Herc’s Not Charitable Toward NBC’s THE PHILANTHROPIST!!
I am – Hercules!!
A disappointing drama from writer-producer Tom Fontana (“Homicide,” “Oz”), “The Philanthropist” stars the great James Purefoy (Marc Antony from “Rome”) as a billionaire named Teddy Rist who travels about throwing his money at an array of problems. Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar from “The Wire”) plays his bodyguard. Neve Campbell (of “Scream” fame) and Lindy Booth (“Odyssey 5”) play fabulous associates.
In this instance it helps to remember that Fontana followed the arresting “Oz” with The WB’s dreadful “The Bedford Diaries.” Fontana, alongside producer Barry Levinson, left the show over creative differences with the network a few episodes in, was replaced by David Eick (“Bionic Woman”), then unexpectedly returned to replace Eick. Lord knows how this will affect quality-control over the series’ 8-episode run.
The silly, hamhanded “Philanthropist” pilot, which deals mostly with Rist’s efforts to retrieve and transport a sack of cholera vaccine, turns out to be overstuffed with an illogical and unlikely assortment of misadventures audiences are presumably expected to embrace as colorful.
Minor efforts are made to balance Rist’s humanitarian side with hints of his fleshier pursuits, but the teleplay doesn’t push him hard enough into the excesses that made Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark’s civilian identities so much fun to spend time with.
On the upside Purefoy is typically commanding, superskinny redheaded Booth is fun to look at, the bartender who stars in the episode’s framing device is plenty hot (as is Krista Allen, who plays Rist’s ex-wife), and I enjoyed the brief appearances of Sting and Men At Work tunes on the soundtrack.
Bottom line: As much as I like Purefoy, I don’t see my DVRs contributing space to the cause.
USA Today says:
… a well-acted, well-intentioned, incredibly preposterous show that would struggle even if it were in step with the times … Ultimately, though, it's the "tycoon" part of Teddy that makes The Philanthropist so deeply silly. There he is, stumbling barefoot through the jungle with his one bag of vaccine, surviving more by luck than skill, when he clearly would have done the village a better service by buying the vaccine in bulk and hiring someone competent to deliver it. …
The New York Times says:
… it’s the hero’s duality — he’s a good Samaritan with a flawed personality — that helps make “The Philanthropist” an unusual and exhilarating network series. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… a gorgeous-looking bit of earnest junk … I'm not sure the candy mint the network wants to make of this isn't preferable to the breath mint Fontana and Levinson envisioned; in any case, it is most silly at its most serious. It might be better to go the full 007. As it is, and notwithstanding some spectacular location footage, there's scarcely a real moment in it from first shot to last.
The Chicago Sun-Times says:
… It's too educational and earnest for me to consider it "entertainment," but other viewers might be better people than me. If you do make it through more than one episode, be sure to list it as "volunteer hours" on your resume. …
The Washington Post says:
… [director Peter] Horton may in fact reach too frequently into his bag of editing and photographic bells and whistles, but for the most part his approach helps sustain interest when the teleplay falters, sputters or just plain poops out. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… Will Rist become a righteous do-gooder or will "The Philanthropist" show more nuance and complexity? To live up to its promise, "The Philanthropist" needs to do more of the latter.
The Newark Star Ledger says:
… I want to see another episode or two before I can tell if "The Philanthropist" has the potential to be anything more than a summer trifle. But thanks to Purefoy, it's at least an entertaining trifle. …
The Toronto Globe and Mail says:
… ludicrous … Maybe The Philanthropist will save the world, but I doubt it. Its producers can't even keep the planet safe for storytelling. …
The Miami Herald says:
… ineffably stupid … Pointless, charmless and bound to be viewerless after the first half-hour or so … [Rist] resolves to give [his fortune] away, in the most ludicrously inefficient and counterproductive ways possible. A Nigerian village needs a box of cholera vaccine? Why ship it on the bus when you can bribe a narcotrafficker to deliver it for $250,000 and get a firefight with the DEA thrown in for free? …
The Boston Herald says:
… reeks of a series rushed into production. It’s competently filmed, with a decent cast, but someone high up didn’t think through the premise. … With his money, he could hire dozens of knowledgeable locals to deliver vaccine across the country, but that thought apparently never occurs to him. …
The Boston Globe says:
… It’s hard to fault a drama that celebrates altruism and tries to glamorize social conscience. But I found myself cringing at the condescending scenes of our rich white savior wandering among the Africans with their colorful outfits and drum music, his checkbook at the ready in case he needs to bribe a local. …
Entertainment Weekly says:
… has a bristling intelligence that overcomes the sentimental parts of Teddy's life.
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… creators Charlie Corwin, Tom Fontana and Jim Juvonen take this high-concept premise (with real-life roots) and lend it layers of thought and intrigue. … For now, this is a well-made thrill ride of a start. Deep inside "Philanthropist" is a smart, earnest yet realistic series waiting to be told, and the pilot makes an intriguing beginning.
… fields a topnotch ensemble while initially giving them little to do. Unearthing a Nielsen payday should be challenging, but the show's a cut above most of the disposable summer filler the networks have offered thus far. …
10 p.m. Wednesday. NBC