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The Philanthropist – Rating: B+

Submitted by on July 4, 2009 – 9:06 AMNo Comment
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A Billionaire worth Watching Finally

I must say, when I first heard about this show I thought it would be another horrible program about rich folks supposedly sacrificing and giving to help those less fortunate (as they create their tax deduction for the next year and pump up their already over-inflated, self absorbed egos). The Philanthropist is not one of those shows.

Based off the real life exploits of billionaire turned philanthropist Bobby Sager, the show focuses on Teddy Rist (played by James Purefoy, most known for playing Mark Antony in the HBO series Rome). Rist has it all and could take whatever he does not have pretty easily. While on a business trip in Nigeria his outlook on life changes dramatically.

the philanthropist

James Purefoy as Teddy Rist - NBC Photo: Kelly Walsh

A torrential down pour has caused flooding and his hotel is being evacuated. Being a very wealthy, important person local authorities are taking extra care to insure his safety. In the process, Rist watches them ignore a local boy too scared to move. Rist, who recently lost his own son to a tragic end, made sure the boy reached safety. With that act of kindness, his outlook on life was reborn.

The pilot episode was presented in a storytelling/ flashback kind of mode. As Rist told more of his story to a bartender (whom he paid a thousand dollars to listen to him; a check which the disbelieving woman promptly ripped up), we saw the tale unfold. It made for an interesting episode and kept the show pretty balanced between the action/drama of the story and the comedic element of a man telling his story to a bartender that did not believe a word he said.

However the series unfolds its stellar cast will certainly carry it through the tough times. James Purefoy is a seasoned actor and really brings a suave charm to the roll. Neve Campbell, who first came to fame in the Fox series Party of Five, returns to play the role of Rist’s conscience as she heads his company’s charitable foundation. Another television veteran, Jesse L. Martin of Law and Order fame, plays the best friend and business partner to Rist. Michael Kenneth Williams, best known for his role in the highly regarded HBO series The Wire, is Rist’s bodyguard and all around right hand man. Canadian actress Lindy Booth rounds out the cast of regulars.

I have to give Bobby Sager, the man the show is based off of, a lot of credit here too. It would have been real easy for a person with his means to control every aspect of the show and make it all about him (like other billionaires have). Instead, he took on the role of consultant and allowed the actors, writers, and director to do what they do.

I have a lot of hope for this show. It was much more entertaining than I had thought it would be, very well acted, and really somewhat inspirational. I look forward to seeing this program develop.

Beer: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout; the ban on barley malt in Nigeria forces brewers to use locally available sorghum and maize giving this brew a unique flavor.