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The Philanthropist - An early look

by Kona Gallagher, posted Jun 24th 2009 2:02PM
philanthropist nbc
NBC has been promoting the crap out of their new summer adventure series, The Philanthropist, for weeks now. Starring James Purefoy as Teddy Rist, a billionaire playboy who decides to save the world, The previews held absolutely no interest for me. Now, after having seen the pilot, I realize that my first impression was the correct one.

Premiering tonight at 10 PM, The Philanthropist is basically an hour of an insufferable rich dude talking about how awesome he is. We watch the premise of the show unfold through the eyes of Rist himself, as he tells his tale of heroism (saving a Nigerian boy from drowning; surviving a shoot-out and a snake bite in order to deliver some Cholera vaccines to a village) to a bored bartender.

What makes his story so obnoxious isn't that he's bragging to a bartender about saving a village, I mean, who doesn't do that? It's that he tries to do the whole self-deprecation thing. "I'm no hero, but I totally risked my pampered billionaire ass for a little beggar child." It doesn't work. Rist doesn't become more likeable through his stories and actions, just more annoying.

Like any good billionaire, Rist has an army of minions. Jesse L. Martin left Law & Order only to end up playing Philip Maidstone, Rist's partner who, at least in the pilot, has very little to do. Well, unless you count possibly getting cuckolded by Rist. Maidstone's wife, Olivia (Neve Campbell), also works for the company and seems to be a little too close to her husband's business partner. In any case, both characters are severely under-utilized, as they spend their short amount of screen time giving Teddy concerned looks as he deals with his issues.

I always hate judging a show solely on the pilot because in many cases, things can drastically change between episodes one and two. For instance, the pilot spends a lot of time setting up the premise for the series and explaining in great detail what happened to Rist in his personal life to make him become a risk-taking Rambo-Philanthropist (Rambothropist?). In addition to his interactions with the little Nigerian boy, we find out that Rist has recently lost his own son, a fact that is used in several places in the episode to propel the story forward.

I would imagine since this has all been set up, that the subsequent episodes will take place in the present day, instead of Rist simply spinning yarns in a bar somewhere. The show succeeds in its action. It's beautifully shot and when it's actually in the moment, quite fast-paced and exciting. It's really Rist's smug retelling that not only makes the show drag, but really just makes The Philanthropist annoying instead of inspirational, as the marketers intend.

In fact, based on the pilot, The Philanthropist seems less an hour-long adventure, than an hour-long infomercial titled, Rich People: Hey, We're Not So Bad! It's as though Jack Donaghy, tired of being an oppressed rich white dude, green-lit this show himself in an effort to improve the image of his people.

The Philanthropist
is by no means irretrievably broken, and isn't as bad as some of the other series that have premiered recently, like the mind-numbing Mental on FOX. However, unless there are some big changes made quickly, we won't still be talking about the adventures of Teddy Rist when the leaves start to change.

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Pat G

OK.... I've been watching it and liking it alot. Now where is it.??? Didn't hear we had the season finally ??? Went to set it to record tonight and it isn't there.

August 19 2009 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OMG what a disaster. I was really looking forward to this show. I happen to be Nigerian & everything that could go wrong with the background research( the dialect, the social interactions etc ) went totally wrong. I am convinced the American public is much more educated than they are given credit for: I am sure folks out there could tell that it was condescending: Sitting confidently in the middle of a market in Nigeria with a brand new laptop WITH wireless access? Come on. Throwing a bribe on the floor AND he picks it up without slapping him right across the face? )(It is considered an insult). I could go on but I am de-tivoing the show. If I catch it again ...okay. If not, no love lost. NBC they ditch Journeyman & Medium for this crap?

June 25 2009 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to florence's comment

I agree with you. The depiction of Abuja itself would be where I start of. I mean come on Abuja is among the modern African cities. And what up with the bribe on the floor, not to mention all the condescending tones to this episode....pff...NBC takes us all for idiots..

July 04 2009 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's too bad that the show sounds like it's sucks. The real person that it's based on is a very humble great guy.

June 24 2009 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey, some of us out here are enjoying "Mental".

June 24 2009 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sue's comment
BC McKinney

Last night's episode was marvelous and deserves comment. First, they hire an actor who is noted for his remarkable resemblance to a younger Tom Cruise. Then they set up the situation where he has an on-screen meltdown while guesting on a popular talk show. Although he claims to have been acting out a role for a new movie (better yet, the first "serious" indie film role for a bankable blockbuster star--'Magnolia', anyone?), doctors determined he has genuine psychological problems, which they proceed to try to fix through psychotherapy, which Cruise as a Scientologist famously rejects the validity of.

(Spoilers, as if anyone is going to watch.)

As icing on the cake, the actor's root problem stems from his conflicted feelings about working as a male prostitute hustling older gay men before his big break as an actor, working in the persistent rumors of Cruise's male liaisons, which as a Scientologist would also be considered a major defect if they were true. Priceless.

At least this week the guest star stripped down instead of the male lead, and he had an even more appealing physique. 'Mental' continues to improve, although I doubt it will make much difference. Also, two weeks in a row where the residents were offscreen--why bother to sign Nick Gonzalez if he's not even going to be in the background every week?

June 25 2009 at 12:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok, I'm having problem trying to tell from the commercials and the reviews online.

Is this an action show like Burn Notice or Leverage?
Or just a random drama?

June 24 2009 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was going to watch it because Michael K. Williams is (supposedly, acc. to IMDB) in it. (Michael K. Williams is "Omar" from "The Wire") I would watch that man read the phone book.

June 24 2009 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lo82070's comment
Kona Gallagher

Yeah, he plays Rist's driver/bodygaurd, but maybe only had two lines in the pilot. Hopefully they'll be giving him a lot more to do in the future.

June 24 2009 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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