'Filthy Rich': TV Review

'Filthy Rich' (Fox)
Courtesy of FOX
Toothless satire and uninspired drama.

Kim Cattrall headlines a Fox soap about a family of Christian tycoons behaving badly — and falling apart at the seams.

A blonde woman in a red sequined gown, white fur stole and Wonder Women’s golden cuff bracelets catwalks out of a plantation-style mansion choked in flames and closes the front door behind her in the evocative opening scene of Fox’s new church soap Filthy Rich. “Rot in hell,” she throws in for good measure, as she allows the edges of her lips to curl into a smile. Even with Kim Cattrall’s over-the-shoulder vamping for the camera, the scene, directed by series creator Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train), doesn’t last long enough. It’s a vivid and promising moment laden with possibilities cut too short — and more importantly, the show seems to be all downhill from there.

Cattrall stars as Margaret Monreaux, the popular host of a Christian TV network and the wife — soon-to-be widow — of the network president. The person Margaret wishes eternal torment on could be her husband of 25 years, Eugene (Gerald McRaney), whose sudden death leads to the revelation that he fathered three now-adult children with three different women who weren’t his wife — children that he’d like to make heirs to the family fortune of billions, now that he’s no longer around to be confronted with questions or deal with thorny situations. Or it could be Margaret’s disappointing children, spineless son Eric (Corey Cott) and too-sheltered daughter Rose (Aubrey Dollar). Or it could be all the trappings of Margaret’s lavish but restrictive life, which requires her to present a facade of maternal love and forgiveness when she’s feeling anything but.

Debuting a little over a year after HBO’s similarly themed (though tonally very different) The Righteous Gemstones, the New Orleans-set Filthy Rich makes for toothless satire and uninspired drama. (It’s also an American remake of a New Zealand series of the same name, created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan.) In addition to fighting her only son for control of the family company, Margaret is forced to contend with “a hooker, a hoodlum and a drug dealer,” as the resentful Eric summarizes his recently discovered half-siblings. The “hooker,” Vegas-based webcam model Ginger Sweet (series standout Melia Kreiling), is the most put off by the Monreaux family’s moral hypocrisy, and her complicated relationship to her father and Margaret (or who she imagined them to be through the TV screen) is the closest that Filthy Rich gets to something resembling recognizable emotions.

The “hoodlum” is Antonio Rivera (Benjamin Levy Aguilar), a broke aspiring MMA fighter who’s willing to jump through whatever hoops Margaret sets in front of him to get his windfall — until he sees an opportunity to chase his real dreams. The “drug dealer” — aka Colorado weed farmer Jason Conley (Mark L. Young) — instigates the delicious inevitability of quasi-incest when he kisses one of his half-siblings in the pilot, but Filthy Rich soon backs away from the edge, then drives another thousand miles inland.

Despite its parodic intentions, the series displays a frustrating timidity in critiquing (or even chronicling) the evangelical milieu in which it's set beyond the Monreauxes' material excess and most glaring ethical failings. That, in turn, makes it hard to understand why Margaret is so successful in pulling her fans away from mainstream institutions and into her faith-themed hustles. And, for a supposedly salacious show set amid sinners selling Christian values, Filthy Rich is certainly far tamer than, say, Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s Instagram account.

The first three episodes (the chapters allotted to critics) boast slightly above-average production values and an abundance of plot twists, few of which manage to surprise. Cattrall struggles to hold on to her disappearing Southern accent and doesn’t get enough grande-dame lines like “God tests women like me with women like you” to keep the show’s energy from flagging.

Save for Kreiling, the performances — including those of Eric’s Lady Macbeth-ish wife (Olivia Macklin), her showboating reverend brother (Aaron Lazar) and the Monreauxes’ legal counsel (Steve Harris) — range from the satisfying enough (Cattrall) to the downright amateurish, and there isn’t anything of the style and self-aware camp of Filthy Rich’s clear predecessor, Empire, to make up for the spare characterizations and rote storylines. A succession crisis indeed.

Cast: Kim Cattrall, Gerald McRaney, Aubrey Dollar, Corey Cott, Benjamin Levy Aguilar, Mark L. Young, Melia Kreiling, Steve Harris, Aaron Lazar, Olivia Macklin

Creator: Tate Taylor

Premieres Monday, Sep. 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox