What was good about it?
• Good cast, most of them struggling in daft roles which demand sub-Dallas hamminess and little more. Donald Sutherland and his menacing grin stole the show in the underrated Commander-in-Chief last year; the grin is back but he’s horribly wasted here.
• The introduction to the wealthy, immoral Darling family was done with style as they turned up in a motorcade for a funeral, accompanied by pen pictures of their unpleasant characteristics.
What was bad about it?
• He was fine as Nate in Six Feet Under but Peter Krause isn’t strong enough to carry a series (unlike his SFU co-star Michael C Hall in Dexter, the best US import of the past year). As Nick George, Krause had no real depth. We liked him at the start, when he pointed out: “The love of money is the root of all evil” and spent his time being helpful to nuns and orphans, but as soon as his principles evaporated and he was tempted by the devil’s shilling, he lost us. They might as well have done without the preamble – when Nick got all macho about how he wouldn’t become the Darling family lawyer – and just kicked off with the sanctimonious Nick already installed in the role of the family bitch, constantly at their beck and call to tidy up the messes they made.
• It’s impossible have any affection for any of the characters, apart from Nick’s wife.
• And we’re supposed to loathe the filthy rich, dysfunctional Darlings but their negative traits had all the unsubtly of pantomime villains. Only the nasty priest Brian was anything out of the ordinary, acting like a spoilt brat, a dog-collared mobster and a philanderer without feelings.
• The how-did-my-father-really-die riddle doesn’t interest us a jot. We’d rather be hooked by the characters and the complicated relationships between them than the spurious plane crash mystery. Desperate Housewives pulled off the running riddle trick; Ugly Betty did it less successfully; in Dirty Sexy Money, it just seems like a poor attempt to fatten out a thin plot.
• We get the feeling we were supposed to be amused – but never were.
• It reminded us a bit of ITV’s The Palace, which was corny and kitsch, and US drama Brothers & Sisters, which was corny and soppy. But neither of them had the audacity to try to pass themselves off as sophisticated and original.
• Almost every twist was predictable – eg the suicide attempt by the hopeless actress Julia, the run-ins with the police for the irresponsible, drugged-up Jeremy, and Nick being caught in a clinch with his alcoholic, much-married ex-girlfriend Karen. The only surprise was that William Baldwin’s politician character Patrick was having a relationship with a transvestite. But the fact that this liaison was barely concealed made it utterly implausible.
• Everything was soaked in a musical score that intruded horribly (as did all the mobile phone ringtones), even when it was the brilliant Young Folks by Peter, Bjorn and John.
Aired Friday 21 March 2008