When Dirty Sexy Money first premiered in the fall of 2007, I was not sure I was going to like it. To say it is not my usual type of show would be an understatement. Still, I felt somewhat compelled to check it out. Perhaps it was the presence of Donald Sutherland or maybe Peter Krause, whom I enjoyed on Sports Night and who distinguished himself on Six Feet Under (which I still need to see), or maybe it is the abundance of lovely women, including Natalie Zea, Zoe McLellan, and Samaire Armstrong.
Whatever the reason, I tuned in that fateful night and was hooked. Unfortunately, the first season was shortened by the writers' strike and we had to wait a long time before we learned that a second season would actually come. It did indeed come, only to be struck down partway through due to poor ratings. Frankly, I was surprised it was picked up for a second go around, not that I was disappointed.
When the second season debuted, nearly a year after the final episode of season one aired, the ratings were atrocious. Despite my enjoyment of the show, it struggled to find any sort of audience, then the axe fell. The show's run ended after the tenth episode of its second season, with the remaining three episodes burned off during the summer with no advertising. It's too bad — the show had plenty of story possibilities, the cast was loaded with talent, and it was quite superficial and entertaining.
For those not in the know, Dirty Sexy Money was a prime time soap that took us inside the world of a family driven, ultimately, by money. And yes, it is dirty and sexy. We are taken inside the world of the Darlings, American royalty in this fictional, yet very real, take on our world. It gives us a window into the lives of the powerful people who are known for their money and famous for being famous. It is not unlike much of our celebrity-driven culture and the fascination with tabloid journalism. It's funny — I am not terribly enamored with that aspect of society, but make it fictional, throw a few stars at it, and put it weekly on my television screen and I'm there.
The second season saw a few personnel changes affect the cast and pushed the stories in a different direction from the first. Samaire Armstrong was dropped from the cast; if I recall correctly there was some sort of controversy regarding her exit, but it was never explored (although it was said she would return as Juliet Darling late in the second season, but the show was canceled before it could happen). On the other side of the coin, we saw the addition of Lucy Liu as a bulldog defense attorney.
This abbreviated season has a number of story threads to keep everyone in the cast busy. Among the stories is the murder trial of Letitia Darling (Jill Clayburgh), accused of the murder of former Darling family lawyer Dutch George, father of reluctant current family lawyer Nick George (Peter Krause). The mystery of his death took up a little bit of each episode during the first season, and the mystery continues through the second season with a major revelation in the thirteenth episode of the season, which also proves to be the last of its run.
Other stories include the strain of the Darling family on Nick and Lisa's marriage, the attraction between Lisa and Jeremy Darling, the smoldering emotions between Nick and Karen Darling, plus Karen's engagement to Simon Elder (Blair Underwood), the Darling's chief competitor, who has eyes on more than Karen. There is also lapsed clergyman, Brian Darling, and his tempestuous relationship with his estranged wife and the custody battle over their son, which spans continents. Not to be forgotten is Patrick Darling (William Baldwin), the New York District Attorney running for Congress, whose wife dies under mysterious circumstances and who is having an affair with a transgender woman named Carmelita.
All things considered, it's silly, it's over the top, it's trashy — but it's fun. It is buoyed by an experienced cast who generally know how to hit the right mark. Donald Sutherland, as the Darling patriarch, commands the screen and respect as Tripp Darling. Meanwhile Peter Krause is the everyman at the center of the story, trying to retain what makes him who he is in the midst of the craziness of the family. While these two seem to draw the most respect, it is the expanded family that adds the flavor.
I am not going to go through everyone, but there are two characters who bring the most life to the show. First is Seth Gabel as Jeremy Darling; he is the party boy of the clan, not that bright and always getting into some sort of trouble. He is fun, goofy, and adds levity to the show. The other is Glenn Fitzgerald as Brian Darling. This guy is fantastic, he takes everything over the top and into self-parody, it is hilarious. His character is a lapsed clergyman who likes women, loves his son, and hates his ex. He chases her around the world to get his son back, but then something happens and he heads back to the Church. No matter how you slice it, the man is funny.
Audio/Video. The technical qualities of the release is exactly what you should expect from a major studio release. It definitely looks better than the broadcasts I saw. The image is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and it is a solid transfer. This is not a show filled with special effects, so there are no scenes that pop out at you, but the cinematography, colors, and overall look are nicely detailed and devoid of any digital artifacts or other such issues. The audio is in the same vein, nothing stands out at either end of the scale, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a fine job of delivering the dialogue heavy sound track.
Extras. There is some bonus material included, all of it is located on disk three of the set.
- Directing the Darlings. This featurette centers on director Jamie Babbit and her adventure directing for the show. It really is a tough job, there is a lot of work that goes into producing a weekly show.
- A Total Knockout. This is a look at a day in the life of Natalie Zea, who plays Karen Darling. It is fun, if insubstantial.
- Dirty Sexy Crafty. This is nice, we never get a look at craft services, but here we do, we even get to watch him interact with the cast. Clever.
- Faux Pas: Bloopers from Season 2. This includes your usual collection of flubbed lines and such.
- Deleted Scenes. A total of seven scenes are included for your viewing pleasure.
Bottom line. I would have loved to have had more of this show. I am sure there are a few more seasons' worth. That said, I think it will be fun to revisit these episodes from time to time. It certainly was an underrated show on the sheer entertainment scale — a trashy show that was not trying to reinvent television.