Well, what do you know? Turns out you can polish a turd after all. Not only that, but you can also primp it, preen it, dress it, splash it luridly across television screens, attach hyperbole after hyperbole to it, cross-market it to hell, force-feed upon an audience and chant a promotional mantra to it. The one thing you can’t do, though, is stop it being a turd at heart.
That’s the clever thing about promotions. You can use all the clever wording you want as long as it’s not disprovable – for example it is quite legitimate to say that ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’ is the “most anticipated movie of the year” without ever having to actually back your data up – Prince Caspian is quite clearly not the most anticipated film of the year, but since the measures of defining anticipation are so broad it can be used heavily in marketing without ever showing how that conclusion was reached.
This is what Channel 4 are doing with their new flagship purchase – selling it on self-awarded platitudes and the empty promise of it being “America’s new hit show” whilst all the while covering up the fact that it’s a massive dud which doesn’t even come close to it’s magnificently lurid title, let alone the general acclaim they are relying so heavily on.
The show is supposedly a satire of the rich elite of America… or at least I think it is. It might be a whodunnit set in the highest social echelons of New York, or perhaps a sleazy soap opera about a dysfunctional public family, or indeed it could be any number of genres – who knows? So eager are the producers to satisfy every demographic of their pre-determined audience that they forgot to make the one thing that everyone likes; an entertaining show.
It concerns itself with the Darling Family and their family lawyer – a HIltonesque dynasty rolling in money, sleaze, politics and shading dealings with the legal representation of a Boy Scout. They’re your typical dysfunctional billionaires – so shrouded by money and influence they’ve forgotten how normal people behave and we’re meant to entertained and awed by their lavish lifestyles and exotically complicated affairs. There’re a couple of good characters – the foul-mouthed, hate-filled vicar son being the most notable – but the family are never portrayed as the rich arseholes they really are. Instead they’re humanised and explained and thus they lose all of their perverse fascination.
The show is also remarkably restrained – there’s no swearing, no nudity and no unfavourable subjects – it’s like blurring out the heiress’ vagina. There’re no bad guys, no hate figures and no amusingly lovable rogues. They’re a sexless cast, all plastic underpants and a copyright logo where the cock and balls should be and the hero is a man of such impeccable moral esteem and homely values that even he yawns when he’s on screen.
It’s not that Dirty Sexy Money is a bad show per se, it’s not – it’s just a massively underwhelming one. It is neither dirty nor sexy, prompting me to think it’d be more accurate if it was titled Boring Predictable Money. Quite how you can make a show with a budget of millions with Donald Sutherland in the cast, about the richest scheming near royal family in the country and make it uninteresting is beyond me… during the first episode I ended up teaching myself how to do Sudoku, so unexcited by the show was I.
American dramatic TV is the best in world right now, bar none. While the cinema is floundering and the internet takes over, TV has been creating wonderfully sustainable pieces of entertainment that far surpasses anything that has gone before. From the preposterous high drama of 24 to the subtle allegories of Battlestar Galactica, from the screeching lunacy of Desperate Housewives to camp theatrics of Ugly Betty, from the twists of Lost to the ridiculous plotting of Nip/Tuck and from the sordid debauchery of Deadwood to the worshipable quality of The Wire – all via Hugh Laurie’s not-quite-get-overable American accent in House – they’re all providing solid, well written and highly distinctive programming.
You may not watch all these shows, but you must agree that they represent a boost in quality not seen for many years.
Its quite clear that Dirty Sexy Money really wants to be included in that illustrious list, but it never will. It’s too dull, too wishy-washy and too unsure of itself to ever truly be a competitor. It’ll survive for a few more seasons on the strength of an advertising campaign telling you how how successful it is, before fading away and not troubling anybody ever again.