I wanted to like NBC's new show, The Philanthropist, but I didn't.
What I did like is that The Philanthropist's website has a resource page with links to organizations like the Nigerian Red Cross, CARE, and the International Crisis Group. That's about all I liked.
The show's premise is that a wealthy businessman, Teddy Rist, has a transformational experience during a business trip to Nigeria and helps save a young boy during a flood. (We later learn that his own young son is dead). Although his company has a foundation, giving money doesn't feel like enough now for Teddy, and he returns to Nigeria to single-handedly deliver vaccine to a village near where the boy he rescued lived.
The problem is, Rist is a jerk. He clearly goes on this one-man mission to assuage the pain of his son's death, which is somewhat realistic since we are often drawn to causes in an attempt to heal broken parts of ourselves. Thing is, he fails to return his ex-wife's emails or phone calls when she asks him to help move everything out of their dead son's room, and then gets angry at her when she does it without him. In my book, being a jerk to your ex-wife who is trying to get over the loss of your child doesn't get balanced out by delivering vaccine to a remote village in Nigeria.
Oh, and then there are all of the women he sleeps with. While working with a Nigerian drug dealer to get the vaccine released from the airport, a group of beautiful women are brought to Rist's hotel room. "They are all orphans," the dealer says. And then there is the Nigerian woman doctor who he delivers the vaccine to who asks, "How will I'll ever repay you?" Oh, he found a way. Not to mention the woman bartender he gives a $1,000 check to listen to him tell his story (the voiceover for the show).
I'm not saying Rist has to be perfect, but appealing would have been nice. The characters of Simon Baker on The Mentalist and Michael Weston on Burn Notice have more integrity than Rist.
Finally, why does The Philanthropist have to be a white man? Why couldn't it have been a woman, like the Miranda Bailey character on Grey's Anatomy, a tough, smart, problem-solver with a soft heart?
Hey, if the show takes off and inspires people to become involved in international development and philanthropy, great, if not, I hope next time a character will be created who, although not perfect, has as much wealth of character as wealth in his or her wallet.
Here's what some other bloggers are saying about The Philanthropist:
- Council on Foundations Statement on The Philanthropist by Sean Stannard-Stockton on Tactical Philanthropy.
- The Philanthropist by Artemis on Gotham Nights
- The Philanthropist: An Englishman in Abuja by Drake Lelane on Film.com
- The Philanthropist - An early look by Kona Gallagher on TVSquad.com
- Did You Watch 'The Philanthropist' Last Night? by Joanne Fritz on Joanne's Nonprofit Blog
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