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MOVIE INFO

Created By:
David Greenwalt, John McNamara
Cast:
Adrian Pasdar, Lisa Zane, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Gwaltney, Allison Hossack, Lisa Darr, Lisa Blount
Writing Credits:
Various

Tagline:
A name you can't trust.

Synopsis:
At the multinational corporation of Gracen and Gracen, executive Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar) is the golden boy: handsome, effective, efficient, on the fast track to the company's top positions. What his superiors don't realize, however, is that Profit's success is largely due to his pure and unadulterated ruthlessness. No tactic is too low or too unsavory for Profit, who uses blackmail, sex, murder, and more to get what he wants. But Profit has two problems that may stop him in his tracks: suspicious Gracen security chief Joanne Meltzer (Lisa Zane) and his own traumatic childhood experiences. Profit was short lived in its initial broadcast run on the Fox network, with only the pilot and three additional episodes being shown before the program was cancelled, presumably due to its subject matter and sociopathic protagonist. "The Complete Series" contains the two-part pilot and seven other episodes, including four that were never broadcast.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Stereo Surround
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 405 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 8/9/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary for Four Episodes
• “Greed Kills” Documentary


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Profit: The Complete Series (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2005)

Anyone remember the old days when studios were reluctant to release much TV on DVD? They tossed out compilations but feared that full season sets would crash and burn.

Boy, has that landscaped changed. Not only do we now get plenty of well-known product in complete season packages, but also obscure titles receive their due. Shows that never took off on the air earn a whole new life on DVD. For instance, Freaks and Geeks found an audience it never had when it sputtered on broadcast TV.

Add 1996’s Profit to the list of shows that hope to prosper on the shiny little disc. Though well-received by critics when it aired in April 1996, the series was apparently regarded as too dark and edgy by the general public. Or maybe not – since Fox yanked the show so quickly, most people never had a chance to decide. Only four episodes aired, which left four programs in the tank never to be seen.

Until now, that is. Profit: The Complete Series includes all eight episodes of the show. I’ll look at each program on its own and then add a general thought about Profit. The synopses come from information on the DVDs themselves.

Disc One:

Pilot: “Aiming to eliminate the reigning President of Acquisitions of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate for which he works, Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar) sets about leaking damaging information to the press which he hopes will lead to his own position being improved.”

Perhaps as the series progresses we’ll discover some redeeming characteristics about Profit. None of them appear in the “Pilot”, though, as he comes across as a thoroughly slimy and disreputable personality. And that’s a good thing, as this tone makes the series distinctive.

Changes in the industry have made a series with a bad guy as the lead character less unusual, but Profit remains surprisingly dark. The “Pilot” sets the table quite well. It doesn’t pull any punches and starts off the series with incisive and cynical portrayals of the personalities and situations.

Hero: “Jack Walters (Scott Paulin) and security chief Joanne Meltzer (Lisa Zane) delves into Profit’s past. Meanwhile, Profit befriends Jack’s vulnerable wife (Jennifer Hetrick), who inadvertently provides him with the means to neutralize their threat and to advance his own nefarious plans.”

I can’t decide if the incredibly intricate plots executed by Profit are ludicrous or cool. Through two episodes, they lean toward the latter, though he does seem to cover too many of the bases too well. Still, matters take an intriguing turn with Profit’s attack on Walters.

Disc Two:

Sykes: “Profit is ordered to recruit the dynamic Jeffrey Sykes (Sherman Augustus) to Gracen and Gracen and to acquire the business holdings of a Russian mobster. Meanwhile, his stepmother and occasional lover (Lisa Blount) is blackmailing him.”

I guess the folks behind the series agreed that not every show could feature a nearly omnipotent Jim, as “Sykes” puts him in a more vulnerable position. Of course, we know he’ll eventually get out of it, but it’s good to see him on the ropes for a while. Sykes presents another worthy adversary and that factor makes this show strong.

