Filthy Rich

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

“He was a good man. But not a faithful man.”

That’s a hard admission to make for Margaret Monreaux, a faith-based Martha Stewart who leads a massive televangelist empire on her own Sunshine television network. Her husband, Eugene, served as Sunshine’s CEO and had always seemed to the world like an evangelical saint—“admired for his faith and his principles,” according to a local news anchor. And while Margaret knew her husband hadn’t always lived up to his reputation, she always believed he’d been faithful enough.   

But when Eugene apparently dies in a plane crash and leaves her not just the Sunshine empire, but three illegitimate children with stakes in said empire, Margaret realizes that perhaps her husband’s philandering might’ve been more extreme than she realized.

Crash and Burn

It’s not as if Margaret doesn’t have enough to worry about with her official Monreaux brood. Son Eric had hoped to become Sunshine’s CEO on Eugene’s passing, just like Daddy wanted. But while Eric may look and sing the part, Margaret believes he lacks the necessary polish. Every time Eric opens his mouth, it would seem, both of his feet want to jump in. And while Rose has little interest in the family business, she sure would love to start her own fashion line. Too bad Mom won’t fork over the dough to make it work.

But Eugene’s secret progeny come with their own baggage.

Antonio Rivera has a young son to raise and a career as a mixed martial artist to foster. Jason Conley just wants to go back to Colorado and legally grow some weed, man—but maybe he’s in such a hurry to leave because he has his own secret to guard.

Margaret feels like she can handle these two well enough. But the third illegitimate child—online porn peddler Ginger Sweet—won’t be so easy to bring to heel. She’s a steely businesswoman, Ginger is—someone who knows her worth, and how desperate Margaret is to preserve and protect her faith-based conglomerate. And while Ginger knows her Bible, she’s never turned the other cheek in her life.

Maybe she’s not so different from Margaret after all.

Idol Gossip

Prime-time soaps have a long, sordid history on the small screen, from Dallas and Dynasty in the 1980s to Empire and, well, Dynastyagain, today. Filthy Rich offers two key differences. One, the show knows just how salacious and ridiculous it is. While it’s not a comedy exactly (because it sure ain’t funny), the characters feel as thin as Eugene’s flings look fleshy, and the whole thing comes with a low-camp sheen to it.

Two, of course, is the soap’s faith-based setting. Sure, some television melodramas have gone to church before (take OWN’s Greenleaf, for example), Filthy Rich takes spirit-driven schlock to a whole new level.

The premise, of course, shouldn’t necessarily be off limits. The Sunshine Network might remind some of 1980s-era televangelists, some of whom had their ministries implode under the weight of scandal. Certainly, we don’t have to look far in Christendom today to be reminded that we’re all sinners—even those who serve God (or, in some cases, appear to) at the highest of levels. As long as fallible people are part of the faith, Christianity will never be completely free of corruption, hypocrisy and fallen leaders.

But Filthy Rich, to this point, seems to know as much about faith—real, genuine, Bible-based faith—as it knows about nuclear physics. Tackling hypocrisy and Christian corruption may be fair game, but this show doesn’t do so with a heart to expose and improve, but a more basic desire to demean and defame. It’s guilty of the same “sin,” if you will, that it accuses the Monreaux family of: Exploiting a group of people to make money.

Because, let’s be honest, this show doesn’t seem interested in truly exploring issues or even, really, telling a worthwhile story. This is a cynical enterprise, hoping that its plot will be soapy enough, and its content just salacious enough, to rope in unwary viewers. It hopes its portrayal of Christians will be obnoxious enough to draw some attention, but not so obnoxious as to alienate its advertisers.

And naturally, this soap comes saddled with all the typical issues that prime-time melodramas often do—and perhaps one or two that you’d not expect. After all, it seems as though the show is setting up a porn impresario as its moral conscience, and I’d imagine we’d be seeing more of her business as the episodes tick by. Language can be tart. Violence is more frequent than you’d imagine and, of course, we can expect plenty of backstabbing and bad behavior, too.

Filthy Rich may be rated TV-14, but the name fits. While it’s hardly rich, it leaves us feeling a wee bit filthy.

Episode Reviews

Sept. 20, 2020: “Pilot”

When Eugene Monreaux, CEO of the faith-based Sunshine Network, apparently dies in a tragic plane crash, his will unveils that he’s fathered three children out of wedlock. Moreover, he left each of those children 5% of the family business, now worth an estimated $2.2 billion. “There’s no way I’m giving a single piece of my family company to a hooker, a hoodlum and a drug dealer,” huffs legitimate son Eric Monreaux. But will he have a choice?

The “hooker,” Ginger Sweet, runs an online porn service (called the “Sin Wagon”), and we see a bit of her business. A woman dressed up in a revealing milkmaid costume pours milk over herself (while a man seen on the other end of the online connection does the same). We see a rooster run down the hallway and several of Ginger’s employees in tight and/or revealing outfits (along with a room containing some whips and chains). Ginger dresses provocatively as well, donning a midriff-baring top at one juncture and a cleavage-revealing Southern Belle dress at another. She suggests that Eric is a subscriber to her service’s “premium package.”

Eugene cavorts with two scantily clad women in his private plane—dropping his pants to stand only in his underwear. (As he empties a bottle of alcohol, he reassures the women that there’s more, because he’s “one rich son of a b–ch.”) His wife, Margaret, reveals she knew something of her husband’s infidelity, saying they slept in separate beds for six months and refused any sexual contact, except for masturbation, for six more. We hear another reference to pornographers, along with several comments about “butt butter.”

Margaret is the face of the Sunshine Network’s ministry; we see her and others pray, quote Scripture, and talk about God’s will. She launches a new initiative—an Amazon-like shopping network—that promises “every employee, associate and vendor will share your Christian values,” with 20% of the proceeds going back to “our faith.” Before Eugene’s plane goes down, he asks that the “Lord have mercy on this sinner.” [Spoiler Warning] And when he does revive in someone’s shack, he asks, “Is this hell?” (The woman watching him says no, just Louisiana.)

Dead bodies appear to float in a swamp. A man punches another as part of a mixed martial art sparring bout. Someone slaps a man. One of Eugene’s illegitimate children grows legal marijuana in Colorado: When visiting the Monreaux house, he asks one if he’s allowed to smoke the stuff to calm his nerves. Margaret smokes a cigarette while wearing rubber gloves (to avoid nicotine stains). People drink beer, champagne and other alcoholic beverages. We’re told that Eugene would often change his will when he’d had too much to drink. In addition to the profanity mentioned above, we hear “b–tard” (often in a technically correct context), “d–n,” “h—” and a few misuses of God’s name. Lots of people act duplicitously.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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