nick tries to gain access, but can’t because the cops don’t believe it’s his dad.
The Darlings roll up in a limo greeted by cheering fans. The music makes it sound as though the four horsemen of the apocalypse just showed up. Technically, the seven deadly sins would be more logical as that’s how many Darlings there are. One at a time, we see them exit the limo with flash shots of their names. It’s a cheap and easy way to provide plenty of exposition. The dad is Patrick “Tripp” Darling III, played by Donald Sutherland. His wife, Letitia (Jill Clayburgh) gets out of the car in a black veil and melodramatically states “I want to die.” Overreacting and overbearing matriarch? Check.
Then the kids show up. Karen (Natalie Zea) has a former pro golfer trophy husband. Patrick Darling (Billy Baldwin) gets peppered with questions about when he will announce his run for the Senate. I’d rank him second among his brethren as far as respectability goes, which says less about him and more about Stephen. Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) is the ditzy blonde actress. Jeremy (Seth Gabel) is the baby Darling, the rebel. You can tell by the cigarette dangling from his mouth, sunglasses and untucked shirt. Also, he strolls in from the street, not out of the limo with the rest.
Those last two are immediately awesome. A reporter asks a question doubting Juliet’s acting ability, and her comeback is that he’s poor. Jeremy’s hungover (or possibly still drunk) from a trip to Tahiti. They’re exactly what all those kids on The Hills and Laguna Beach want to be. Patrick goes on about what an inspiration the late Mr. George was, and Nick calls out to him to get into the church. As we’ll see, Patrick is probably the nicest and most grounded Darling. You’d think it would be the next one, already inside, Reverend Brian Darling (Glenn Fitzgerald), but this man of God whispers “I hate you” to Nick. At the guy’s own father’s funeral. It’s Dirty Sexy Money, and all three words apply.
This moves nicely into a Darling family scene fully of so much rich, drunken awesomeness. Tripp wants Nick to be the new family lawyer. Brian is vehemently opposed. Patrick is fine with it. So is Karen, but Brian accuses her of being “drunk and in love with him.” She only denies the first. Jeremy loves Nick because he’s the brother he never had. Also, Jeremy is adorned in a bathrobe and letting the family dog (Midas) sip his cocktail. Letitia ends the argument by throwing an expensive vase to the ground.
Tripp is busy trying to convince Nick to take the job of family lawyer. Tripp’s first two choices, Johnny Cochran and Bill Clinton, both were a bust, due to being dead and a former President, respectively. Nick is wary, but Tripp puts his nuts on the table, so to speak. In addition to his salary and being able to keep his private practice, he’ll pay Nick $5 million a year for his charitable causes. Tripp trusts Nick a lot, and goes on and on about how he needs a good guy around with all this chaos. Nick lays down his conditions (keep his own hours, never lie) and Tripp just goes along with it. Then Nick asks for $10 million. “Done.” Man, it must be nice to be that rich.
Nick basks that night in bed with his wife, Lisa (Zoe McLellan). The celebration is short-lived as he gets a phone call from Jeremy, dressed in a ridiculously cool top hat. Jeremy just won a yacht in a poker game at Ethan Hawke’s house. It’s funny because Jeremy is blathering on as if this is an everyday event. The next day, he gets to know exactly what this job entails. Brian wants him to get some kid into a private school. Karen and her fiance are waiting in Nick’s office to sign their pre-nups. Before he gets to that, Karen goes in rant about how Nick deflowered her and read her poetry and how she always thought they’d be married. All the while, her future fourth husband is sitting right there. Awkward!
Nick’s assistant programmed his cell phone with hilariously appropriate ring tones for each one. Reverend Brian gets “Hallelujah.” Brian is busy threatening the president of the school with bodily harm, and for some reason the president has an eye patch. Nick shows up to discover the kid in question is Brian’s illegitimate son. He gets a call from Juliet (“Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates) who’s freaking out because the director of her stage play is calling her out as a bad actress, and she only got the role because her dad is financing the production. She brilliantly whines, “But daddy said he wasn’t gonna do that any more.” The capper is a bored Peter Bogdanavich, as himself, telling Nick, “She’s not good.”
