TV Detail: Dirty Sexy Money Review. Season 2 Premiere—"The Birthday Present"
Wednesday’s season premiere proved that no one does scheming quite like the Darlings. Greg Berlanti’s sprawling family dramedy, Dirty Sexy Money, focuses on Manhattan’s richest family, the Darlings. The family is, of course, anything but. Dirty Sexy Money benefits from one of the most impressive casts on network television. Peter Krause leads as the family’s exasperated lawyer Nick George, Donald Sutherland appears to be having the most fun of his professional career playing Tripp, the manipulative patriarch of the Darling clan, and Jill Clayburgh gets in a few laughs as his alcoholic, adulterous wife, Leticia.
It is easy to write off Dirty Sexy Money as a clone of '80s nighttime soap operas, but the show has just as much in common with Arrested Development as it does with its soap roots. The Darlings are the most deliciously dysfunctional family to emerge on network television since the Bluths, and Nick is charged with keeping the insanity in check just as AD lead Jason Bateman did not long ago.
The episode opens as any show about the ridiculously wealthy should, with the Darlings throwing a fabulous yacht party for Nick’s birthday. The show is careful to reintroduce each Darling child during the opening sequence: the politically savvy Patrick (William Baldwin); the often married Karen (Natalie Zea); youthful playboy Jeremy (Seth Grabel); and sardonic Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald). The family is then quick to display its immense wealth by giving Nick his own yacht. Nick is fully aware that the yacht is really hush money.
The season premiere lives up to the show's title. Every member of the family seems to be knee deep in scandal. Karen is sleeping with her father's nemesis (Blair Underwood) in an effort to steal information for Tripp. Patrick's political career is threatened when his wife dies while attacking him because of his relationship with a transgendered woman. Jeremy wants to sleep with Nick's wife and Brian is bribing I.C.E. to keep his ex-mistress from leaving the country with their child. Nick's job is to make sure that they don't destroy the family name in the process. His role as the family attorney has many duties. Those duties include covering up the death of a woman and an arson. Needless to say, life is rarely boring for the Darlings.
Lucy Liu is also introduced as a woman taken with Jeremy. This is to say that he takes her to the back of his limo. She's obviously using Jeremy to gain access to his family, but it's not obvious what her motives are.
The highlight of the episode comes at the end, though. Leticia gets arrested for the murder of her former lover (and Nick and Brian's father), Dutch George. The ending sets up the mystery that will no doubt run throughout the season. It is also what will unite the splintered family. The Darlings are many things, but they are also loyal to one another to a fault.
Yes, it all sounds like a cover story on TMZ. However, Berlanti's smart dialogue always seems to flow amongst his characters. He has crafted believable folks who do ridiculous things. Brian, in particular, has great lines. That isn't to say the show doesn't have its problems. It is more than obvious that the "Big Bad Darlings" will corrupt Nick's charmed little marriage. The writers don't even attempt to make the relationship interesting. The season premiere still exhibited those issues, but they were overshadowed by smart writing and quick dialogue. Dirty Sexy Money is undeniable camp, but it also happens to be the perfect gin martini to toss back on a Wednesday night.
Brian moment of the night:
Brian to Tripp: "I left the church so that I wouldn't have to smile and pretend to care about other people's problems. When you sent me to Munich to close that factory and fire all those people...that was fun."