Healing: “Charles Gracen (Keith Szarabajka) determines to put an end to the conflict between Jim Profit and Joanne Meltzer by making them take lie-detector tests.”

The final episode aired, “Healing” ends the series’ broadcast run on a lackluster notes. Profit’s tactics against Joanne involve her therapist and hypnosis, and those make the show a little silly at times. In addition, the program veers toward soap opera due to Jim’s involvement with Nora (Allison Hossack), the wife of his colleague Pete Gracen (Jack Gwaltney). This is the weakest show to date.

Cupid: “Gracen and Gracen is close to signing an acquisition deal with Ray and Anna Kestrel. Ray backs out of the deal until Anna comes back to him, but she is reluctant to return and experience his abusive reign of terror for a second time just to secure the deal.”

“Cupid” rebounds with an unusually complex story. It deals with the Kestrel deal from a number of sides and always keeps us off-guard. In addition, Bobbi attempts to romance Charles, which leads to a little dark comedy, though the episode ends with an especially downbeat conclusion.

Chinese Box: “Profit must break away from Wong Industries to stop an FBI investigation.”

With only two more episodes to go, I’d peg Jim’s secretary Gail (Lisa Darr) as the series’ most complex character. Everyone has another agenda, but she seems the most conflicted about it. This episode focuses on her involvement and what she’ll do to help her ill mother, and that factor – along with another typically dense plot – makes it a good one.

Disc Three:

Security: “One of the workers in the security department turns out to be an undercover journalist writing an exposé on corruption within the company.”

One thing we know after this many shows: you can’t really play Profit. Sure, Sykes got the better of him in that episode, but not to a huge degree; our boy’s always going to end up pretty close to the top. “Security” puts him against another worthy opponent with a sexual element as well. It’s not anything mind-blowing, but it’s a good watch.

Forgiveness: “When Pete Gracen decides to make a takeover bid for the company with his wife’s uncle, she makes a startling revelation about him.”

While every episode of Profit featured sleazy people – especially the series’ lead – “Forgiveness” finds the lowest of the low. Nora’s uncle is an unrepentant child molester who raped her as a 12-year-old – and clearly would gladly do the same to other girls in that age bracket. The program doesn’t handle this material in a gratuitous manner, though the uncle character probably could have used a little more nuance; he becomes too easy to hate.

The biggest thing to hate about “Forgiveness” is that it leaves us hanging. The producers knew that this might have been the final episode, so they attempted to wrap things up in a vague manner, but this doesn’t really work. “Forgiveness” doesn’t bring any closure as it makes us wonder what will happen next.

Alas, we’ll never find out, though the extras reveal some possible developments for the second season that never came. I didn’t remember the series from its “blink and you’ll miss it” network run in 1996. I don’t know how I would have reacted to it back then, but now it seems like a pretty interesting though not wholly successful show.

My only real complaints come from the soap opera elements. The series doesn’t truly get sappy, and I suppose it needs some form of real human emotion to keep from becoming artificially cynical. Still, I can’t help but wish it’d gone all the way and made the world of Profit unrelentingly dark. It might not be realistic, but given that Profit’s machinations are almost MacGyveresque, I don’t think this would have been a problem.

Profit does revel in its cynicism, and that’s what makes it fun. The series turns into soap opera a little too much of the time, but not enough to negatively affect it. Perhaps it’s best the show died when it did, as I don’t know how long they could have maintained it. As it stands, Profit stands as a groundbreaking and entertaining series.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Profit appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the package starts poorly with the rough-looking “Pilot”, it quickly recovers and usually offers positive visuals.

That was a good thing, for the “Pilot” really did offer bad visuals. Apparently shot on film but mastered on video, it suffered from the problems associated with both but none of their positives. Sharpness looked iffy at best. Most of the show presented prominent edge enhancement, and that contributed to the soft, blurry look. I noticed lots of shimmering and jagged edges as well, along with some source flaws like specks. Colors were murky while blacks looked inky and messy. Shadows came across as dense and thick.

