29 March, 2008

TV Party

How on earth does Peter Krause manage it? The first ten minutes of Six Feet Under displayed his character Nate getting intimate with a nameless woman in an airport cupboard. Meanwhile, his dad had just died in a hearse-crash, and Nate and his new acquaintance must face his highly-strung mother and his sister, who’s just plain high. Sex, death and crystal meth within twelve minutes. Of course, before the pilot ended we got a gay love scene too.

So Krause, this time as lawyer Nick George, has a knack for getting involved with messy families, as evidenced by the first episodes of Dirty Sexy Money. His dad just died in a plane crash, and Nick’s been called upon to take his old job, as family lawyer and general dogsbody for uber-wealthy, dysfunctional New York family the Darlings.

On this occasion though, it’s out with philosophy and in with debit card glamour.

It’s a wild ride as Nick desperately seeks a non-existent balance point between his own life (He’s found himself another ridiculously sexy girlfriend), and those of the other six people he must now babysit. As viewers we revel in the Darling’s decadence, their absurd materialism and moral corruption.

We feel more at home to find the Darlings are anchored by patriarch Donald Sutherland, and count William Baldwin and Samaire Armstrong (The O.C.!) among their numbers. Transexual prostitutes, affairs and an illegitimate son born to a clergyman ensure there’s plenty on Nick’s plate.

Indeed, we’d come to feel bad about it if it wasn’t all so tongue-in-cheek. Maybe that makes it less satisfying than the real deal, that we really wish we were watching. It’s fun, at times uproarious, but obviously lightweight fluff. The young(ish) part of the cast bring limo-loads of energy, in combination with the daft plotlines, while Sutherland veers between deft tone-setting and plain senility.

You’ll want to like Dirty Sexy Money, for its energy and simplicity, and it’s possible to really disengage the brain and enjoy this frothy, high-calorie nonsense. Just don’t expect to feel full afterwards.


“You’re the best,” declares the patient. “You break the rules, and you don’t care about anyone but yourself.” Of course, the maverick physician can only be Gregory House. And Hugh ‘unloved in Britain’ Laurie’s show returns to our screens for a fourth series, as grouchy, cynical and over-the-top as ever.

Having dismissed his staff at the end of series 3, House must whittle 40-odd applicants down to a new trio. While, obviously, watching House save the day, we can play a fun guessing game, trying to spot those final three.

Be that by spotting familiar faces (Anne Dudek of The Book Group and Mad Men?), or deepening characterization (The foreign chick? The old guy? The black dude?), it’s a fun distraction for when Laurie isn’t on the screen. Naturally, when he is, he steals the show.

Sadly, House’s writers have continued that disturbing trend of thinking-out-loud through the characters from series 3 to series 4. It’s catching and it sometimes brings you back to earth with a jolt. This is, after all, pretty silly, and getting to feel mass-produced.

But, like Dirty Sexy Money, it still charms. Yet more proof that good TV doesn’t always have to be art.

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