Friday, June 26, 2009

Did I Like The Philanthropist? Not So Much.

I wanted to like NBC's new show, The Philanthropist, but I didn't.

What I did like is that The Philanthropist's website has a resource page with links to organizations like the Nigerian Red Cross, CARE, and the International Crisis Group. That's about all I liked.

The show's premise is that a wealthy businessman, Teddy Rist, has a transformational experience during a business trip to Nigeria and helps save a young boy during a flood. (We later learn that his own young son is dead). Although his company has a foundation, giving money doesn't feel like enough now for Teddy, and he returns to Nigeria to single-handedly deliver vaccine to a village near where the boy he rescued lived.

The problem is, Rist is a jerk. He clearly goes on this one-man mission to assuage the pain of his son's death, which is somewhat realistic since we are often drawn to causes in an attempt to heal broken parts of ourselves. Thing is, he fails to return his ex-wife's emails or phone calls when she asks him to help move everything out of their dead son's room, and then gets angry at her when she does it without him. In my book, being a jerk to your ex-wife who is trying to get over the loss of your child doesn't get balanced out by delivering vaccine to a remote village in Nigeria.

Oh, and then there are all of the women he sleeps with. While working with a Nigerian drug dealer to get the vaccine released from the airport, a group of beautiful women are brought to Rist's hotel room. "They are all orphans," the dealer says. And then there is the Nigerian woman doctor who he delivers the vaccine to who asks, "How will I'll ever repay you?" Oh, he found a way. Not to mention the woman bartender he gives a $1,000 check to listen to him tell his story (the voiceover for the show).

I'm not saying Rist has to be perfect, but appealing would have been nice. The characters of Simon Baker on The Mentalist and Michael Weston on Burn Notice have more integrity than Rist.

Finally, why does The Philanthropist have to be a white man? Why couldn't it have been a woman, like the Miranda Bailey character on Grey's Anatomy, a tough, smart, problem-solver with a soft heart?

Hey, if the show takes off and inspires people to become involved in international development and philanthropy, great, if not, I hope next time a character will be created who, although not perfect, has as much wealth of character as wealth in his or her wallet.

Here's what some other bloggers are saying about The Philanthropist:
Cross-posted from

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  1. Hey I just saw the Philanthropist on Hulu today and was impressed. I was deeply moved by the story and was rooting for the character. You're right though, they could have done it without him sleeping with all these women. The ending was just weird, how does he just sleep with a random nigerian women? I least James Bond has SOME chemistry with the women he sleeps with. If they're trying to create some sort of James Bondish character who has a good guy/bad guy thingamig going on, then - they've not succeeded. And that sort of character is not working for this sort of plot.

    However, Phil.. is better than most of the shows out there - merlin is boring, mental is ridiculous, and the listener doesn't really have much of a PUNCH. Here are some shows I'm really eager to see come back - fringe, heros, Legend of the Seeker. I guess i have a thing for butt-kicking women.

    Burn notice is great (also has a butt-kicking woman).

  2. Hi Parth,

    I'm glad you liked the show! Have you watched any more episodes? If so, what did you think?


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