Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2005)
Anyone remember the old days when studios were reluctant to release much TV on DVD? They tossed out compilations but feared that full season sets would crash and burn.
Boy, has that landscaped changed. Not only do we now get plenty of well-known product in complete season packages, but also obscure titles receive their due. Shows that never took off on the air earn a whole new life on DVD. For instance, Freaks and Geeks found an audience it never had when it sputtered on broadcast TV.
Add 1996’s Profit to the list of shows that hope to prosper on the shiny little disc. Though well-received by critics when it aired in April 1996, the series was apparently regarded as too dark and edgy by the general public. Or maybe not – since Fox yanked the show so quickly, most people never had a chance to decide. Only four episodes aired, which left four programs in the tank never to be seen.
Until now, that is. Profit: The Complete Series includes all eight episodes of the show. I’ll look at each program on its own and then add a general thought about Profit. The synopses come from information on the DVDs themselves.
Pilot: “Aiming to eliminate the reigning President of Acquisitions of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate for which he works, Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar) sets about leaking damaging information to the press which he hopes will lead to his own position being improved.”
Perhaps as the series progresses we’ll discover some redeeming characteristics about Profit. None of them appear in the “Pilot”, though, as he comes across as a thoroughly slimy and disreputable personality. And that’s a good thing, as this tone makes the series distinctive.
Changes in the industry have made a series with a bad guy as the lead character less unusual, but Profit remains surprisingly dark. The “Pilot” sets the table quite well. It doesn’t pull any punches and starts off the series with incisive and cynical portrayals of the personalities and situations.
Hero: “Jack Walters (Scott Paulin) and security chief Joanne Meltzer (Lisa Zane) delves into Profit’s past. Meanwhile, Profit befriends Jack’s vulnerable wife (Jennifer Hetrick), who inadvertently provides him with the means to neutralize their threat and to advance his own nefarious plans.”
I can’t decide if the incredibly intricate plots executed by Profit are ludicrous or cool. Through two episodes, they lean toward the latter, though he does seem to cover too many of the bases too well. Still, matters take an intriguing turn with Profit’s attack on Walters.
Sykes: “Profit is ordered to recruit the dynamic Jeffrey Sykes (Sherman Augustus) to Gracen and Gracen and to acquire the business holdings of a Russian mobster. Meanwhile, his stepmother and occasional lover (Lisa Blount) is blackmailing him.”
I guess the folks behind the series agreed that not every show could feature a nearly omnipotent Jim, as “Sykes” puts him in a more vulnerable position. Of course, we know he’ll eventually get out of it, but it’s good to see him on the ropes for a while. Sykes presents another worthy adversary and that factor makes this show strong.
Healing: “Charles Gracen (Keith Szarabajka) determines to put an end to the conflict between Jim Profit and Joanne Meltzer by making them take lie-detector tests.”
The final episode aired, “Healing” ends the series’ broadcast run on a lackluster notes. Profit’s tactics against Joanne involve her therapist and hypnosis, and those make the show a little silly at times. In addition, the program veers toward soap opera due to Jim’s involvement with Nora (Allison Hossack), the wife of his colleague Pete Gracen (Jack Gwaltney). This is the weakest show to date.
Cupid: “Gracen and Gracen is close to signing an acquisition deal with Ray and Anna Kestrel. Ray backs out of the deal until Anna comes back to him, but she is reluctant to return and experience his abusive reign of terror for a second time just to secure the deal.”
“Cupid” rebounds with an unusually complex story. It deals with the Kestrel deal from a number of sides and always keeps us off-guard. In addition, Bobbi attempts to romance Charles, which leads to a little dark comedy, though the episode ends with an especially downbeat conclusion.
Chinese Box: “Profit must break away from Wong Industries to stop an FBI investigation.”
With only two more episodes to go, I’d peg Jim’s secretary Gail (Lisa Darr) as the series’ most complex character. Everyone has another agenda, but she seems the most conflicted about it. This episode focuses on her involvement and what she’ll do to help her ill mother, and that factor – along with another typically dense plot – makes it a good one.
Security: “One of the workers in the security department turns out to be an undercover journalist writing an exposé on corruption within the company.”
One thing we know after this many shows: you can’t really play Profit. Sure, Sykes got the better of him in that episode, but not to a huge degree; our boy’s always going to end up pretty close to the top. “Security” puts him against another worthy opponent with a sexual element as well. It’s not anything mind-blowing, but it’s a good watch.
Forgiveness: “When Pete Gracen decides to make a takeover bid for the company with his wife’s uncle, she makes a startling revelation about him.”
While every episode of Profit featured sleazy people – especially the series’ lead – “Forgiveness” finds the lowest of the low. Nora’s uncle is an unrepentant child molester who raped her as a 12-year-old – and clearly would gladly do the same to other girls in that age bracket. The program doesn’t handle this material in a gratuitous manner, though the uncle character probably could have used a little more nuance; he becomes too easy to hate.
The biggest thing to hate about “Forgiveness” is that it leaves us hanging. The producers knew that this might have been the final episode, so they attempted to wrap things up in a vague manner, but this doesn’t really work. “Forgiveness” doesn’t bring any closure as it makes us wonder what will happen next.
Alas, we’ll never find out, though the extras reveal some possible developments for the second season that never came. I didn’t remember the series from its “blink and you’ll miss it” network run in 1996. I don’t know how I would have reacted to it back then, but now it seems like a pretty interesting though not wholly successful show.
My only real complaints come from the soap opera elements. The series doesn’t truly get sappy, and I suppose it needs some form of real human emotion to keep from becoming artificially cynical. Still, I can’t help but wish it’d gone all the way and made the world of Profit unrelentingly dark. It might not be realistic, but given that Profit’s machinations are almost MacGyveresque, I don’t think this would have been a problem.
Profit does revel in its cynicism, and that’s what makes it fun. The series turns into soap opera a little too much of the time, but not enough to negatively affect it. Perhaps it’s best the show died when it did, as I don’t know how long they could have maintained it. As it stands, Profit stands as a groundbreaking and entertaining series.