Easy Money

Unable to successfully program Sunday night, The CW did an interesting thing: they sold it out. Sold it to some sort of production group, who throw in content and advertising and presumably pay for the stations to carry it. This is an aggressive move, and it could fill the airways with the cheapest crap they could find, or it could be freeing to creators who are now removed from the typical network structure.

So far, I’ve watched one of the new shows, Easy Money. And I think it’s the best debut so far this season, although admittedly that is faint praise. It’s a tale of business, and a tawdry business at that. But unlike other such shows, it’s not a sexy business. This isn’t the organized crime of The Sopranos, the music making of Platinum, the conmanship of The Riches, or even the drug trade (as stripped of glamor as that may be in Breaking Bad). No, the family in question is in the mosty-legit usury business, running a payday loans place, making ultra-high-interest loans to the desperate and the unwise.

The family in question is headed by Laurie Metcalf, who does a good job at least a step-and-a-half away from her usual comfort zone. She’s surrounded by her kids: the son who learned to become a low-level internet mage due to his fascination with online porn, the daughter who married a lottery winner only to find that he assumed that that victory simply presaged more to come. But the focus of the piece is on the smart son, the one who has the brains to really make the most of the business but the conscience to have problems with doing so. Some interesting people turn up in supporting places, such as Judge Reinhold as a small-time private investigator (although this seems more like a how-they’ve-fallen job for this actor than like a great-precise-fit-sure-to-get-attention item) and the ever-charming Martha Thomasen (the lovely lady dealer from the earlier seasons of Las Vegas) as a potential love interest.

The show holds interest. The one real problem I had with it is that it’s set firmly and purposely in a lower-middle-class world of laundromats, discount cigarette stores, and get-rich-quick schemes. The customers of the loan shop are inherently going to be, as I suggested, the desperate and the unwise, but if there’s no place to find some nobility, some honesty, some positive aspect among the citizenry of this fictional city, then ultimately it will come off as a very classist work, telling us that poor is stupid and stupid is poor.

And that would be an interesting message, particularly given the placement that this show has. The ads that they had to run on it were not the sort of thing one normally sees on prime time network; they were the call-and-order-now, and-that’s-not-all style of direct-sale hucksterism, the kind one expects on the wee hours of the off-brand stations. The sort of ads that seem aimed at the residents of this fictional city.

On the other hand, the timing for this is perfect. With the crumbling economy, we’re going to see a lot more people who don’t have the income, who have lost their standing. We’re going to see more communities filled with the desperate, including the unwise.

Published in: on October 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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