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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
"Anyone who thinks controlling people is a science is dead wrong. It's an art."
DVD ReviewSome TV producers get all the luck. More or less everything they produce turns into a ratings hit and a verifiable franchise. I'm thinking here of Steven Bochco, David E. Kelly, and Jerry Bruckheimer, among others. I am not, however, thinking of David Greenwalt, who has the misfortune to have created or produced a series of critically admired, risk-taking TV series that attract a devoted, cult-like audience... of around two million people. In the world of network TV, one viewer per dollar of production cost doesn't bode well for a show's longevity. Sure, he helped Joss Whedon usher Buffy and Angel into the world, but since, the two series he helped create were very good, and very quickly cancelled—Jake 2.0, and Miracles. Still, he comes back for more, likely because he knows he'll never be hurt more than when he lost Profit, a sadistic little show that aired for only four episodes in 1996, despite near-rapturous critical acclaim.
Co-created by John McNamara (whose enjoyable Eyes was also recently, abruptly axed), the series focuses on steely-eyed sociopath Jim Profit (pitch-perfect Adrian Pasdar), a young business executive willing to do anything to get ahead at the office. He works for Gracen & Gracen, a multi-national corporation, and he's excellent at playing the game—heck, he gets his first job by murdering a high-level exec, then framing his replacement for said crime. "Profit is a new kind of shark that looks just like a dolphin," McNamara says in the documentary included on this complete series set. He's invited in with the others and promptly enjoys a tasty meal.
Profit is a brilliant character, and certainly not the stock TV lead. A product of an abusive father, he was literally raised by television, which he watched through a hole in the cardboard box in which he was forced to live. Cold and unfeeling, he isn't outright malicious, just efficient. He'd just as soon make peace with his co-workers, but if it turns out to be to his advantage to do otherwise, hey, that's life, and he's more than happy to commit unspeakable acts, then head back to his lavish apartment and crawl into the comfort of his box for the night (Old habits die hard, I guess, though there's a joke in there somewhere about thinking outside the box).
Profit narrates each episode, sounding like Satan telling a bedtime story, sometimes talking right to the camera, drawing us into his world, and it's impossible not to root for him, even as he works to, say, frame an upstanding man for murder just to get a promotion. Of course, things aren't that easy, even for Profit. If he wants to become a G&G bigwig, he'll have to get by suspicious internal investigator Joanne Meltzer (Lisa Zane), who knows exactly what kind of man he is. He'll have to carefully maneuver himself between the company's Kennedy-esque heirs, Charles (Keith Szarabajka, who Greenwalt memorably employed on Angel) and Pete Gracen (Jack Gwaltney). He'll have to watch out for the women in his life, curious creatures like his stepmother Bobbi (Lisa Blount), with whom he is very close, and Pete's wife, the forlorn, pliable Nora (Allison Hossack, a virtual double for Mira Sorvino).
The writing is almost over the top—the creators joke that the series could easily play as French farce. Each week, Profit is faced with a particular corporate challenge (say, acquiring a business owned by a ruthless mobster), which he must complete while avoiding Joanne's watchful eye. His antics are almost operatic (in Healing, he manipulates his tormenter by blackmailing her psychiatrist into hypnotizing her and forcing her to not eat or sleep until she nabs Profit), and provide plenty of lurid thrills for a viewer willing to cheer on the guy who sleeps naked in a box.
It's a cliché for the team behind such an ambitious failure to label their work "ahead of its time," but I certainly can't fault McNamara and Greenwalt for saying as much. With no one approaching a decent human being, let alone a hero to root for, in sight, Profit had no hope of surviving on network TV, even as recently as 1996. But the world is different today, with netlets like HBO and F/X making the digital airwaves a safe haven for the unrepentantly nasty creations among us. Put it this way—Jim Profit and narcissistic plastic surgeon Dr. Christian Troy (Nip/Tuck) would make great business partners.
As sophisticated as it was when it aired, Profit has dated a bit. The music is all very electronic-sounding rock, and very out of places these days, when every hour-long drama is scored by W.G. "Snuffy" Walden. Profit also interacts with G&G's computer networks via an asinine 3-D interface that looks pretty stupid these days, but retains an off-kilter charm. The costumes are obviously mid-'90s, though it's really only an issue for Bobbi, and it could be worse—they could be clearly '80s. Otherwise, though, the show holds up remarkably well, though I'd kill to see it produced with the flash of today's TV (I got a bit of a taste with the antics at Wolfram & Hart, the evil law firm on Greenwalt's Angel, which might as well have employed Jim Profit alongside the demons and vampires).
Brilliant but cancelled, Profit's nine episodes have survived thanks to fans with well-worn videotapes and repeat airings on the cable channel Trio (as part of a series called, appropriately enough, Brilliant But Cancelled). Thanks to the TV on DVD boom, you can now be one of the select few to mourn its premature passing.
"So, what do you want now? What you've always wanted, ever since you were a little boy in that box. More." -Bobbi
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The image looks OK on my 27-inch TV, but I can see enough flaws that I can imagine it will look a little rough on bigger sets. Whatever film stock the thing was shot on, it looks like the DVDs were mastered from videotape, judging by an occasionally muddy image and the appearance of video flaws here and there (the look of VHS on a DVD, the best of both worlds, or not). Still, I have to be a little forgiving—I can only imagine how little Anchor Bay had to work with, considering the show's history, and the image is significantly better than a cable broadcast.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a simple stereo mix that puts dialogue front and center. Speech sounds natural, and the annoying guitar soundtrack sounds fine, if a little thin. Not great, but OK considering the source.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Titus, Doogie Howser, M.D.
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by co-creators David Greenwalt and John McNamara and star Adrian Pasdar on Pilot, Healing, Chinese Box, and Forgivenes
Extras Review: Considering its ratings indicate no one wanted anything to do with Profit, it probably shouldn't even be on DVD, let alone in such a nice edition, but Anchor Bay has made the most of the series' cult reputation and produced a nicely featured set with extensive involvement from the show's creators.
Co-creators David Greenwalt and John McNamara are joined by star Adrian Pasdar for commentary tracks on the pilot, Healing, Chinese Box, and Forgiveness. The three remembers loads of details about how the series was produced, what went on during filming, and the show's life after cancellation. There isn't any repetition from track to track, and all four are entertaining and informative.
Unexpectedly, the Greed Kills documentary is not some 15-minute puff piece, but a 66-minute look at the creation of Profit, as told by Greenwalt, McNamara, a handful of the series' writers, Pasdar and others in the cast... even executive producer Stephen J. Cannell. It traces the series from inception, to casting, to filming, the critical response, and the abrupt cancellation, with stops along the way for talk about pushing the envelope for racy content (Early lesbian kiss? Check. Panty-sniffing? Check.). Though there is some repetition from the commentaries (including the CBS story), it's still a thorough, well-paced piece that reveals why the show was so different and, thusly, why it failed so spectacularly.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the set isn't quite as nice—Anchor Bay obviously had a limited number of stock photos to pick from, and the cover art looks a little homemade. The menus are nice, but the episodes aren't subtitled and are presented as a single chapter stop.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsLurid, provocative, and delightfully nasty, Profit was too much for network TV in 1996 but would be right at home today on HBO. Since that's not going to happen, though, it's nice to be able to enjoy the nine episodes of this cult Fox series.
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