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"Dirty Sexy Money" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete First Season on DVD from Amazon.com Dirty Sexy Money: Season One (2007)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Craig Wright / Writers: Craig Wright, Yahlin Chang, Tad Quill, Josh Reims, Christopher Landon, Diane Ruggiero, Peter Elkoff, Jessica Brickman, Jake Coburn, Nancy Won, Liz Tigelaar, Tony Goldwyn, Jill Soloway / Directors: Peter Horton, Jack Bender, Michael Grossman, Michael Lange, James Frawley, David Petrarca, Jamie Babbit, Michael Schultz, Andrew Bernstein

Starring Cast: Peter Krause (Nick George), Donald Sutherland (Tripp Darling), William Baldwin (Patrick Darling), Natalie Zea (Karen Darling), Glenn Fitzgerald (Brian Darling), Seth Gabel (Jeremy Darling), Zoe McLellan (Lisa George), Jill Clayburgh (Letitia Darling), Samaire Armstrong (Juliet Darling), Blair Underwood (Simon Elder)

Recurring Characters: Candis Cayne (Carmelita), Bellamy Young (Ellen Darling), Chloe Moretz (Kiki George), Will Shadley (Brian Darling Jr.), Shawn Michael Patrick (Clark), Michelle Krusiec (Mei Ling Hwa Darling), Tamara Feldman (Natalie Kimpton), Laura Margolis (Daisy), Daniel Cosgrove (Freddy Mason), Sofia Vergara (Sofia Montoya), Sheryl Lee (Andrea Smithson)

Running Time: 427 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: September 16, 2008
Season 1 Airdates: September 26 - December 5, 2007
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with embossed cardboard slipcover

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By Aaron Wallace

A title can't get much more gripping than "Dirty Sexy Money". Like "Desperate Housewives" before it,
last year's ABC primetime serial guaranteed itself at least an initial audience with its salacious title. That audience quickly weakened and the total first season run was slashed to a total of ten thanks to the infamous writer's strike. Despite all that, the show made enough of an impact to win a second season renewal on ABC. To capitalize on October's premiere, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released The Complete First Season to DVD, presenting all ten episodes across three discs.

Like other hit ABC dramas ("Desperate", "Lost"), "Dirty Sexy Money" establishes itself with a central mystery. At the core of the show is Nick George (Peter Krause), a lawyer who inherits his father's post as head counsel to the famous Darling family after his father dies in a plane crash. Naturally, there's more to that crash than meets the eye and, convinced that foul play is at hand, Nick dedicates himself to discovering who killed his father.

The opening title card for "Dirty Sexy Money" calls to mind "Sex and the City", only with a more positive reaction. Nick George (Peter Krause) watches the wreckage of his father's plane crash reclaimed from the sea.

While Nick is the main character, he isn't the reason that people tune back in to the show. He isn't the dirty, the sexy, or the money. All three of those attributes belong to the Darlings, a family so extravagant, so wealthy, and so dysfunctional that each and every one of them is a tabloid phenomenon.

Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland) is the patriarch, a man who is seemingly well-intentioned but clearly affected by his fortune. His wife, Letitia (Jill Clayburgh), is a classic socialite with a less than loyal past. Together, they have five children. There's Patrick (William Baldwin), a married politician who has a secret affair with a transsexual; Karen (Natalie Zea), a marital addict who leaps from one spouse to the next while hanging on to her lifelong attraction to Nick; Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald), a less than virtuous priest and the black sheep of the Darling clan; and the spoiled, party-loving twins: Jeremy (Seth Gabel) and Juliet (Samaire Armstrong).

"Dirty Sexy Money"'s appeal is uneven. The foundational mystery is at first intriguing but before long, the storyline has already wrapped it around in circles with a frustrating lack of progression. By season's end (perhaps because the strike brought it to an early close), the mystery is forgotten altogether. The death of Nick's father does add one lasting component of importance: Simon Elder (Blair Underwood), another man of great wealth whose involvement with Nick's father and resentment of Tripp Darling both seem suspect at best.

A picture is worth a thousand words and when it comes to the Darling family, this one says it all. Famous twins Jeremy and Juliet Darling (Seth Gabel and Samaire Armstrong, respectively) watch the arrival of bad news on the red carpet.

Even while the overarching storyline wanders aimlessly, the individual characters and their respective story arcs remain compelling. Though it takes a while for each character to make an emotional connection with the audience -- and protagonist Nick and his wife, Lisa (Zoe McLellan) still haven't quite made it -- the Darlings' lives are fascinating enough. After ten episodes, you're invested in each of their personal growth enough to care less about Nick's dad. That's a recipe I value more, one which relies on character sustainability as opposed to puzzle piecing alone.

