The NBC premiere of The Philanthropist missed the mark of captivation. I’m not at this point sure what it is I expected or hoped to see but by the end of the show I was wondering why I had watched it. Yet, I liked it enough that I will at least watch the next episode.
The main character, Teddy Rist (played by actor James Purefoy); a wealthy billionaire begins The Philanthropist series by trying to impress a waitress by telling her stories of his philanthropic adventures. He begins with his adventure to bring a cholera vaccine to a community in Nigeria after enduring a hurricane there on a business trip.
I was intrigued by the fact that this is supposedly inspired by real life philanthropist, Bobby Sager. However, I found myself wondering if Mr. Sager would have actually paid someone to listen to his stories. This is perhaps what doesn’t ring true for me and what leads the viewer to a quick conclusion that The Philanthropist is not directly based on Mr. Sager’s life. When you have a good story to tell, which Teddy Rist does, there is no need to pay someone to listen. This may have been an attempt to show the initial arrogance and playboy characteristics of the main character. I suppose, in a good story, the characters have to start flawed and change and grow because of and through their experiences.
Technically, the story was sound as it twisted between where Teddy was in his personal and professional lives and how he became The Philanthropist. The story also contained endearing elements such as his decision to save a beggar boy ahead of himself during a hurricane which then lead nicely into the back story of how he had lost his son and ultimately became divorced. I also enjoyed the conclusion which came back to the theme of a lost boy being found and saved and in effect also saving.
Interspersed into the plot were key elements of action and surprises. However, to me it seemed to be a classic plot and therefore predictable. The story also needed a bit more built in suspense and less talk. This perhaps can be achieved by filling in the knowledge gaps about the location that a typical viewer might have. A few well placed facts could only enhance the story. What I’d really like to see is a feed spot with facts about Mr. Sager which would help viewers of The Philanthropist determine the fictional story from the truth. Then again, that might be distracting; perhaps a mini documentary at the end or in the beginning might help. This would help make a real world connection and push this series into a new and exciting direction.
When this episode began with Teddy paying a waitress to listen to his story I almost went looking for something else to do. To me this seemed sappy and unrealistic. But then the philanthropist began with his story and it caught my attention. If nothing else, this episode made me curious about who is Bobby Sager? As I researched about Mr. Sager I realized if The Philanthropist series can capture his hands-on humanity and approach to philanthropy and on giving and living; the series will be amazing.
However, as a viewer of a show about philanthropy, I wanted to experience the conversion-to feel it and be inspired by it to give what I can give. Did I come away from the premiere of The Philanthropist with that motivation? No. That is the connection I missed.
The question now remains will the next installment in The Philanthropist series continue with this trend of telling about good works but not quite bringing viewers to the fullness of experiencing them? Will it evoke an emotion of compassion or hope? Will it make the viewer stand up and say…now that is something I can do-with or without money?
Finally, I ask, “Will The Philanthropist series inspire me or make me angry? Will it meet the mark of making a connection with those less fortunate or will it imply that philanthropy is only for the rich? Will it capture the need for help along with the need to be helped with true compassion and empathy and love? I sincerely hope they make it personal. I love a good uplifting story and realize this is just the first introduction to The Philanthropist. Even though the first episode of The Philanthropist doesn’t get high marks from me it does have potential. So next week…I’ll be watching.