There is a bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” This is a very true statement, but Christians, like myself, can be problematic. We know this. Despite our faith and devotion to living for God with a higher purpose we often find that we fall short of the goal. We all know hypocrites who profess to be one thing but end up being something else entirely and most of us strive not to be one.
The true Christian is one who struggles to do the right thing and then comes clean and asks for forgiveness when they miss the mark. This is something that many non-Christian screenwriters don’t get when writing characters who are people of faith. Hollywood has a tendency to paint Christians with a wide brush. Often they do not trust us and present Christians as characters who SAY the right things while DOING all the wrong things.
I’m not against showing representations of Christians who sin. The bible is full of them. In fact, I think you can create some great theatre doing so as long as you have some other characters alongside them who actually do live out their faith. Sometimes a director will actually ask the advice of Christian actors if their character would really say or do something written in the script, but it’s a rarity. However, when that happens, the stories presented feel a lot more realistic.
Tate Taylor is the writer and director of FOX’s new comedy/drama Filthy Rich. I don’t know if he is a Christian or not, but he grew up in the south (where this show takes place) so I’m sure he has a perspective on how some southern Christians live their lives with some pretending to be all “nicey nice.” I’m just not sure if he understands the whole picture.
Filthy Rich is about the Monreaxus family. The Monreauxes are super-rich Southern family who own the Sunshine Network, a wildly popular Christian TV network. Eugene (Gerald McRaney) is the patriarch of the family and founder of the network. His wife Margaret (Kim Cattrall) is a hybrid of Oprah and Martha Stewart showcasing her cooking talent and offering tidbits of advice. Their son Eric (Corey Cott) leads worship on the show and is destined to fill his father’s shoe’s one day. Their daughter Rose (Aubrey Rose) is trying to become a fashion designer but no one seems to care or notice. (After watching the episode, I’m not sure what she does for the network.) Then there is the Revered Paul Thomas (Aaron Lazar) who does most of the preaching. His daughter Becky (Olivia Macklin) is married to Eric.
The pilot episode begins with the family of four on stage and live in front of the camera. Mother Margaret gets lowered from the ceiling dressed like an angel. The crowd goes wild and she gushes. Soon an announcement is made about the network’s soon-to-open online business (watch out Amazon) so followers of the show can shop at a place with supposedly Christian values. It’s all over-the-top, but this family does appear to love each other and believe what they say. While it is true that not all TV preachers act this way, we all know that there are plenty out there that do.
But then tragedy strikes when Eugene dies in a plane crash. But when Franklin Lee (Steve Harris), the family lawyer reads the will, they find that Eugene offers three surprises: he fathered three other children from three other women! Margaret admits that she knew that her husband had some one-night stands and that her husband was always repentant afterward, but this news destroys her. Eric and Rose are both stunned.
The three out-of-wedlock kids are Ginger (Melia Kreiling) who works as a madame, Antonio (Benjamin Levy Aguilar) a single dad and boxer just scraping by and Jason (Mark L. Young) who has a marijuana business. At first Margaret wants to buy off the extended family in hopes that they can keep a lid on this building scandal, but these kids can’t be bought off so easily.
From here it seems that it is all going to go downhill. FOX says, “With monumental twists and turns, not to mention lies, deceit and shade from every direction, Filthy Rich presents a world in which everyone has an ulterior motive – and no one is going down without a fight.” Given the additional surprise shown at the end of the first episode, you know there is more to come.
With the show’s setting aside, Filthy Rich isn’t that good of a show, but the writing is a lot better than FOX’s other new entry for the week: L.A.’s Finest. There is actually some witty banter here and even some likable characters. But then you also have some less-than-godly people trying to set others straight by quoting scripture.
Overall, this is a soapy satire and shouldn’t be taken too seriously and under normal circumstances I might be more open to such a show. But with our current state of the BLM movement, COVID-19, the upcoming election among other things, I’ve had my fill of Christians behaving badly. Perhaps the show will find a way to bring some redemption to these characters, but I won’t be sticking around to find out.
(Main image: L-R: Aaron Lazar, Deneen Tyler, Mark L. Young, Melia Kreiling, Benjamin Aquilar, Gerald McRaney, Kim Cattrall, Aubrey Dollar, Corey Cott, Olivia Macklin and Steve Harris. (Justin Stephens/FOX)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.