Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dirty Sexy Money and Private Practice - Season One on DVD 9/16

When these new series started airing on ABC last season, I had no interest in adding to my already overcrowded TV watching roster. And I certainly wasn't expecting much when I received the DVDs to review. Surprisingly, both shows turned out to be fairly engrossing and somewhat addicting viewing experiences.

Dirty Sexy Money was called "Dynasty for the new millennium" by creator Craig Wright. And I can certainly see the resemblance. The ongoing saga of the poor little rich family and the principled lawyer struggling to keep them out of trouble--while he struggles not to compromise his integrity--definitely reminds me of an Aaron Spelling production. Although, Dallas and Dynasty seem quaint and realistic compared to the envelope-pushing that occurs on Dirty Sexy Money.

Despite the title, the show isn't so much about Dirt or Sex as it is about Money. Lots of money. The rich live in bigger houses, drive bigger cars and have bigger problems and secrets than us--or so the writers would want us to think. The new millennium's Blake Carrington comes in the form of silver-maned and silver-tongued Tripp Darling--played by an exquisitely understated Donald Sutherland. Sutherland creates a character so complex and layered in his portrayal of the powerful patriarch that it's a completely engrossing experience to watch him do his stuff.

The cast is pretty star-studded with Peter Krause (late of Six Feet Under) as the principled Nick George, who inherited the Darlings from his father, Devlin aka "Dutch," after Dutch's untimely death. It's a devil's bargain, with Nick taking on the spoiled Darling clan in exchange for a ten million dollar trust fund with which he can do his charitable works. Jill Clayburgh plays Darling matriarch Letitia "Tish" Darling and Billy Baldwin plays son and Senatorial candidate Patrick (although Baldwin comes across as more "goombah" than "blue blood" in my opinion).

Then there's the even more delicious than ever Blair Underwood as Simon Elder--a billionaire Russian immigrant who may or may not be plotting the Darling's downfall. Okay, the whole "Russian" thing is weird. According to the storyline, Elder's parents once worked for the Darling family with Elder's mom having an affair with Tripp's dad. Apparently Dutch got involved and pulled a few strings with the State Department and got the African-American Communists deported to Russia where they eventually ended up in a Siberian work camp. See what I mean about pushing the realistic envelope?

The problem with this story is that Peter Strauss, who plays the late Dutch George, is 61. McCarthyism was at its peak around 1954. Making Dutch only SEVEN when he allegedly got Simon Elder's parents deported. Even if Dutch was actually Tripp's age (Donald Sutherland is 73, but how many times do you see actors playing OLDER than they are in Hollywood?), he'd have been only NINETEEN. C'mon writers--the audience isn't THAT stupid! Other than the obvious mathematical challenges, Underwood's Simon Elder character is an intriguing addition and definitely helps to put the SEXY in Dirty Sexy Money.

Other members of the Darling family include professional divorceé Karen (Natalie Zea) and the twins Jeremy (Seth Gabel) and Juliet--who are the most immature 25 year-olds in history. Especially Samaire Armstrong who plays virgin (yep, another stretch of the already strained credibility!) Juliet Darling. Juliet is supposed to be a Paris Hilton knock-off, complete with fake acting career, small dog accessory and Nicole Ritchie type feud. The problem is, Armstrong doesn't think she's Paris--she thinks she's Cindy Brady and plays the spoiled little rich girl as if she were SIX! I'm waiting for hair and makeup to do her up with spiral curl pigtails.

My favorite character is black sheep brother Brian Darling, an Episcopalian priest with a nasty attitude and a bastard son. Later, it turns out that Brian Darling is also a bastard (in all senses of the word) as he is actually Dutch George's son--the result of a 40-year long affair with Tish. The idea for the character of a priest came from Craig Wright's own stint with Seminary and it's an interesting set of contrasts: man of God who is mean and nasty rather than beatific, the rich boy who grows up to be a religious servant. The only problem is to reinforce that idea, the character wears his collar ALL THE TIME. I'm sure even Catholic priests take the collar off when they're off the clock.

