Every now and then a show comes along that I’m not expecting to like, for one reason or another: the actors, the storylines, the title, whatever, I pre-judge and anticipate tuning out. That was originally the case with NBC’s The Philanthropist, though I can’t put my finger on what was causing me to decide against it. After watching, however, the show has made me a fan, through the touching role James Purefoy plays (Teddy Rist, the playboy, who disappears into the African wilderness in an effort to prove he can make a difference), and the fantastic supporting cast.
What I expected to be a self-righteous look into how a wealthy man becomes The Philanthropist of the title, is really a character piece, looking at what happens to a man when he loses a child (and after he almost fails to rescue a young boy in Nigeria), how his view on the world changes. The show, based on the story of Bobby Sager (creator of the Sager Family Traveling Foundation and Roadshow in an effort to help leaders in struggling areas of the world), deals with Rist, the British cad that he has become, as he weathers his friendships, his relationships, his work, and his life, and attempts to make a difference.
It’s nice to see Purefoy back on TV (loved him as Marc Antony in Rome) even if it’s for a limited engagement, and it’s always good to see Neve Campbell and Jesse L Martin. The Wire’s Michael K Williams shows up long enough to make a mark, and Lindy Booth and Krista Allen round out the cast with memorable roles. I don’t know that this show would make it in the Fall against serious heavy hitters, but it should hold its own this summer!
Series Premiere: Wednesday, June 24 – (10-11 p.m. ET)