Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Philanthropist, "Myanmar": Yankee swap

Some quick thoughts on episode two of "The Philanthropist" coming up just as soon as someone tells me if they were properly pronouncing "Myanmar" (I always thought it was "mee-ANN-mahr")...

I'm not sure if "Myanmar" is confirming certain aspects of "The Philnathropist" formula, or if it's just following the old network TV adage that a new series is supposed to more or less duplicate its pilot episode 3 or 4 times in a row for the benefit of hypothetical viewers who might be tuning in a few weeks late. But it's very much of a piece with the pilot, continuing both the good and bad parts of it.

The good: James Purefoy, charming as hell, and also capable of bringing the right amount of sincerity to moments like Teddy under the table with the little boy, or Teddy at the ruby mine. The relationship between Teddy and Dax (which got more play here than it did in "Nigeria"). The international flavor.

The bad: The awkwardness of Teddy as the great white hope for these poor minority people. The framing device, which might have been necessary in the pilot but added nothing here, and seemed to completely change the Jesse Martin character's attitude from the pilot. (If the show were being told out of sequence, ala "Boomtown" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "The Black Donnellys," then I could see the framing sequences having some value, but here it just filled time.)

It's summer, not much else is on, and I like Purefoy, so I guess I'm watching for a bit. But if the show doesn't start changing things up and/or getting better, I doubt I'll feel compelled to write about it much.

What did everybody else think?

21 comments:

Ingrid said...

While we watched this, my husband remarked a couple of times that they need to change/mix up the narrative structure or the series is going to become really boring really soon. I fell asleep while watching the show, which I guess supports his argument.

I hope they spare us the board room intrigue from now on. Corporate politics are so passé.

Lugoves said...

As long as they don't beat the "We can Change the World" aspect into the ground, I guess it's OK. I find myself more intrigued about Whom they are fictionalizing. I haven't taken the time to research that yet as once I do, I probably wouldn't be able to watch the fictionalized show.

joy said...

It's Bobby Sager, who was at the show's premiere/screening/panel event at the Paley last week. I liked him a lot, and not just because he wore bright lime green Converse hi-tops with his suit. Heh.

I do think they're treading a line with being too self-righteous about how he's saving the world, one person at a time with his Cause of the Week. And I'm a little worried that he's going to live up to the show title, and just going to keep paying out his money (to bad and good people) to get him in and out of every situation.

I'm totally agreed about the storytelling framework - it's annoying, first the bored bartender, then the mean board room. Off. Putting.

But, you're right, Alan, it *is* summer, and JP is fairly watchable, and I'm loving the location shooting thus far in exotic locales. So, it stays on the dance card for as long as NBC decides to keep it on the air...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I did think it was a nice touch that Teddy essentially failed this time, choosing the small problem (the little girl) over the larger problem (human rights violations).

Robert said...

It's properly pronounced BRRR-mah

:-)

Beth said...

Whoa--ep. 2 was structurally similar/identical to ep. 1 (which I missed)? Whatever for? I love Jesse L. Martin, but his narration was bo-o-ring, and David Clennon has been evil so often he can do it in his sleep.
So far, James Purefoy and an irrational hope of seeing improvement are the only reasons I might return for ep. 3

Ariadne said...

LOL, Robert. The CBC (official voice of Canada) is now referring to the country as "Burma also known as Myanmar" to separate the military government from the country itself.

Not the greatest show and the Aung San Suu Kyi parallel was rather heavy-handed but it is summer, Purefoy is entertaining and I'm sick of repeats and reality shows.

me said...

I want to like it, but I don't think I can keep watching.

It feels like it was made by men, and not in a good way. I can't properly describe it yet, but it doesn't feel like there was ever a man in the room to help ground the writing, the story, the casting, the costuming, any of it. It feels very Old Boys Club-y.

More than that, the characters don't act like they know each other. I do not believe Neve Campbell married Jesse L Martin. I would believe that the 3 of them went to college together, but not that they were ever even friends.

I'm just not getting it. And I can't help but feel like something here is being exploited. Not sure what, though. I just get an icky feeling watching this show.

Gopherannie said...

Well, I want so much to like it for all of the reasons stated (it's summer, it has Purefoy, etc.) but I turned this episode off last night. I wasn't feeling it. It was too much like the pilot. Things I didn't mind in the pilot began to grate on my nerves and the board meeting was too much for me.

drake lelane said...

