The Philanthropist – finally, a series about a guy who has affairs with a lot of women. Oh, wait, no, that would be The Philanderer. But I suppose that one could find something good to do about a stamp collector.
Oh, it’s not The Philatelist? Oh, okay. The nickel-version description of this new show – that it’s about a rich guy who uses his money to do good for someone different each episode brings to mind the old series The Millionaire. But whereas that series was largely an anthology show about the effect of large money on the recipient, this one is very much about the contortions the lead character has to go through to provide his help.
I was uncertain about this show going in; the summer season has been quite a dumping ground this year. But as the opening credits rolled, I saw names like “Tom Fontana” and “Peter Horton” which at least opened me up to the possibility that the show might be good. And it’s certainly well-made in a lot of ways. Well (and expensively, it appears) produced, well acted, some nice touches. They fae the main character a demon to wrestle with, and I think they made a good dramatic choice in that.
But they made one horrid mistake in tone in the first episode. When you’re dealing with an ultra-rich white guy who is the one guy who can save the day, you’re inherently on dangerously elitist grounds. But the first episode has him in Africa, dealing with the corrupt black folk and the criminal black folk to be savior to the village of innocent black folk. And when he saves the day, he is treated ilke a wonderful hero by all, surrounded by the happy faces of all those that only he, the white man, was able to save. And what was his vast achievement? Getting a box from point A to point B… a point B that a more local character was able to get to at about the same time. Along the way, he feeds the bribe coffers of government agents, he apparently parties down with a bunch of apparent prostitutes brought by their pimp (and while I have nothing against some form of theoretical prostitution where the worker enters into the arrangement of their own free will, that seems unlikely to have been the case in this instance), buys off a DEA agent in a very unlikely way, and in general seems like a win-at-all-cost businessman than the fun-loving but good-hearted soul he seems intended to be.
There’s good effort here, and I will watch it further… but if their White Man’s Burden imagery surfaces again, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach it.
Added a few hours later: Y’know, I not only watched The Philanthropist over a couple days, but I also wrote the review over a couple days. Because of that looseness, I ended up writing at one point about an impression which lingered in Nattime for a fair while, even though it was wiped out by the end of the show. So let me correct it… although I have to erect a SPOILER WARNING on the pilot to do so.
The “demon” I mentioned which was granted to the lead character was the death of a son, about a year prior, a death which apparently brought about the end of his marriage. There is much truth in that, death of a child often ends up in marital split. And it was a good touch…
…up until the point where a vision/ghost of said dead son points the way out of the jungle and thus saves our lead and ultimately the day. At that point, it all became cheezy.