This is high drag, skating the line between drama and camp with a wink as the flames lick higher. As an opening salvo, it’s a doozy. Would that I could tell you that the rest of “Filthy Rich,” Fox’s new nighttime soap, lives up to those first moments. In the three episodes provided to critics for review, it does sometimes near that early, affected high watermark, but more often than not even its best moments feel as though they belong to another series entirely. (Though “Filthy Rich” is based on a New Zealand series of the same name and developed for American television by “The Help” writer/director Tate Taylor, the resemblance between the two shows is largely superficial, at least in the early outings.)
That’s not to say there’s nothing arresting about it—there’s a sort of Ryan Murphy-esque willingness to simply do the most that’s undeniably entertaining and just as undeniably frustrating. Yet a fatal combination of tonal inconsistency and pulled punches will probably confine “Filthy Rich” to the ash heap in time, despite the best efforts of its perfectly-cast star.
Cattrall plays Margaret Monreaux, a wildly successful televangelist who, four months prior to that series-opening flash-forward, is celebrating both the anniversary of the Christian TV network she founded with her husband Eugene (Gerald McRaney) and the launch of an online retail empire (imagine if Tammy Faye was an extremely white Oprah-like figure creating a religious competitor to Amazon Prime). That makes it a particularly bad time for Eugene’s private jet to crash, carrying both he and the two lingerie-clad ladies accompanying him to their deaths. It’s an even worse time for family lawyer Franklin Lee (Steve Harris of “The Practice”) to announce that a drunkenly-penned version of Eugene’s will is currently in effect, a version that guiltily acknowledges three children produced outside his marriage: Antonio (Benjamin Levy Aguilar), an aspiring MMA fighter and single dad, Jason (Mark L. Young of “The Comeback”), a camera-shy weed dealer, and Ginger Sweet (Melia Kreiling), a sex worker from Las Vegas who, alongside her fearful mother (Rachel York), runs a growing camgirl empire called The Sin Wagon.
The will, as you might expect, creates chaos, much to the frustration and bemusement respectively of Margaret’s two grown children, Eric (Broadway vet Corey Cott) and Rose (Aubrey Dollar). Eric’s married to a driven, irritable young woman named Grace (Olivia Macklin, wonderfully infuriating), and her brother, Reverend Paul Luke Thomas (Aaron Lazar, another Broadway stalwart), seems to sure like the idea of chaos at the network and any Reverend-sized vacuums it might create. It’s all perfectly soapy fare, “Dynasty” by way of “The Righteous Gemstones,” with little dollops of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” thrown in for good measure.