Saturday, August 20, 2005


As should be obvious by now, I don’t sneer down my nose at teevee, or many other aspects of so-called “mainstream” culture. Lots of stuff made for and sold to reg’lar folks is simply more pleasurable, and rewarding, than the one golden truffle that can maybe be found after weeks of snuffling through nine hundred achingly “independent” releases (whether in print, on film, or on disc). Every Friday, I get my nerd on watching Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi Channel, and three of the shows being broadcast by the FX network (The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me) rank with the best stuff that’s ever been broadcast, anywhere.

But I’m here today to talk about a show I first watched nearly a decade ago, and which has bubbled at the back of my brain ever since, in that very special zone labeled “What the fuck were these people thinking?” I’m talking about Profit, a Fox drama from 1996 that just became available on DVD from the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Profit is the story of Jim Profit, a sleek predator played with empty-eyed malevolence (and the tiniest hint of a smirk) by Adrian Pasdar. He’s rising through the ranks at corporate titan Gracen & Gracen, mostly by manipulating, sleeping with, and/or murdering people who have the job he wants, or are otherwise keeping him from some goal. But it’s weirder than that. His evil father kept him in a cardboard box when he was a child, with only a hole in one side so he could see the tube. As an adult, he lives in a deluxe apartment in the sky, but every night, he crawls naked into the same box, secreted behind a panel where no one can see.

The show is terrifically amoral. In fact, while re-viewing it, I found it impossible not to speculate – did Mary Harron, who directed the movie version of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, watch this show? Did Christian Bale, the star? The world through which Jim Profit moves seems very like the hallucinatory universe of Patrick Bateman. The tone of black comedy is the same, too. Profit is funnier than most comedies, and suspenseful, given that most people can’t conceive of behavior as soullessly vicious as the title character’s, so his moves frequently come as a total surprise.

The creators describe their initial pitch to networks as “Richard III as a series. The hero is a psychopath, but only the audience knows it.” They were thrown out of CBS right after telling the executives there that, in the pilot, Profit tongue-kisses his stepmother. Even Fox, the channel that finally agreed to air the show four years after it was initially pitched, pulled it after only four episodes. That’s what makes this DVD release so fantastic for those, like me, who watched that initial mini-run in wide-eyed wonder, punctuated with barks of wild laughter: four episodes that were only ever aired in France are included here, reaching American eyes for the first time.

Profit is a truly badass show. The term “corporate shark” has never been more apt.

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