In 1996, Fox television aired six episodes of Profit, a weekly hour long drama focusing on Jim Profit, a newly promoted Jr. Vice-President of Acquisitions at Gracen & Gracen, a family owned multinational corporation. The show focuses on the intrigues and unethical underhanded dealings that we might imagine take place in such a workplace. What makes the show tick, however (and it ticks beautifully), is the behavior of Adrian Pasdar’s very complicated Jim Profit character (Believe me: this is a more interesting character than his Nathan Petrelli on Heroes).
Fox didn’t plan on airing only six episodes, of course. No, this dark and uncomfortable show was supposed to become a regular series. According to the commentary on the DVD set, the show was cancelled both due to struggling ratings and a number of complaints about the show’s themes (e.g., stepson-stepmother sex, child abuse, lesbianism). Fox still had two shows in the can, and the entire series can be found in one small DVD box set (just a bit over $11.00 used--what a bargain!) This summer, with my normal TV viewing group down from 6 folks to 3, we decided to rewatch the show and, given the way the show makes me twist uneasily on the sofa, I recommend it highly. It would make an idea Saturday marathon or a fun two night viewing party.
Given the relative brief run of the show, I can’t say too much about the plot without screeching right into spoiler territory. The plots are implausible but so clever that you don’t care; the characters may be a bit over the top, but their morals are so loose that you want to share a lunch with every one of them just to see how they think; while Jim Profit is an “evil genius,” he’s never completely victorious because some of the other characters are almost equally skilled; while elements of the show may seem like a soap opera (as my Bonnie would tell you), it’s a really funky soap opera. Ultimately, however, what makes this show work so beautifully is that the twisted, psychopathic Jim Profit character never had a chance to become “human,” never had an opportunity for redemption.
This is why I praise cancellation: with no time for more than eight episodes, the writers never faced much of a temptation of making the viewer even imagine that Profit could be “reformed.” Outside of one or two minor scenes, we never think that Profit is expressing anything close to empathy or self-reflection. No, the writers were still exploring pure psychopathology and weren’t yet bored with the plot lines that it alone created.
With no time for more than eight episodes, the network never faced much temptation to beg the writers and producers to soften Profit, to make us understand him, to make us think of him as “just like us.”
Thank God for cancellations and DVD box sets; enjoy the show.