Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Philanthropist, "Nigeria": This guy walks into a bar...

I offered up my own thoughts on "The Philanthropist" pilot -- specifically, that James Purefoy is so damned charming that I liked it more than I expected to -- in Tuesday's column, but what did you guys think? And was I the only person distracted by the stunt double's shoes?

25 comments:

Omagus said...

I thought it was better than ok. I'll likely watch at least a few more episodes. However, I'd like to see more of Williams and Martin.

And does Purefoy just get to jet around the world for this role?

R.A. Porter said...

The Bing product placements almost killed me. Or worse, they *were* just ads starring Williams and Lindy Booth filmed to look like they were part of the episode.

Purefoy's interesting but I don't think he's enough to save this.

And I'm now more confused by Neve Campbell's refusal to do Scream 4. I'm not sure what she's holding out for.

Bruce Reid said...

I was as impressed by Purefoy as anybody, but the real draw for me is Fontana. He remains one of my favorite showrunners, despite being overshadowed a bit by the creators behind several great cable shows that followed in his wake. I remember in another context Alan referring to Homicide as the rough sketch that can't compare to The Wire's finished masterpiece; I don't disagree with the metaphor--it's pretty inspired, actually--but find a lot to love in Fontana's brusque, sometimes clumsy immediacy.

And The Philanthropist seems like a good vehicle for his pugnacious Catholicism (no coincidence Rist gets wounded in his side during his wilderness trek). Which certainly won't be allowed as thorough a workout here as it was in Oz, but few other writers could have indulged their lead in this much hedonism without suggesting it was something necessary to abandon to pursue his worthy goals. Rist's visions of his son could have made me groan, but the certainty that Fontana intended this as a genuine miracle (and Purefoy's lovely grasp for the comforting hand at his shoulder) sold even that, so I'm probably good for however heart-warming the series decides to go.

I could have done without the bartender exposition dumps, but chalk that up to pilot-itis. And I hope the soundtrack changes up each week to pop tracks appropriate to the episode's locale. It added a nice texture; as did the only pullout to the planet earth I can think of that focused not on North America or Europe, but the continent of Africa majestically filling the screen.

Oaktown Girl said...

I watched this for Purefoy, whom I happily discovered only recently when I finally had the opportunity to watch HBO'S Rome via On Demand. He's very talented and likable indeed.

Alan, you addressed my biggest obstacle to liking this show in your column:

Rist's journey from selfish corporate baron to selfless crusader is such a cliche that Fontana tries to nip in the bud any complaints by having his hero cross paths with a skeptical Nigerian doctor...

So we'll see if they can really avoid the Great White Hero saving the the poor Brown people thing. Even Purefoy couldn't make me stick around through that. But if the show ends up being good and gets renewed, what I wouldn't give to see Kevin McKidd and some of the other Rome players as guest stars...with their natural accents, of course. I can think of a 1,001 things they could do with Ian McNeice on this show!

Scott J. said...

R.A. Porter said...
The Bing product placements almost killed me. Or worse, they *were* just ads starring Williams and Lindy Booth filmed to look like they were part of the episode.



Yeah, it's like the opposite of product placement, really. Plot placement in commercials. Can't say I've seen that before. I found it quite jarring, especially since we hadn't seen those two characters yet, had we? I'd already stopped paying attention, thinking it was commercial-time until my ears caught mention of "Teddy" and "Nigeria". I hope this doesn't become a thing, but it probably will, so... Oh well. Show was fun, anyway.

Andy said...

Yeah, the plot placement in the commercial was a bit much. I wasn't impressed, good idea poorly executed which is a shame considering how much I would have loved to see a good show with Williams (Omar!) and Purefoy (Marc Anthony!). The red headed assistant was terrible.

Ruth said...

I enjoyed it. Not sure how long it's going to stick around, but James Purefoy's presence is enough to keep me tuning in (for the time being, anyway).

Anonymous said...

I liked it (not loved it). Purefoy was brilliant in Rome and definitely carried this show. I still find it jarring to see someone from an acclaimed HBO show switch over to network television. It's like watching a star athlete in his prime shift down to the minor leagues (as odd as that metaphor seems, because you would assume the Networks would be a step-up career-wise). But since NBC has to dumb down its product compared to HBO, we get the bartendar scenes in the pilot and some other hokie scenes. But Purefoy's acting (especially the scenes with no dialogue) are good enough to keep me watching.

