“Dirty Sexy Money” is like a guilt-free guilty pleasure, a trashy nighttime soap opera so keenly aware of the last 30 years’ worth of nighttime soaps that it’s able to tread that fine line between pitch-perfect recreation and winking parody. Like the first season of “Desperate Housewives” (and none of the subsequent ones), “Dirty Sexy Money” is glitzy, melodramatic, occasionally naughty and full of subversive humor.
The cast is stellar upfront with Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”) headlining as Nick George, an idealistic lawyer whose father is killed in a freak airplane accident. Whereas Nick is a pro bono lawyer working for charities, dad was shyster-for-hire for one of the wealthiest families in New York, the infamous Darling clan (think the Kennedys crossed with the Hiltons). Lured partially by a ridiculous multimillion-dollar salary and partially by the idea that one of the Darlings might actually have murdered his father, Nick gets talked into taking over dad’s position serving as official lawyer (and unofficial babysitter) of the Darlings.
As mater and pater of the clan, we’ve got ’70s icons Jill Clayburgh and Donald Sutherland, ensuring plenty of acting fireworks throughout. The show doesn’t let its stars down either, providing plenty of juicy situations. William Baldwin, for example, plays the Darling family’s political scion, a senatorial candidate who just happens to be sleeping with a transsexual hooker. (Good luck covering that up, Nick.) There’s also the drunken twentysomething twins, the soon-to-be-married ex-girlfriend and the priest with an illegitimate son (whom he tries to pass off as a Swedish orphan).
Director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects,[xurl, X-Men,[xurl, Superman Returns) serves as one of the show’s executive producers, while Craig Wright (whose résumé includes “Brothers & Sisters,” “Lost” and “Six Feet Under”) fills out several other behind-the-scenes roles. Quality in front of and behind the camera—you’ve gotta like that.
There’s plenty of room to grow in this one. The show’s smart scripts provide a intriguing backbone to the story (the possible murder of Nick’s father), but don’t ruin the narrative with too much single-story continuity. (“Desperate Housewives”’s original “murder” mystery certainly fell apart after the first season.) Here, producers and writers alike are wise enough to let Nick’s search for truth simmer, while leaving room for each individual episode to create its own humor and drama.
Nick’s certainly got his hands full as the only sane man in the room dealing with a group of rich, spoiled, oversexed media whores. With Hiltons and Trumps and Kardashians and Spearses and Simpsons crowding the airwaves, it’s somehow cathartic to watch a fictionalized voice of reason (even if he is a lawyer) try and whip one of these out-of-control celebrichie families into shape. Kudos to “Dirty Sexy Money” for mixing two parts “Dynasty,” one part “Arrested Development” and a dash of The Royal Tenenbaums and bringing to a boil.