Monday, September 21, 2020

REVIEW: 'Filthy Rich' - Eugene's Death Causes His Family to Reckon with the Secrets He Kept From All of Them in 'Pilot'

FOX's Filthy Rich - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

When the patriarch of a mega-rich Southern family, famed for creating a wildly successful Christian television network, dies in a plane crash, his wife and family are stunned to learn that he fathered three illegitimate children, all of whom are written into his will, threatening their family name and fortune.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's Filthy Rich.

"Pilot" was written by Tate Taylor and directed by Tate Taylor

As a genre, soap operas are designed to be fun and ridiculous. They feature outrageous plot twists meant to be insane and entertain the audience with as many flashy moves as possible. It's a formula that works too. Sure, it creates the problem of the creative team always having to one up whatever they have already done. However, it can still be deeply rooted in characters with valid concerns and perspectives. This show sets out to have that. It wants to examine the world of conservative television through a Christian preaching network. The family-run business has recently lost their patriarch. They soon learn that he had three additional children outside of the marriage. Chaos ensues because the will is suddenly in contention. Everyone is trying to throw themselves into the ring in order to gain power. This premiere sets up some intriguing elements that will define the conflicts in the future. Margaret and Reverend Thomas each want to exert themselves as the future of the network. Eric wants to prove that he is experienced enough to take over the reigns as CEO. Jason and Rose have an attraction to each other that completely ignores the fact that they are allegedly related. And Ginger is trying to get as much as she can from the family that has caused her mother so much pain. This premiere is incredibly formulaic though. More than that, it's outrageously boring. It's insane just how dull and uninteresting the show is with this premise and trying to add some flair to the lives of the rich and famous. The Monreaux family has had influence in the country for decades. And yet, it never seems like the show has much to say about conservative beliefs and the hypocrisies seemingly always present within those who have this power. Sure, that's a part of Eugene's second life. He had numerous affairs. Margaret feels compelled to make that public at the end of this premiere. That ensures that the newcomers to this world will remain an active part of it. She remains one step ahead of Ginger's careful plotting in the hopes of getting what she believes she deserves. Ginger yearns for a connection to this father who left her behind. Her relationship with him is different because she believes he had an actual affair with her mother. It wasn't just a one night stand. She is the character given the most depth here. Margaret is as well. She is a person who frequently talks about the good and wholesome nature of living a life according to Christ's teachings. Behind the scenes though, she is manipulating events to her own benefit. It's a character trope that has been utilized in much better ways in many other shows. It never seems like Kim Cattrall is having fun with the role. Instead, it's all about some internal conflict where she wants her children to succeed. She wants to live a virtuous life. It is always a struggle for her because it's so easy to cut down any threats that stand in her way. That could be a compelling character arc. It just doesn't quite fit in with the soapy nature of the storytelling. The narrative needs to feature outrageous twists. It does its best to provide them. And yet, the audience can probably guess what's going to happen before it's confirmed onscreen. The note given to Ginger written by Eugene seemed destined to be a fake to manipulate her. Eugene's death was always unlikely because his body was never recovered from the crash site. This energy makes the show boring. If the audience is spending its time correctly guessing what's going to happen next, then there is truly no investment on our part. It's simply watching a bunch of things happen with no engagement whatsoever. There's no depth or dimension to Eric and Becky's marriage. There's no understanding of why Reverend Thomas wants to steal the spotlight from Margaret. There's no true sense of belonging amongst this core family. It's pure dysfunction that amounts to actors filling space in a genre that fails to provide them with adequate material. That's incredibly disappointing. Some of these issues could be ignored or covered in the early going as well if the investment and conviction was apparent. No passion is found though. It's going through the motions. Some characters are introduced with motivations. Others simply wander in and out of the story. Sometimes they lift up the concerns of others. Sometimes their presence is completely meaningless. That emptiness extends through so much. It hides behind the desire to not alienate anyone while still trying to entertain. And yet, it fails because it never really stands for anything or ensures that the fun twists and turns are actually rewarding to those willing to get sucked up into the drama.