There’s a problem with dramas about large families, and Dirty Sexy Money seems to have stumbled into it in only its second episode. When seven of the cast members are related to each other, the romantic possibilities are rather limited. This time out, only two of the Darling sons seem to be getting any action: Patrick, who wavers on a Senate run for most of the episode until his transsexual girlfriend talks him into reaching for the brass ring (no, that’s not a naughty euphemism), and Jeremy, who decides to bag his twin sister’s arch-rival celebutante, Natalie. (How long before that secret is out of the bag?)
So, with Sexy off the agenda, that just leaves Dirty Money. And there’s precious little of that in an episode that’s more of a treadmill exercise than a compelling advance in the plot. Here’s what we learn about Nick George’s quest to get to the bottom of his dad’s mysterious death: The airplane mechanic didn’t cop to sabotage, but to blackmailing Brian after learning that the reverend had an illegitimate son. Materfamilias Letitia Darling was having an affair with Nick’s dad. Tripp apparently didn’t know about the affair (Donald Sutherland is wonderful claiming otherwise at the end of the show, after wincing when Nick is able to open his dad’s briefcase by plugging his wife’s birth date into the combination lock). Both Tripp and Brian deny any responsibility for the death of Nick’s dad. And that case apparently leads us to a brand-new MacGuffin: shady billionaire Simon Elder (Blair Underwood — who should at least provide a welcome chocolate chip in this vanilla world).
So little happened in this episode that I began to miss the funny ringtones that Nick’s assistant, Daisy, plugged into his cellphone so he could tell the Darling family members apart. For the record, we just hear the wedding march when perpetual divorcee Karen calls as she’s trying on her gown. For the most part, we just get reiterations of what we learned in the pilot: Karen is still in love with Nick. Juliet is still a spoiled brat. Nick’s wife seems implausibly calm about her hubby betraying his principles by going to work for the Darlings. Brian still hasn’t told his wife about his illegitimate son — though his claim that the boy is a Swedish orphan is hilariously dismantled by Tripp, who not only speaks Swedish but walks around his mansion quoting Wordsworth (specifically, the ode that begins, appropriately, "The Child is Father of the Man"). Patrick, introduced last week as a future U.S. Senate candidate, spends the episode waffling about a run, then announces his candidacy to please dear old Dad. (Backstory alert: We learn that by pushing Patrick into politics, Tripp may be "trying to make up for [his] brother Kenneth.")
The subplots all build to what is supposed to be a tour de farce: an over-the-top photo shoot of the family, ostensibly for Patrick’s benefit, and featuring live lions. Yes, lions. Because nothing roars political integrity and probity more than being photographed with wild animals in daddy’s Park Avenue living room. (Mitt Romney, you might want to start taking notes.) At the shoot, we also meet Rebecca Colfax, the officious family publicist, who delegates the task of looking after Brian’s secret son to a maid with the priceless line: "Would you get it cake?"
Another maid gets a spotlight moment when she demands $500 after catching Nick snooping in Tripp’s office for his diary — another MacGuffin that yields absolutely nothing but a blurted-out confession/accusation from Nick at the shoot. The maid does note that Nick’s dad similarly paid her off, which helped put her daughter through med school. (Nice touch.) The compromising of righteous Nick’s character has already begun, it would seem.
The episode sneaks in other decent one-liners as well as some groaners ("Sometimes he can’t see the chorus for the trees," Jeremy says of his supposed songwriting buddy, Justin Timberlake), but there isn’t much to hold our attention. The juiciest moment in the entire show comes in the preview for next week’s episode, which promises the revelation of a $1 million blackmail offer for a "raunchy sex tape" involving an unnamed Darling. So, PopWatchers, were you as let down as I was by this episode? Will the prospect of a "raunchy sexy tape" be enough to lure you back next week? And if Nick no longer suspects Tripp of killing his dad, then why doesn’t he just quit now, aside from the fact that that would kinda end the series?