Glenn Fitzgerald
plays Reverend Brian Darling--a despicable worm--with such panache you can't help loving him. Like the scene where he tells the school bully picking on his son that God is so disappointed in her and she should stop or she'll burn in hell for all eternity. "And eternity is a very long time," he intones serenely. It certainly doesn't hurt that he is pure hotness, either! I also love the chemistry between Fitzgerald and Will Shadley, who plays his son Brian Jr. Shadley is just precious and the relationship between father and son is oddly touching.

I have to give a shout out to Shawn Michael Patrick who plays the family chauffeur, Clark. Clark is like Alice the maid, Mr. Belvedere, Mr. French and Hazel all rolled into one. He gets the trouble-prone Darlings out of more scrapes than does lawyer Nick George. And kudos to the producers for bringing Candis Cayne, a transsexual actor, on board to play Carmelita, Patrick's transsexual lover. This is part of the reason that ABC topped GLAAD's list last year. The other addictive component of the show is the fabulous soundtrack. Shiny Toy Guns, Rage Against the Machine, Concrete Blonde and Coldplay all add great background and atmosphere to the series. I'm going to end up making a serious dent in my iTunes playlist due to this show!

The 3 DVD set contains all ten episodes of season one along with:

  • The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money
  • Enter the Penthouse: The VIP Set Tour
  • Haute Couture: Dressing the Darlings
  • The Other Woman: Candis Cayne
  • Bloopers, deleted scenes and audio commentaries

The Grey's Anatomy spin-off featuring the winning Kate Walsh reprising her Addison Montgomery character in sunny Santa Monica also got to me. I found myself sniffling at the end of each and every episode of Private Practice. Another star-studded cast with veteran series actors Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman and hottie Taye Diggs combined with Audra McDonald, Paul Adelstein, KaDee Strickland and Chris Lowell add up to an attractive and engaging ensemble.

Yes, we are again in fantasy land--or perhaps more accurately "Shonda-land"--with the members of Oceanside Wellness Center. Hey--I have a terrific holistic physician. She returns phone calls and e-mails promptly. She is very caring and always hugs me after my visit. But house calls? No Medical Assistants? No receptionist, office manager, billing coordinator? Are we supposed to believe Dell, the nurse and aspiring midwife runs the whole administrative side of the practice?

Okay, if you can get past the medical Garden of Eden that is a medical practice made up of a world class double board certified neonatal surgeon, fertility specialist, internist/author, holistic practitioner, shrink and pediatrician (Oh, and let's not forget the jack-of-all-trades midwife!), then you've got the set-up for a lot of deeply affecting personal stories with these saint-like doctors and their patients.

I only hope that Private Practice doesn't fall into the Grey's Anatomy trap of getting too incestuous with the doctor's personal lives and relationships. I mean you have a core cast of four men and four women--how many times can they break up, make up, hook up, switch partners and switch back again before it gets icky?

The 3 DVD set consists of the nine episodes that made up the abbreviated season one--two of the episodes being the "extended" versions--as well as a bio feature on Kate Walsh, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes and commentaries.

Season One for both Dirty Sexy Money and Private Practice are available on DVD today, September 16th--which should tide you over until their season premieres on October 1st!


  1. Love your breakdown of the show. It's so right on. I worked as an art handler in Manhattan for people like the Darlings. Some of them actually are this outrageous. I came across www.darlingtower.com looking around for stuff about season two. There's actually a construction site for the development near where I work. I say build it!

  2. You know, the funny thing is that only the pilot was shot in NYC. The show shoots in L.A. and they CGI the NYC background in post.

    The scene where Tripp Darling is waxing nostalgic to Nick about Darling Plaza looked an awful lot like the interior of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood to me--although I wasn't able to confirm the actual location in an internet search.

  3. Found this inside with the stars clip with interviews of the cast. I think the real strength of the show is the ensemble.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzurWbsvlCg
    Season two is set up well, and I'm eager to see where it goes.