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An original and thought-provoking drama about the true heart of a humanitarian.
If one has to argue whose the best at what they do when it comes to helping the little guys, it'll be either Batman, Iron Man, or anyone in between and that somebody is James Purefoy, which is what we get in NBC's new drama The Philanthropist. Although both Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have their ways of helping the world aside from their "other jobs", this new guy is much more realistic.
Purefoy stars as Teddy Rist, a billionaire with a flair for money and women, things all men desire (and who wouldn't want to walk in this man's shoes) and admire in men among men who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Taking into account of a recent deal gone on in the auspices of his company, as well as his relationship with friend and business partner, and his wife, he sets out on a journey of redemption following the loss of his beloved son a few years ago. At first he seems rather jumpy and a bit paranoid about the trip, but a chance encounter with a little African boy amidst a raging hurricane gives him a new outlook on life and thus he sets out on an adventure of redemption and genuine good within his heart.
This show works for two reasons: One is the charm and charisma of the lead character. Two, the hero of the story is more grounded in reality on par with Batman; albeit a little different (obviously) considering the fact that despite comparisons to certain superheroes/pop-culture icons, one cannot help but fathom the interesting notion of Bruce Wayne being in a similar, but different approach to righting the wrongs in society and it is because of this that The Philanthropist is a unique show. No fancy costumes or martial arts, high-tech gadgets, just a ordinary guy with a lot of cash helping those in need. A neat twist in a sea of reality TV, corporate dreck so prevalent in todays market.
As it stands, the pilot sets up the characters and their personalities really well, giving the show a sense of believability and groundedness while also tossing in a few subplots along the way with a nice, steady flow of ease with moments of humor that doesn't come at the expense of genuine character development although to be fair some of it does seem rather forced and out of place. Nevertheless, things are kept at a steady pace and you are more involved with the character and those whom he comes into contact with. The only sore spot, for me at least, is Neve Campbell. I don't dislike her character entirely, but her performance needs to be ironed out more and a little more natural. With that perk aside, the rest of the acting is overall good.
But there's another thing that I really liked about the show and that's the cinematography from the glass and steel of NYC to the back streets of African towns and lush jungles; creating a stark contrast to the corporate offices of Rist's company headquarters. All give the show a sense of culture and adventure with the suspense coming mostly of Rist's perilous trek through Africa while avoiding a life/death encounter with some local MP's and poisonous snakes on his way to deliver medicine to a village where he meets up with an old friend of sorts.
This is the most original show to come out on NBC despite canceling so many high quality series that never got the recognition they deserved. If anything, The Philanthropist shows being human and caring for others is much more important than material wealth, which in context, is something that network TV should learn if it wants to reclaim audiences that have disappeared, if not entirely, from the airwaves.
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