Aiding the characters' magnetism is the top-notch acting behind them. Sutherland, Clayburgh, Baldwin, Armstrong, and Underwood are big names and they lend their considerable experience (or in Armstrong's case, trendiness) to consistently solid performances, in which they are joined by their lesser known co-stars. Fine acting and involving characters make ten episodes very easy to fly through and a second season an easy weeknight staple.

Each episode is profiled below, with a star () beside my favorites.

Karen Darling (Natalie Zea) opens the show with a fitting of her wedding dress -- and this isn't the most revealing thing she will wear in "Dirty Sexy Money". Juliet Darling calls to mind Paris Hilton when her feud with her former best friend finds its way to the tabloid press. Darling family lawyer Nick George perplexedly interviews those who may or may not be the unwitting stars of a new sex tape.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (43:01) (Originally aired September 26, 2007)
Nick's arrival at his own father's funeral
is overshadowed by the star-studded arrival of the Darlings. When Tripp asks Nick to take his father's old job with the family, he refuses... but the Darlings are good at making offers hard to refuse.

2. The Lions (43:01) (Originally aired October 3, 2007)
Nick plays manager rather than lawyer when he has to organize a family photo shoot while Tripp pressures Patrick to run for the Senate despite his secret love life, Brian tries to hide his love child from his family, and Jeremy strikes up a romance with Juliet's rival behind her back.

3. The Italian Banker (42:40) (Originally aired October 10, 2007)
The Darlings find themselves blackmailed with a sex tape, though who it stars is a mystery. Meanwhile, Nick pressures Patrick to let his love affair with Carmelita go.

A ray of fatherhood cracks through the cold exterior of television's least friendly reverend, Brian Darling (Glenn Fitzgerald). Juliet's birthday party has a Marie Antoinette theme, with the young starlet taking center stage. Jeremy atones for his financial sins by taking up a regular job at a car valet service.

4. The Chiavennasca (43:01) (Originally aired October 17, 2007)
During a trip to France, ghosts from the past arise when both Tripp and Lisa are confronted with their respective spouses' histories.

Disc 2

5. The Bridge (43:00) (Originally aired October 24, 2007)
Feuding twins Jeremy and Juliet throw competing million-dollar birthday parties, causing Tripp to lament his children's lack of fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile, Nick learns that his father had spent time with a questionable man named Simon Elder in the days before his death.

6. The Game (43:04) (Originally aired October 31, 2007)
Jeremy seeks legitimacy by taking a "pedestrian" job, Karen has a rendezvous with her ex-husband, Patrick puts his career at risk yet again, and Tripp sits down for a high-stakes, high-tension game of poker against Simon Elder.

Karen looks less than thrilled to take her fourth walk down the proverbial aisle in "The Wedding." With her back turned, Letitia Darling (Jill Clayburgh) drops a few bombs on Nick. Jeremy Darling and Lisa George (Zoe McLellan) go green in "The Nutcracker."

7. The Wedding (42:58) (Originally aired November 14, 2007)
It's Karen's big day -- her fourth, to be precise. Still, the media turns out dutifully for the glamour queen's wedding. Away from the church, Brian's former lover shows up with demands for their son.

8. The Country House (43:02) (Originally aired November 21, 2007)
Tripp pulls Nick away from his Thanksgiving plans to deal with yet another Simon Elder situation, Brian faces a contentious custody battle with his ex, and Jeremy's new job gives rise to romance.

Disc 3

9. The Watch (43:03) (Originally aired November 28, 2007)
An extended flashback reveals more about the Darlings' relationship with Nick's father. In the present, Karen sets her sight on Simon Elder.

10. The Nutcracker (42:50) (Originally aired December 5, 2007)
In a season finale that comes too early (to no fault of the show), Brian's separation from his family comes to a head, Jeremy coaxes Lisa into an art house toke, and Patrick receives a distressing phone call from Carmelita.

Simon Elder (Blair Underwood) provides a continuing source of mystery in "Dirty Sexy Money"'s debut season. Carmelita (Candis Cayne), Patrick Darling's transsexual lover, causes more than one headache for the Darling family.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 displays.
Video quality looks even better on DVD than it does on television and leaves no complaints aside from some occasional and minor softness. It's too bad that the show hasn't also been released on Blu-ray Disc.

Audio comes by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The sound is clear, though the surround is nothing to write home about. As is common for television shows, audio is concentrated in the front center channel with only peripheral sounds coming from the supporting speakers. Though a zealous workout isn't to be expected, a little more channel separation would not be uncalled for.

