I got the chance to check out NBC's new summer drama, The Philanthropist that premieres tonight, and I was not only pleasantly surprised, but immediately hooked!
I was also (gasp!) so intrigued that when the pilot episode ended, I was horribly disappointed and wanting more right away.
*Mild Spoilers Included*
I expected The Philanthropist to be an interesting show, but far too predictable from its set-up of being about an American billionaire playboy who suddenly decided to do some hands-on help in Nigeria.
While that is the case, the circumstances of billionaire Teddy Rist's sudden desire to help as well as how his attempts to help work out are much more fascinating, personal, and in depth than expected.
In the premiere, Teddy (played by the amazing James Purifoy of Rome), is inspired to lend aid to the people in the poverty-stricken villages of Nigeria because during his visit there, he gets stuck in a nasty hurricane where he saves a young beggar boy. But this wasn't all that inspired Teddy, thank goodness for our personal-story needing drama-fanatics!
So, minor spoiler alert, Teddy's not a single, rich bachelor who has always had it easy in his life. We quickly discover upon his return to his big New York corner office that he has a wife from whom he's now separated because of the trauma of losing their only son. We don't learn in the premiere how the boy died, but we definitely see that Teddy is very haunted by his little boy's death, and is not only inspired to help in Nigeria because he saw the true poverty and damage of the hurricane, but because he has his grief and demons to run away from.
This grief and personal storyline makes the show already much more fascinating than I was expecting from the promos, but the other aspect that made the premiere great was Teddy's struggle to actually help when he returns to Nigeria.
Before watching, I expected Teddy just to throw his money at the problems of the little villages, but he finds out quickly that's not so easy when it's not money the villages need, but medicine and supplies. Also, there's a whole lot of government authority that controls all these things for the people, and no one's about to not notice a random white guy running around trying to give money, steal medicine, and all sorts of craziness in the middle of the Nigerian countryside.
This reality aspect to the show is done perfectly as I didn't get the feeling I was being preached to that I was a horrible, selfish person for not jumping up and flying to an impoverished country to help, but I also didn't feel like I was discouraged to help because there were so many rules and loopholes to deal with in impoverished countries.
I'm very intrigued to see where Teddy's story takes us after this exciting and fascinating premiere, and I can only hope his troubles and triumphs continue in this interesting way to keep us coming back every week for more insight and drama around the realities of helping when things have gotten so rough around the world, and also the reality of dealing with such deep emotional traumas such as losing a child.
While I look forward to all this, I also have to note there's an excellent sense of humor among all the drama coming almost entirely from the Teddy character, but also surrounded and backed up well by the Nigerian people he meets, and his team back at the office in New York including Neve Campbell of Scream and Party of Five, Jesse L. Martin of Law & Order and Rent, and Michael K. Williams of The Wire.
This is definitely my new summer favorite, and I think it's one of the best shows now on our summer TV schedule, so check it out and comment with your pilot reactions!