In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Channel 4, probably sometime in January if their acquisitions budget holds up
As we've found out already, the US writers' strike has proved to be a boon creatively (if not ratingsly) for a host of shows. Heroes has come back refreshed, albeit daft as a brush as always; My Name is Earl is back on track, but still not desperately funny; and The Unit is vibrant and exciting again.
Other shows haven't quite fared as well. Chuck's a little better, but is pretty much the same old, same old; while Life's intricate storyline is proving hard to get back into without sufficient incentive for the viewer.
Dirty Sexy Money is having similar issues. Last season, it was confused. It thought it was intelligent television and so needed to have a message - something like rich people aren't to be envied since they're messed up. But it never really could work out what its message was and got its head all confused, poor thing. The result was an extremely convoluted storyline of extreme silliness, involving bed-hopping, Catholic priests with illegitimate sons living in Brazil, politicians with transgender mistresses and murder.
Over the break, though, the writers have sat down, meditated, and decided they know what's wrong. Screw intelligent TV, screw messages: let's just have fun. And even more convoluted silly storylines.
This is yet another show where I sat down, watched every episode, and had still forgotten pretty much everything that had happened during the first season. It never helps, of course, that some of the cast have changed hairstyles, appeared to have disappeared (younger female Darling twin, for example) or have advanced the plot over the summer without telling us.
But, through the use by the writers of cheap, Canadian versions of the otherwise patented "Why, hello Letitia Darling, my employer's wife who also used to cheat on him with my father, Dutch, who died in a plane crash in suspicious circumstances! How are you on this fine evening of my birthday?" technique, I was able to get more or less back up to speed by the end of the first episode - even if I did feel 70% mystified all the same.
This episode was quite nicely written with a pre-title teaser set 48 hours ahead of most of the episode's events - a replay of the teaser at the end gives you a chance to understand all the subtleties of the looks and actions during the teaser. All the same, it's gloriously over the top, with affairs, near-affairs, love affairs and more sprouting up all over the place; there's at least one death of a regular character in ridiculous circumstances; a neat line in putdowns ("What did I ever do to you?" "Well, you shot me in the leg, Ellen. Ring a bell?" and "You have a perfectly good woman who loves you but you'd rather be with that shapeshifter!" being some of my faves this ep); and the usual glorious revelling in the Darlings' assumptions that the law is for little people, not them.
But the episode happily enough felt message-free. Although you could argue that the attempt at "money and power corrupts and makes you miserable" message of last season was implicit, the characters are moving on enough that it just feels more character-based than a stab at education.
The cast are as good as always: William Baldwin seems to be getting camper with every episode; Donald Sutherland is clearly having a whale of a time; and Peter Krause seems to want to join him. Lucy Liu has decided to join in with the sexual antics, which is nice and she deserves a vacation from the horror that is Cashmere Mafia, and Blair Underwood gets to relax again after a stint at actual acting in In Treatment.
Ultimately, this is trash TV: the Dynasty of the noughties. It's a lot smarter than Dynasty mind, but thankfully, it's decided to lose its air and graces and just have fun.
Here's the Dirty Sexy Money starter kit to help you get up to speed.
And here's a season two sneak peak
And here's a season two promo