Review: Dirty Sexy Money 1.1

Dirty Sexy Money

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC

In the UK: Acquired by Channel 4

If you’re going to have a show about ridiculously rich people, I guess this is the one to have. Having lots and lots of money, apparently, turns you into murdering, suicidal, adulterous, drug-addicted, idle, alcoholic, spoilt idiots who can fritter millions away on whatever passes through your frontal lobes from second to second.

This isn’t just me being mean to the characters: that’s explicitly how the rich ‘Darlings’ are portrayed in the eyes of our ‘hero’, Nick, who grew up with them thanks to his father being the family lawyer.

Now his father’s dead, the Darlings want him as a replacement but he wants nothing to do with them.

Despite its message though, I found it hard to get too excited about it, even with Peter Krause as the lead. Who am I going to identify with: the Darlings or their slightly less rich new lawyer who finds that absolute power really does corrupt absolutely?

Plot (inherited after the blog came of age from the ABC web site’s trust fund)

Power, privilege and family money are a volatile cocktail.

Living proof of this are the Darlings of New York City, so absurdly wealthy, they put the upper in Upper East Side. This preeminent family are always getting mixed up with the wrong people and finding themselves in the middle of bad situations. It’ll take a miracle to take care of the legal and sometimes illegal needs of the Darling family.

That miracle comes in the form of Nick George. As a boy, Nick watched his father surrender his freedom and family as the Darling’s trusted consigliere. Nick grew up in a troubled household where he was always second to the overpowering Darling family. Burned by his own boyhood encounters with them, he vowed never to follow in his father’s footsteps. The idealistic Nick did a 180-degree turn and became a lawyer for the disadvantaged.

After the mysterious, sudden death of Nick’s father, family patriarch Tripp Darling offers Nick the opportunity to inherit the responsibility of protecting the Darlings’ secrets. The job, with an ungodly salary, will allow Nick the freedom to be an altruistic do-gooder. But he discovers all too soon that his new position requires him to be an all-around problem fixer, hand-holder, therapist and public relations expert.

The powerful and persuasive Tripp Darling, owner of vineyards and homes around the world, lives with his beautiful, graceful and posh wife, Letitia. While they symbolize the charm and all-Americanism of old money, they also embody scandal and have spawned five grown, troubled children.

The oldest is Patrick Darling, the attorney general for New York. He’s a handsome and commanding man whose political star is quickly rising. There’s just one problem — he has a transgendered girlfriend who won’t go away, and this potential senatorial candidate needs Nick to fix the situation.

The sexy, stunning and thrice-married Karen is the eldest daughter, a socialite who runs the family foundation. She lost her virginity to Nick, a fact she isn’t shy about telling her newest fianc?ɬ�. A self-described loser in love, Karen still looks to Nick for help in her personal life.

Brian Darling is a man of the cloth, working in the Episcopal church. He loathed Nick as a kid and loathes him still. When Nick’s father was alive, he spitefully accused the man of trying to infiltrate a family he didn’t belong in, and now feels that Nick is attempting the same thing. But now Brian needs Nick’s help in sweeping a problem under the rug — an illegitimate son.

The youngest siblings are Juliet and Jeremy Darling, twins in their 20s. Juliet is a petulant, spoilt celebutante who longs to be taken seriously as an actress. Should a taxi driver, an autograph seeker or anyone else upset her, she will snap at them her favorite retort, “You’re poor!”

Jeremy is frequently seen in rumpled clothing, hung over, smoking cigarettes and pleading with Nick to get him out of a jam. He’s completely oblivious to the concept of relative suffering and unable to conceive of a life worse than his, despite his obscene wealth. He fears he’s the family disappointment and that his father hates him.

As Nick handles the whirlwind goings-on of the Darlings, his sensible wife, Lisa, is a patient partner in parenting their young daughter and gets a kick out of the Darlings’ lavish parties. But lately she has gotten the sense that Nick is drifting away from her, specifically in the direction of the alluring Karen Darling.

The billions of dollars possessed by the Darling clan have created a great American family — and those same riches might also demolish it. The money Nick earns as their personal lawyer allows him the freedom to do some good for society. But as he finds himself racing to plead with cops, hush the tabloids and furiously try to wipe the mud off the esteemed Darling reputation, Nick wonders if he has gotten the chance of a lifetime — or a life sentence.

Dirty Sexy Money stars Peter Krause as Nick George, Donald Sutherland as Tripp Darling, William Baldwin as Patrick Darling, Natalie Zea as Karen Darling, Glenn Fitzgerald as Rev. Brian Darling, Samaire Armstrong as Juliet Darling, Seth Gabel as Jeremy Darling, Zoe McLellan as Lisa George, with Jill Clayburgh as Letitia Darling.

Dirty Sexy Money was created by Emmy-nominated Craig Wright (Brothers & Sisters, Lost, Six Feet Under). Wright, Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, Everwood), Josh Reims (Felicity, Everwood), Oscar-nominated Matthew Gross (Day Break) and Bryan Singer (House, Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects) are executive producers. The series is produced by ABC Studios.

Is it any good?

It’s well executed. It has a good cast, with Peter Krause, last seen showing off his acting chops in The Lost Room, here demonstrating that he can hold our attention quite ably. And there’s a central mystery that could be either captivating or utterly tedious, depending on how they handle it.

Even Krause’s narration makes it clear, though, that the show’s not quite sure if it has message. Are rich people mental because they have too much money? Because they love money? Because they have too much of something, and that happens to be money? It’s not sure, so it’s just going to mess around, loving the money while simultaneously condemning it and warning that absolute power corrupts absolutely – so don’t go near all that money if you’re poor, because you’ll end up mental with a failed marriage, too.

Although the show could be deadly serious, it alternates between comedy and drama. The comedy isn’t exactly subtle and mostly involves the Darlings’ hypocrisy and spoilt rich adults acting like spoilt rich kids. But William Baldwin seems to have Alec’s talent for comedy although he is now starting to sound like him as well, which is a little scary. And Donald Sutherland is almost jocular as the family patriarch, even if he might be a closet murderer.

On the whole then, it has potential, but it’s not especially alluring at the moment. Better than Brothers and Sisters and Cane, but not the unqualified success you’d expect from the talent in front of and behind the cameras.

Here’s the only YouTube promo I could find that would allow itself to be embedded. Bloody ABC – they just don’t get it, do they?


Peter Krause (Nick George)

Donald Sutherland (Patrick “Tripp” Darling III)

Jill Clayburgh (Letitia Darling)

William Baldwin (Patrick Darling IV)

Natalie Zea (Karen Darling)

Glenn Fitzgerald (Reverend Brian Darling)

Seth Gabel (Jeremy Darling)

Samaire Armstrong (Juliet Darling)

Zoe McLellan (Lisa George)


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.