Besides Purefoy, the music chosen each week -- and scored, for that matter, by José Villalobos (The Kite Runner) -- has gone a long way in smoothing over the problems for me.

This week they used music from the Laya Project, a documentary using musicians to highlight the plight and spirit of the residents of South India, in the wake of the Tsunami. So even the soundtrack is kind of philanthropic!

joy said...

@drake lelane - thanks for the info on the score...I kept meaning to look it up. We swear we saw Sting at the Paley thing, and had thought he was scoring it.

drake lelane said...

Sting (and wife Trudie) actually introduced Bobby Sager to TV producer Charlie Corwin, so it would make sense he'd be there.

Mike F said...

I had a hard time sitting through this even though I was multi-tasking...if this is the only kind of episode they can produce, I've seen enough...hopefully, they have a lot more tricks in their bag...but I'm not too optimistic, despite my affection for the cast

joy said...

A-ha. Got it. Thanks, @drake leland!

I *do* want the show to succeed, because the creators, actors, network, and Bobby Sager seem to *really* want to spark change (however small) through this show.

Andy said...

I didn't watch this week because I didn't care for it when I watched last week. I will continue to read the blog posts about the show to see if anyone thinks it is getting better because I usually enjoy these actors.

tim said...

The Burma story itself seemed fine to me. While it certainly recalled the pilot, the details it picked (like Rist's immediate instinctive concern for any kid who passes his way) seemed like they're supposed to be long term themes for the show, anyway.

But the boardroom framing didn't work. Not only do Campbell, Martin, and Purefoy seem out of sync (like @me said above), but the vote didn't make sense. How would Maidstone's story convince anyone to keep Rist in charge? The man is clearly unstable. I thought we were going to get another unreliable narrator episode, where Maidstone made up an investor-friendly story for the board while we got to see what really happened behind the scenes.

The show is an odd combination of earnest (the office sequence laying out Burmese history) and cynical (the constant bribery). I'm still curious to see where Fontana goes with that.

Yan said...

I wrote my reactions to the episode on my blog.

I'm actually from Myanmar, and I found a lot of things to be hilarious about the episode.

Bartacus said...

This show is comically bad. I love how these ‘billionaire investors’ need the back story on the countries they have millions of dollars in, as if they wouldn’t know this already. The Myanmar episode treats viewers like ignorant children - and also fails to properly name Myanmar’s deposed democratically elected President, Aung San Suu Kyi. But wait - that’s fictional, right? Never mind that because an American swam to her house in May, she has been denied her release yet again (locked up since the nineties). So in the show, Purefoy shows up, sneaks in to her compound, and has a chat with her. Basically, in reality, you get to add another 10 years to her sentence. He also continues to do business with an affiliate in Myanmar because if he doesn’t, a little girl will die for lack of a kidney. So much for being a philanthropist - investing in a sick and perverted country’s military government sure is charitable! It certainly was worth supporting a child labour-using, human rights abusing company to save one life. That’s not philanthropy - its misanthropy. His actions show a remarkable selfishness and contempt for humanity. Folks - take it from somebody who has worked with ‘philanthropic’ NGOs for over a decade - this show is unbelievably stupid. If it succeeds, it will simply be a testament to the contemporary devolution of human intelligence. This show does not remotely depict the way the world works. It is yet another show where gorgeous people dressed to the nines dance through the streets of Lagos without a care, decked out in makeup and thousand dollar suits. It’s Food Aid all over again - a farce which draws attention away from the real systemic problems plaguing this world and focusing it on a select and privileged few. Whoever wrote the scripts for these self-righteous and woefully hypocritical characters should be ashamed of themselves. That said, it might be bad enough to be entertaining. People who work in the field could end up watching just to gauge the producers' audacity, and to reaffirm why development isn't working - because people buy this kind of short-term bandaid solution purportedly 'philanthropic' crap over real, long-term, and systemic change.

Baylink said...

In fact, Robert and Ariadne, I'm told that the local pronounciation of the two words is in fact different only by an aspiration or two; the change in spelling is mostly a change in orthography, not in actual pronunciation; "Burma" was very much a 'Murricanized pronunciation to start with.

I can't tell you where I got that, but it has the authoritative bit set in storage.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen episode 1 or 2 yet but Michael Williams (Omar from The Wire) is in episode three and I would watch him do douche commercials.

Alan Sepinwall said...

He's in all of them, anonymous (episodes, that is, not feminine hygiene ads).