BONUS FEATURES

Each of the three discs contains one episode with an audio commentary. On Disc One: "Pilot" with creator and executive producer Craig Wright, executive producers Greg Berlanti and Matthew Gross, director Peter Horton, and actors Peter Krause and Natalie Zea.

Disc Two offers "The Bridge" with Wright and Krause returning and actors Seth Gabel and Zoe McLellan and writers Jess Brickman and Peter Elkoff joining them.

Disc Three has "The Watch" with Wright back again and actors William Baldwin, Glenn Fitzgerald, Candis Cayne, Will Shadley, director Andrew Bernstein, and writer Yahlin Chang joining him.

All three commentaries are fairly worthwhile, though the sheer number of participants quickly becomes distracting. If you can keep track of who is speaking, you'll probably enjoy the camaraderie between cast and crew.

Juliet throws a temper tantrum that fits right in with her "Pilot" hysteria in this first of several deleted scenes. Creator and writer Craig Wright reflects on his series in "The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money." "Enter the Penthouse: A VIP Set Tour" takes the viewer inside the nuts and bolts of the elaborate Darling household.

There are eight deleted scenes, together running 14:20. Unlike the deletions found on many DVDs, these are all interesting and relevant. In watching them, it is immediately apparent where these would have been placed in terms of continuity and it's interesting to think about their addition. Check them out!

"The Road to Excess: Making Dirty Sexy Money" (20:25) is not really about the making of the show. Instead, it explores how each character represents some side of head writer Craig Wright. This gives rise to interviews with the principal cast, which are interesting enough, if not very in-depth.

"Enter the Penthouse: A VIP Set Tour" (7:18) goes behind-the-scenes to look at the sets and props that piece together the lavish world of the Darlings. There's an insight or two to be gained, but nothing astounding.

Candis Cayne discusses her role as primetime network TV's first transsexual star. Donald Sutherland dons Juliet's "The Bridge" wig in one of The Complete First Season's Tripp Ups (bloopers). The 16x9 main menu features both sound and animation, changing relevant video clips from one disc to the next.

"Haute Couture: Dressing the Darlings" (6:50) studies the show's ability to pull off high-end fashion without a high-end budget. Making this more interesting is the focus on how the clothing styles relate to the characters themselves.

"The Other Woman: Candis Cayne" (5:27) profiles the actress who plays the recurring character Carmelita, Patrick's extramarital love interest. Cayne is the first transsexual to star in a primetime series on a major broadcast network, so this distinction naturally becomes the focus of this short piece.

Wrapping things up is "Tripp Ups: Dirty Sexy Bloopers" (3:05). Despite the title, this blooper reel is no dirtier or sexier than most; however, these are almost always fun to see and this is no exception.

MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

The discs are housed in a three-panel Digipak that sits inside an embossed cardboard sleeve. The Digipak and slipcover feature alternative cover art. Inside is a very cool two-sided newspaper titled DSM Observer (The Darling News You Need to Know!).
In keeping with the idea that the Darlings are real-life tabloid sensations, this insert contains a number of faux articles documenting the scandals exposed in Season One. At the bottom is an episode guide. This is a great idea and the kind of thing we should see more of in home video releases. My only complaint: the episode guide isn't organized by disc.

The package also contains a flyer promoting Buena Vista Blu-ray disc releases and a pamphlet advertising ABC series and their home video releases.

Disc One opens with previews for "Private Practice": The Complete First Season, "Samantha Who?": The Complete First Season, "Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season, and "Brothers and Sisters": The Complete Second Season. These are not accessible from any menu screen. Disc Three offers additional previews on the Sneak Peeks menu. They are: WALL-E on Blu-ray and DVD, the second season of "Dirty Sexy Money" on ABC, the third season of "Brothers and Sisters" on ABC, "Ugly Betty": The Complete Second Season, "Lost": The Complete Fourth Season, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on Blu-ray and DVD. There's also a new promo for Miramax Films, hot off the Oscars' love for No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Gone Baby Gone.

Maniacal grins from Donald Sutherland are reason enough to watch "Dirty Sexy Money." Patrick Darling (William Baldwin) ups the ante in his political career, despite dicey risks in his personal life.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Dirty Sexy Money" has only ten episodes to work with in its debut season -- not a lot for launching a soap-like serial with a giant ensemble cast. Despite the short run, the series makes an impression and leaves the viewer clamoring for more. Too substantive in its writing and production to be labeled a "guilty pleasure" but still juicy enough to feel like one, "Dirty Sexy Money" succeeds with compelling character drama even where its fledgling attempt at a mystery angle falls flat. The Complete First Season offers a handful of diverting bonus features but it's the show that makes the sell.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed October 7, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Berlanti Television, ABC Studios, and 2008 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.