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Donald Sutherland

One of the more interesting things about "Dirty Sexy Money" (9 p.m., Ch. 4) — a very interesting show — is that we're not quite sure who wears the white hats and who wears the black hats.

In this corner, we have Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland), the patriarch of the incredibly rich, incredibly powerful, incredibly public Darling family, whose net worth is something in excess of $30 billion.

And in this corner, we have Simon Elder (Blair Underwood), their richer, perhaps more powerful, under-the-radar nemesis who has very personal reasons for trying to bring down the Darling dynasty.

The Darlings and Elder are "at cross purposes," said creator/executive producer Craig Wright. "Nevertheless ... he's not evil, and they are not evil.

"The evil is having so much money will make anybody see things wrong."

Caught in the middle of this is Nick George (Peter Krause), the Darling family lawyer who's the only "normal" one. He's the only regular character who isn't a billionaire — but he's Tripp's "spiritual son," according to Craig. And, in a recent episode, Tripp revealed he intends that Nick will eventually run the Darling empire.

"This show is very much an exploration of what that position is," Craig said. "What does it mean to be near this kind of privilege, near this kind of excess, near this kind of wealth? ... What's it like to be near this kind of thing and then look at yourself and say, 'Do I want it? How much do I want it? What would I be willing to do to become, really, a part of it?"'

Which makes "Dirty Sexy Money" sound a lot more serious than it really is. This is very funny stuff as the next generation of Darlings blunder through life — Patrick (William Baldwin), the New York attorney general who can't give up his transsexual girlfriend; much-married Karen (Natalie Zea), who's in love with Nick (a married man himself); Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald), the mean-spirited minister, and wild-child twins Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) and Jeremy (Seth Gabel).

Overarching all of this is the death of Nick's father, Dutch, the Darlings' longtime lawyer who was, it would seem, murdered. And if it wasn't one of the Darlings who did it, it might have been Simon Elder.

There's a lot of history there, including the affair that the Darling matriarch, Letitia (Jill Clayburgh), carried on with Nick's father for decades. As a matter of fact, we learned early on that one of the Darling children was fathered by Dutch. And last week we learned the identity of Dutch's other son — it's Brian, who can't stand Nick.

Which is another nice thing about "Dirty Sexy Money" — it dispenses enough information about its mysteries to keep viewers interested without giving away too much all at once.

(And, Wright promised, "By the end of the first season, we will have the answer to who killed Dutch.")

But not everything is presented to viewers in a neat little package. This isn't "Dallas," with J.R. as the bad guy and Bobby as the good guy.

"From moment to moment, you are going to see their loyalty shift and change in a way that we are used to seeing on cable shows where you are not sure who is good and who is bad," Wright said. "Because wherever the money goes, the skewed vision goes."


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