Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Philanthropist on NBC

"Haiti," the final episode of The Philanthropist, was on last night, and it didn't disappoint. Teddy Rist is at his best when he's working one on one with someone, at a personal level, and Philip Maidstone had plenty to do as well. I also loved the line where Teddy said he wasn't a walking ATM. I like this show. Just wish it would hang around a bit longer.

Unfortunately the ratings haven't been there, and the critics have been vocal. Some points are valid, but I still think the show has a lot of potential. It just needs a little longer to find itself. For me, it's interesting enough to keep following. I'm still curious about this path the charming but tarnished Teddy Rist is on.

The Pilot episode sold me on it really. A spiritual journey of sorts. A calling, or so it seemed to me. Even so .. Teddy Rist is not perfect. He doesn't completely transform after his fist philanthropic efforts or his second or his third. I wouldn't expect him to. I would've been disappointed if he had. He's not suddenly an angel. Nor should he be. It's a gradual process. He learns, makes mistakes. He trusts, is betrayed, learns to get past that & to forgive. He's still the same sometimes brash, sometimes reckless man he was before, but he cares deeply, and his friends aren't just fond of him. They don't just tolerate him. They love him, although they don't always agree with him. That says a lot about who the character is, I think. Through his actions and choices, he is touched and changed by the people he meets, for better or for worse, and they are as well.

He sometimes doesn't think before he acts (that's why they have Dax to watch over him .. his business partner & best friend Philip Maidstone doesn't need a Dax at his side when he travels abroad *g*), but Teddy has a good, open heart, and he's no longer isolated in his little billionaire business world, only making business deals then drinking & partying himself into oblivion. It seems billionaire playboy Teddy Rist has found his purpose in life. I'm not talking about destinty but something that holds meaning for him. Helping people makes him feel good so he chooses to help when possible. It's a selfish thing as explained by the main actor - helping because it fills this void in his life, but it gives Teddy Rist a new direction to follow. I, personally, think it's deeper than that. On a business level, the philosophy is help others, help the company make a profit. But on a personal level, when Teddy is presented with a person in distress, with a very basic need, he jumps into action, and it isn't purely a selfish thing. Okay, maybe a little, but not completely. ;) He's willing to go to the source to find out what the people need, and not just give handouts but help people to help themselves. He's willing to put his life on the line to help others, like he did when he thought a friend was in danger on his return to Nigeria.

The other episodes don't have quite the same tone as the Pilot, but I enjoyed each one of them anyway. Myanmar, for example, seemed to show him there are difficult choices to make as he learns what it means to practice his particular brand of philanthropy both for himself and for Maidstone-Rist (the company he runs with his friend Philip). Not everything is so black & white; there are no clear answers to be had, and he can't save everyone. No matter how much he might want to.

Prior to the show I was aware of Jesse L. Martin's and Neve Campbell's work, but I didn't know much about the charasmatic lead James Purefoy. In fact, Mr. Purefoy was not on my radar at all prior to The Philanthropist, but I was so impressed by his portrayal of the engaging Teddy Rist I looked him up on Turns out I *have* seen him elsewhere. I've seen him in Resident Evil, A Knight's Tale and Mansfield Park apparently but wasn't aware at the time. He is a talented, talented actor who has the ability to transform himself into the character, and I mention him in particular because he plays the titled character, and it's his portrayal which has to sell the premise of the show. There's a fantastic clip on youtube of the deaths of Antony & Cleopatra (from the cable series "Rome" - I never saw it since I don't have cable, but that seems to be the show everyone else knows James Purefoy from). I then searched out some other clips & articles (interviews re: The Philanthropist mostly) and found him to be just as charming & intelligent out of character, and more importantly in relation to the tv series, passionate about the show itself & the world/human issues that are presented in it. He, along with other cast & crew members, seemed to take the show's message to heart and they are now involved in several charitable causes (Action Aid for example: website, video) as a result.

Check out the show's website, too. There's information on past episodes, cast, characters, a production blog (relating to each episode's themes & locations) and info. on Bobby Sagar, the inspiration for The Philanthropist, along with links to organizations and ways you can help. All the episodes are available for viewing online:

And as many know, when the cast and crew are passionate about a production (see: Farscape & campaign related posts on this blog - hee hee!), I always want to see more. :)

Sadly I doubt they'll have a chance to develop the show further, and I think that last night's episode will be it.

Guess I'll write a polite little letter to NBC now. As I've learned from previous experience networks don't know who's watching unless we take the time to tell them, and since it takes a bit longer to sit down, write (or type) a letter and send it off than it does to post at a forum or jot off an email, the importance of the letter is understood.

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