That’s weird—NBC describes protagonist Teddy Rist (Rome’s James Purefoy) of The Philanthropist as a billionaire playboy turned vigilante-philanthropist. When Bruce Wayne’s high-school counselor gave him the What Color Is Your Parachute test, that was exactly the occupational path he got. Quelle coincidence!
Let’s award credit where it's due: The show doesn’t shy away from the Batman-silly premise. Rist is a bored businessman who’s ready to trade his corporate maneuvering for feel-good humanitarianism, namely delivering vaccines to a needy Nigerian village. His teary-eyed bonding with the colorful natives makes the 2003 Angelina Jolie eye-roller Beyond Borders look like a documentary, and just how he’ll engage in vigilantism remains to be seen (watch your back, people who don’t pay for charity return-address labels!). Rist is pretty, but not sweet; the series asks you to connect emotionally with the kind of guy who writes waitresses $1,000 checks to buy their attention. Two things are for sure: Rist has a tragic past, and he’s going to overcome it.
But let’s not be too harsh on the poor philanthropist. After all, is he not trying to do good, despite his Gulfstream and self-righteousness? In fact, it’s refreshing to watch NBC fail on such a spectacular level; while the other networks clone crime procedurals and hospital dramas with predictably dull success, the peacock network has the audacity to try to blend Donald Trump with Bono. With Jesse L. Martin and Neve Campbell playing Rist’s married business partners, The Philanthropist is poised to be Dirty Sexy Money without the filth or raunch. At least it gave us a good idea for the title we should put on our next batch of business cards.
The Philanthropist premieres Wed 24 at 10pm on NBC.