And did anyone else get chills when the little boy yelled, "Omar" to refer to himself? After hearing kids scream "Omar" on the Wire so often as a warning to run away (and with Williams in the cast) there was a dual effect going on for me.

Hopefully it gets picked up, because TV is better with James Purefoy on it.

marenamoo said...

For some reason the concept of this show and James Purefoy has captured me since I heard about it oh so many months ago. I watch a lot of TV and this just seemed like something unique - away from the self-indulgence of a show like Gossip Girl and from the procedurals that I love but need a break from. It made me happy for a character to overcome so many obstacles (some internal, some ludicrous) and still succeed. I also liked the ensemble cast except for the girl assistant.

This is a show that I will definitely watch - good intentions, great actors, fabulous look at real locations and issues.

Omagus said...

I still find it jarring to see someone from an acclaimed HBO show switch over to network television. It's like watching a star athlete in his prime shift down to the minor leagues

Hmm, good point. And this show has two actors who did it.

Omagus said...

And did anyone else get chills when the little boy yelled, "Omar" to refer to himself?

I didn't have captions running so I'm not 100% sure but I think the boy said that his name is "Uma" not "Omar." Uma is a common enough name in Nigeria.

dez said...

And was I the only person distracted by the stunt double's shoes?


No, I caught that, too. Definitely bothersome.

I only saw the last half of the show because I forgot it was on, so the seriousness escaped me, but as others have said, Purefoy is likeable enough that I will stick around for a few eps (also because I like Jesse L. Martin, too).

Anonymous said...

I didn't have captions running so I'm not 100% sure but I think the boy said that his name is "Uma" not "Omar." Uma is a common enough name in Nigeria.

You're probably right. It sounded to me like Omar, but I also wondered why a Nigerian boy would be named Omar.

Hatfield said...

Yes, those commercials were terrible, and it's not like they really helped cut out a lot of the regular commercials, so what was the point?

I gotta say, I was bored. I think Purefoy is awesome (after Vorenus and Pullo he was the best on Rome), I'll watch anything with Michael K. Williams in it, and Jesse L. Martin was one of my all-time favorites on Law & Order, even though I know some have called him boring. But the plot just didn't move me, and the amount of expository voiceover was distracting. Also, Lindy Booth didn't work, and Neve Campbell's character could have been played by me for all the impact she had. I'll watch it again because of the actors I like and because Fontana is always interesting, but so far ba- off to a bad start.

Now, if Purefoy grew back the wicked beard from halfway through season 2 of Rome...

James Kang said...

I liked the cast in general. I really admire that it seemed like they shot in Africa for the Nigeria scenes. Must have been expensive. I like that even though Teddy is a do-gooder, he has an edge. He's reckless. He's got a little hedonistic devil on his shoulder.

My favorite shows are the ones that tell long stories over the course of their series, or at least a season. The tighter and more thought-out, the better. I can't tell from the pilot if they have a series-long story to tell but I'll tune in next week.

I was really surprised by those disgusting product placement/commercials during last night's broadcast. It seemed like they were part of the show so you wouldn't fast forward through them. They advertised a search engine that I refuse to mention here (although someone else already did upthread). None of the reviews I read mentioned it so I guess they weren't a part of the screeners. NBC is desperate.

Blair Waldorf said...

Purefoy is fantastic. This could be fun. The moment when he met the little boy at the end and gave him the top was great.

Karen said...

According to the closed captioning, the boy's name was "Oumar."

The Bing moments were HORRIFIC.

As for the show--I found it mostly boring and in many places absolutely dire. That skeptical Nigerian doctor DID nail it, and I found it incredibly tiresome to watch Rist bleeding nobility all over the place. And the stuff with the bartender simply didn't play--her skepticism was overplayed (really? she know who he is but has no idea what he looks like??) and thatn, in the end, cliched.

I had set up a DVR series recording based on Alan's review, but I deleted it after watching the pilot.

Sugabelly said...

Hi, I'm Nigerian and I pretty much watched the pilot with my mouth hanging open in disbelief. There were so many gross inaccuracies that I don't even know where to begin. Abuja is a huge, sprawling modern, shiny, beautiful city and for you to portray it as a muddy village is beyond insulting.