Next call is “Born to be Wild,” so it’s, of course, Jeremy, being arrested at the dock because the yacht he won was transporting illegal immigrants. Nick tries to argue the yacht’s title is invalid because Jeremy just wrote his name in, with crayon. Nick gets one last call and realizes he forgot to pick up his daughter. So it begins, the transformation of Nick turning into his father.
Letitia tries to talk Juliet down, but her attempts at a motherly talk are so misguided, Juliet heads straight for the medicine cabinet in a pitiful attempt at committing suicide by taking a handful of pills, chased with a diet soda, which is a nice touch. Nick is walking Jeremy out of prison, and the press are asking ridiculous questions. My favorite is whether Jeremy is getting back together with Kylie Minogue. They role up to the Darling parents’ anniversary party as Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” plays in the background. For a fun drinking game, take a shot every time you hear that song played in any show this season. It’s not a bad way to get drunk. The two share a nice conversation in which Nick tries to convince Jeremy that he doesn’t have the worst life in the world. Jeremy blows him off, then gives him a nice origami sailboat he learned from his coke dealer. Little exchanges like that make this, quite possibly, the best written pilot of the season.
Inside, Letitia gets emotional and makes a perfectly nice story about Nick’s father all about her. Patrick is being grilled by Dan Rather (another big name cameo as himself) about his political intentions. Patrick is called away to deal with unexpected visitor. It turns out he’s having an affair. The bigger twist, the woman is, quite obviously, a dude. To the show’s credit, the transexual lover isn’t treated as a crude joke, but rather as a person Patrick has genuine feelings for.
Jeremy presents his parents with their anniversary gift: a race horse. And yes, the horse comes trotting into the ballroom. Brian shakes his head in disgust. En route to a meeting with Patrick, Nick bumps into Karen, who’s busy having a breakdown over her latest fiance being a gold digger. She turns it into a kiss on the cheek, and Nick’s wife walks in at that moment. Chasing after her, he runs into Brian outside and goes off on him about taking claim of the kid to get him into the school. Brian comes back with a dig at Nick’s father, and Nick runs after him, pins him down in the foyer, and, like a big brother, grabs him by the ear and chastises him. That’s interrupted by Karen, who has found Juliet passed out. Seeing the madness, Nick quits.
Patrick coaxes Nick into his limo, however, in an attempt to quell the affair. Nick puts it best: “No, I’m not gonna go into a hotel and give a tranny hooker a check.” In Patrick’s defense, she’s not a hooker. Nick gets back to his home and argues with his wife about Karen. He, unfortunately, gets a call from her at that moment, and his assistant has playfully made her ring tone “Pretty Woman.” He ignores it, but then Karen calls the home phone and quickly says she needs to talk to him about his father.
She’s suspicious that Brian requisitioned a check for $10,000 to some guy named Norman Ecksley, who is now asking for $90,000 more. Also, Norman is an airplane mechanic. She thinks it’s because Brian was upset about their mother’s affair with Nick’s dad over the past 40 years, which is news to Nick. Back to where the episode started, the plane they uncovered had no body in it, and it’s impossible for the cops to tell if there was any foul play. The lead investigator gives him a waterproof lock box. Tripp shows up in a private helicopter and, after asking if Nick wants to keep the job, gets a bit flustered by the presence of the lock box. Tripp then offers Nick use of his helicopter, which is a weird move that’s either suspicious or thoughtful, or both.
We go out on a montage of where everyone is. Juliet is heading out on her own. Jeremy is contemplating what to do with his yacht. Brian is left with his illegitimate son. Patrick is in bed, still with the transexual. Karen’s fiance is still after more money. And Nick vows to find out who killed his father and make him pay. At this point, any of the Darlings make great suspects, but I’m going with Karen’s fiance Freddy.
So that’s Dirty Sexy Money. It’s one of the best written and best acted new shows, so here’s hoping it gets a fair chance and we get to find out who killed Nick’s dad.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of ABC)