By Melissa Camacho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Action-tinged drama is flawed but has substance.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Rist wants to help those in need, but his desires are also motivated by selfish reasons. And he's often forced to work with unscrupulous characters in order to get people the help they need.
Positive Role Models
Rist is a flawed person, but he has a good heart and really does want to help people. He's also a billionaire who thinks nothing of spending lots of money. Women are shown both as strong professionals and as sex workers. Each episode features people from different regions of the world.
Violence & Scariness
Frequent gun use, with weapons fired. Rist often finds himself being chased, shot at, and beaten up while trying to do help people. Blood and other injuries are often visible. One scene shows people drowning, and at least one episode includes discussions about the death of a child.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rist has a reputation as a womanizer. There's also some strong sexual innuendo, including references to prostitutes, orgies, and extramarital affairs. Women are visible in bikinis and other skimpy clothing.
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Audible language includes words like “hell," “damn,” and “screwed."
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Products & Purchases
Generic references to fast airplanes, fast cars, and other big-ticket items. Mercedes-Benz vehicles are frequently shown, but usually in areas where they aren't considered luxury cars.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Rist is a heavy drinker; lots of visible alcohol consumption (mixed drinks). Rist sometimes makes deals with drug lords and other disreputable characters in order to accomplish what he sets out to do. Marijuana and other controlled substances are sometimes visible during drug arrests. Cigarette and cigar smoking visible.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this series revolves around a wealthy businessman who pursues global philanthropy for both generous and selfish reasons. He's often forced to deal with corrupt government officials and drug dealers when trying to help people, so the lines between "good" and "bad" sometimes get a bit fuzzy. Expect some strong sexual innuendo (including a reference to orgies), fairly frequent violence ranging from gunshots to physical assault (bloody wounds are sometimes visible), and some strong drug references (images of marijuana, etc.). Words like "hell," "damn," and "screw" are audible.
Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
THE PHILANTHROPIST centers on Teddy Rist (James Purefoy) a wheeling, dealing billionaire who enjoys money, power, and all the perks that come with both. But after rescuing a young boy from drowning in Nigeria, Rist finds himself searching for a higher purpose and embarks on a path of adventure and global philanthropy. His antics frustrate his business partner, Philip Maidstone (Jesse L. Martin), and leave colleagues like Maidstone’s wife, Olivia (Neve Campbell); special projects manager A.J. Butterfield (Lindy Booth); and driver Dax Vahagn (Michael K. Williams) perplexed. He also inspires suspicion among those he's trying to help. And throughout it all, the conflicted Rist tries to work out what quietly haunts him, including the death of his young son.
Is It Any Good?
The series, which is based on the real-life international philanthropy of Bobby Sager, combines drama and adventure while highlighting very real and dangerous challenges -- like dealing with corrupt governments and trying to navigate war-torn countries to get to those in need. But while the show has substance, it goes a little bit too far in making Rist seem like a dashing, Indiana Jones-style adventurer. And exploiting some of Rist’s own vices -- like drinking and womanizing -- sometimes overshadows the show's positive themes.
Despite these flaws, the series does have a sense of authenticity thanks to the producers' efforts to film it in a variety of international locations. It's also well written and well acted. It’s not intended for younger viewers thanks to its violence, drinking, and sexual innuendo, but it's a great choice for older viewers looking for good stories that have more heft than the average action tale.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about philanthropy. Why are some wealthy people willing to use their time and money to help others? Does that make them better people than those who don't give their time and money? What makes someone a good citizen?
Families can also discuss Bobby Sager, who inspired the show. Who is he, and what kind ofphilanthropic work does he do? Do you think his life is as adventurousas Teddy Rist’s?
- Premiere date: June 24, 2009
- Cast: James Purefoy, Jesse L. Martin, Lindy Booth, Neve Campbell, Michael Kenneth Williams
- Network: NBC
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 24, 2022
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