Also, it was glaringly obvious to me (and to any other African that watches this episode) that most of the cast in this show were Southern and Eastern Africans. Very few were Nigerians or even West Africans. The accents were so totally off-mark it's not even funny. The languages spoken were totally wrong, but the dressing was the worst. Total fail. People from different parts of Nigeria are INSTANTLY distinguishable by their traditional clothing. I'm Nigerian, I've lived in Nigeria all my life, and I couldn't even tell who was supposed to be who.

The names of the places were not much better. There is nowhere like Kujeru in Nigeria.

But worst of all, the absolute worst of all was the whole premise that the pilot episode was based on: A Hurricane in Nigeria. ANY Nigerian will tell you that there are NO hurricanes in Nigeria. What is even more comical is the fact that a mudslide supposedly killed off the people in Kujeru (which according to this show is a little ways east of Abuja). If anyone producing this show had bothered to just Google Nigeria, they would know that a mudslide of any magnitude in Northern Nigeria is a huge impossibility.

The portrayal of Nigeria as a place where everyone carries guns is totally inaccurate. Most Nigerians have never seen a gun inside Nigeria except those carried by policemen, soldiers, or robbers. I do not know if the production team was confusing the current crisis in the Niger Delta with the rest of Nigeria, but as far as accuracy or authenticity goes, this show scores very poor marks.

So, since most American shows by the major television networks have pretty sizeable budgets I would like to know WHY the production team could not pay the kid next door five bucks to print out even a Wikipedia article for them on Nigeria. From this one episode it is evident that no research whatsoever was done on my country when this episode was shot, and it also seems to me that parts of the show weren't even shot in Nigeria.

Can you please tell me why noone bothered to even find out the basic facts about life in Nigeria? Can you tell me why you have Southern and East Africans acting as Nigerians (and doing a terrible job by the way)? Can you tell me why your billionaire is saving a boy from a hurricane in Nigeria when there have never been any hurricanes in Nigeria? What was all the production money used for if The Philanthropist can't even show an accurate picture of Nigeria? Villages in Nigeria don't even look like that. Any Nigerian will tell you. There are pictures of Nigeria all over the place. I don't know where this show is getting its information about Nigeria but seriously they need to check your sources because they are totally wrong.

R.A. Porter said...

@Sugabelly, "[i]f anyone producing this show had bothered to just Google Nigeria," they'd have been fired. They used Microsoft Bing for all their search needs (excuse me, that should be *decision* needs.) Which of course explains why everything was wrong.

Kidding aside, I'm quite sure no one bothered to do any basic research, assuming the mostly American audience would believe any scenes of poverty, muddy villages, and despair about Africa. Then again, it's not like TV shows and movies get other places right most of the time either. E.g. the apartments of 20-something Manhattanites.

alas said...

And was I the only person distracted by the stunt double's shoes?


No, I also was annoyed by that ... twice.

Oaktown Girl said...

Sugabelly - thanks for taking the time to share your experience and perspective. Much appreciated.

pissed naija girl said...

hmm. The boys name was Umar which is pronounced Oumar. The name Omar does not exist in Nigeria because its spelt Umar and pronounced Oumar.
as for the rest of the episode, see sugabelly's comment. A hurricane in Nigeria? lol thats like a volcanic eruption in NYC. complete FAIL.

Anonymous said...

I was similarly disappointed by the gross inaccuracies in the show. Having spent some years in Southern Africa (Lesotho for those in the know) and with family from Nigeria I totally agree with Sugabelly. I was stupidly trying to follow some logic and wondered how on earth (even if there were a hurricane or storm on the coast) the 'beggar' boy was supposed to have gotten from his home near Abuja (hundreds of km away) to the coast.

There were too many conveniently (and ludicrously) timed moments: his happening upon a local coming of age ritual--which didn't look the least bit Nigerian, to his miraculous shrugging off of a snake bite. And how DID he know which direction to go in as he drove off so confidently into the jungle?

I loved James Purefoy in Rome but his character was too one-dimensional and hackneyed here. They need to get some better writing and more realistic scenarios.

Entertainment is a fabulous gift and a tremendous opportunity to educate WHILE entertaining. We would all be better served if they spent more of their money on research and less on making a swank production. I can't believe the NY Times liked this...

Anonymous said...

Oumar Coming!

Pretty hokey, but it was trying. Still what struck me was how washed out it looked.
Spoiled by LOST, I guess. That show is just so beautiful.

Puff

Sugabelly said...

Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that NBC deleted my post on their forum.

Obviously they don't like the fact that someone is calling them out on their bullshit representation of my country.

They are also deleting the posts of other Nigerians that have complained about the show.