Meet the Darling family. While the name might imply an endearing group of wonderful folks, nothing could be further from the truth. They are a wealthy and powerful family. The patriarch Tripp (Sutherland) is a ruthless and conniving man very used to getting his way. His wife Letitia (Clayburgh) appears to want to be a nicer person but gets drawn into the incredible scandal and corruption of her family, while Tripp tries to shelter her from it. They have 5 kids. Brian (Fitzgerald) is a priest, but his actions are anything but priestly. He’s even hiding an illegitimate child. Patrick (Baldwin) is a politician who is running for Governor. He’s married to Ellen (Young) but also has a mistress, Carmelita (Cayne) who is a transsexual, played by an actress who is also transsexual. One of the more humorous scenes was one in which Ellen and Carmelita negotiate what days/times she can see Patrick. Karen (Zea) is the big sister who is getting married; that makes husband number 4. Juliet (Armstrong) and Jeremy (Gabel) are twins. Juliet thinks she has some supernatural “twin connection”. Jeremy is a lazy kid who is trying to break out of his non-ambitious life and find out who he is, even if it means giving up the wealth of the Darling life-style. Enter Nick (Krause) into the Darling life. Nick’s father was the family lawyer and catered to the family’s every whim, ignoring his own family most of the time. Now he’s dead, and Tripp wants Nick to step into his father’s place. Nick hates everything the Darlings represent. He’s a lawyer who actually wants to help people. Still, the Darlings are used to getting what they want, so Tripp offers him an extra $5 million a year to do charity work with over and above a generous salary to work for the family. It’s an offer Nick can’t refuse, and against his better judgment, he accepts. It’s a deal with the devil, and it is here that the show’s conflict and strength derive from.
The cast and characters of the show are a mixed blessing. Sutherland and Krause are great and quickly develop a strong dynamic. The problem is that the show very soon turns into a who is sleeping with who drama, and therein lies its weakness. When the show concentrates on Nick and the family scandals and dealings, it is one of the most powerful dramas on television. It’s often cleverly written and always well acted. But the writers continually bow to the pressure of the lowest common denominator and spend entirely too much time in bed. I will admit to being amused by the Patrick affair just because of the novelty of the whole thing. Ellen ends up shooting him at one point. There is also an uneven underline plot that just doesn’t work for some reason. Nick suspects that his father’s death wasn’t an accident and that one of the Darlings may have killed him because he “knew too much”. It’s a clever idea and certainly gives Nick more motivation for working for the Darlings, but they can’t seem to decide the truth as writers, so it’s a very awkward thread. I think they need to lay it to rest going into season 2.
Each episode of Dirt Sexy Money is presented in a pretty sweet television 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The production standards here are very high, and it shows in this presentation. Colors are often quite bright, particularly in the dress and decorations of the Darlings and their home. Black levels are also quite impressive, offering good detail and shadow definition. At times it might appear a little too House and Garden magazine glossy, but that is obviously intended. Flesh tones look pretty natural. No real compression problems to speak of. I didn’t see the broadcasts, but I suspect this is a pretty faithful presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is everything it is intended to be. There isn’t much in the way of ambient sounds outside of some musical cues. This is a very dialog strong series, so you should expect most of the sound to be in front. Dialog is clear and placed correctly. What else do you really need here?
The show spans 3 single-sided discs with most of the extras found on the final disc.
Audio Commentaries: There are 3 audio commentaries featuring various cast and crew.
The Road To Excess – Making Dirty, Sexy Money: In this 20 minute feature they spend a lot of time showing you how they fake New York. I never understood these show runners who tell us that the city is a “character” in the show and then proceeded to show us how they fake it. Take a hint from Dick Wolf. If you want New York to be a character, go to New York, for cryin’ out loud. The feature ends with the cast pondering the question of who is the sexiest cast member.
Haute Couture – Dressing The Darlings: I’m sorry, but these costume designer features put me to sleep.
The Other Woman – Candis Cayne: Does that name sound like a stripper’s name or what? This feature looks at the Carmelita character and the actor who plays her. Both are transsexuals.
Tripp Ups: A clever name for a little over 3 minutes of the usual missteps and mayhem.
Deleted Scenes: There are 8 mostly character scenes that you can access individually or with the convenient play all option.
So what did I think about Dirty, Sexy Money? At times I loved it. The acting is often superb and the stories compelling. There are times the show reaches too far over the top, however, and the antics of the Darlings are just too ridiculous. I hope that as the show continues it begins to rely more on the incredible drama and try to be less like a soap opera. If it can do that, I think this show has the potential to be pretty great. It’s a very interesting world of secrets, scandals, and depravity. “That’s the Darlings.”