Does a show that aspires to be intelligent need to have a message? Does the author/auteur behind it need to tell us something about life, the universe and everything and does that need to be something we probably wouldn’t have worked out for ourselves?
There’s a considerable camp that thinks the answer to both questions is ‘yes’. Is it true though? Can’t we just enjoy a show without being told something? If the audience is looking for intelligent drama and therefore likely to be composed of intelligent people, is there likely to be a message that an intelligent drama could bring to the audience that it doesn’t know already?
It’s a vexing issue, probably best solved by a man of letters such as Christopher Hitchens, rather than me, someone who’s watched too much television for his own good and has probably got brain rot by now. I can tell which cycle of America’s Next Top Model is on Living TV, simply through the set decoration and end theme music of the episode. Mr Hitchens I am not.
I think it’s also fair to say that the producers of Dirty Sexy Money are not peers of Christopher Hitchens either, because they’re not sure of the answers. They’re fudging the issue. They want to imply there’s a message to the show. Maybe it’s that rich people are complicated and weird and different and spoilt. Maybe it’s that they’re just like you and me. Maybe it’s learn to accept yourself and others’ eccentricities if you want to achieve nirvana.
Whether they’re pointing they’re finger like gawpers at a trust fund freak show or simply Buddhist playwrights in disguise, the producers are hoping that by sticking with some of the conventions of intelligent drama and hoping we’ll stick around while they try to work out their message or lack thereof, that they will be producing an intelligent drama that smart, advertiser-friendly, affluent people want to watch. As Hannibal Lecktor used to say in Manhunter, if one does as God does enough times, one will become as God is – that is, if you act like you’re producing an intelligent drama for long enough, you will actually end up producing an intelligent drama. Of course, good old Hannibal was talking about killing people because God clearly enjoys doing it so much Himself, but the principle applies.
Whether Dirty Sexy Money is actually an intelligent drama or not is unclear. It’s certainly not stupid. It has a good cast, with Donald Sutherland particularly fine as you’d expect,
BrianPeter Krause doing a good job of holding everything together, and William Baldwin now scaring me with how similar he is to his brother Alec when playing rich people. It has relatively interesting plots, even if does seem like each episode is like a serialised version of Treasure Hunt, with BrianPeter Krause getting a new clue at the end that takes him off on another exploration of his dad’s possible murder the following week. It’s also quite funny, with good dialogue and the occasional twist of farce.
But I’m just not sure if there’s much point to it. None of the characters are ones you can really identify with, with the possible exception of Krause’s. They’re not really representative of real rich people or in fact any other human beings on this planet, as far as I can work out. And as of yet, there’s no real exploration of these fake people anyway: we’re just supposed to marvel at their antics, rather than find out what truly makes them tick.
It’s like a comedy-drama sudoku, a puzzle that needs to be solved for no real reason other than it passes the time. It’s a well-executed puzzle, but it doesn’t really grab me emotionally. I’m probably going to carry on watching for a while, since I like
BrianPeter Krause and I like sudokus, but I could quite easily drop it from schedules without missing it, I suspect.
So it turns out there needs to be a point to drama, but only as long as it’s because you don’t care enough about the characters to watch because of them. Blimey. I am Christopher Hitchens after all. Where’s the gin?
The Medium is Not Enough declares Dirty Sexy Money a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso as a family lawyer. However, when faced with a cast that includes transgender prostitutes, adulterers and professional divorcees, he will storm off, citing ‘creative differences’ and claiming that he ‘thought ”family lawyer“ meant something else’.”