Once we got past the ugly “Pilot”, the show looked pretty good. Sharpness mostly fared well. Occasionally wide shots appeared a little blurry, partially due to some continued edge enhancement. The haloes were never as bad as they were during the “Pilot”, but they popped up to a moderate degree. Mostly the programs demonstrated more than adequate delineation, though. Jagged edges weren’t an issue, though shimmering showed up in backgrounds, the moiré effects weren’t much of a distraction; they certainly paled compared to the heavy strobing seen during the pilot.

Source flaws also decreased. Some light grain still appeared, but the subsequent seven shows failed to demonstrate the messiness of the “Pilot”. Other defects also were fairly insubstantial. I noticed the occasional speck but that was about it, as the programs mostly looked clean.

Profit wasn’t the kind of series that would want to feature a bright, sunny palette, so it went with generally restricted hues. In a creative move, it avoided the kind of icy blues we might expect from such a dark show. Instead, much of the series used a golden tint that left it without too many distinctive colors. The occasional red manifested itself, but otherwise the tones stayed limited. They looked fine within those dimensions, though, as I noted no problems with the hues.

Blacks usually came across well, though I thought they seemed a bit smeared at times. They presented decent depth but they tended to fade into the backgrounds more than I’d like. Shadow detail was strong, however, as low-light situations appeared well rendered. I debated whether Profit deserved a “B-“ or a “C+”. I went with a higher grade due to the program’s origins and its relative strengths. Most of the shows really did look quite good.

Though not ambitious, the stereo surround soundtrack of Profit served its needs. Surround usage was minor through all eight episodes. I noticed mild reinforcement of the music and that was about it. Otherwise the audio focused on the front channels, where it offered surprisingly good stereo information. Vocals occasionally bled slightly to the sides, but they usually stayed appropriately focused on the center. Music used the side channels well and featured prominently in the shows. Effects tended toward ambience, and those elements added a little life. A few of the more active scenes also brought out decent spread.

Audio quality was quite positive. Speech consistently came across as crisp and distinctive, and I noticed no issues with edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded pretty terrific. The score offered bright highs and warm lows that made the songs a consistent treat. Effects occasionally appeared slightly rough, but they usually seemed accurate and concise. Again, bass response was very good. Nothing revelatory occurred here, but the audio was satisfying for this sort of project.

While not stuffed with supplements, Profit offers some interesting pieces. For four episodes, we find audio commentaries with creators David Greenwalt and John McNamara plus actor Adrian Pasdar. We find commentary for “Pilot”, “Healing”, “Chinese Box” and “Forgiveness”. All three chat together for these running, screen-specific discussions. They start well but the commentaries soon become less useful.

Subjects covered include the series’ origins and difficulties encountered bringing it to TV, casting and approaches to characters, locations and sets, story concepts and the series’ tone, costumes, props, and the show’s look, creative conflicts, influences and inspirations, how they dealt with the network censors, and ideas for the second season that never came. The “Pilot” commentary easily acts as the best of the bunch. It goes into the basics well and gives us a nice feel for things.

Unfortunately, the tracks become more tedious for the three subsequent episodes, largely due to tons of praise. Some of that element appears in the “Pilot” commentary, but the quality of the information compensates. For the other three, however, self-congratulation and happy talk dominate. Occasional good notes still appear, but matters degenerate, especially during the track for “Forgiveness”. Listen to the commentary for the “Pilot” but venture into the others at your own risk.

A documentary called Greed Kills runs a whopping one hour, six minutes and 51 seconds. It mixes show clips, archival materials, and interviews with Greenwalt, McNamara, Pasdar, executive producer Stephen J. Cannell, and actors Lisa Blount and Lisa Zane. The show covers the development of the McNamara/Greenwalt partnership as well as the origins of Profit, its path to the screen, shooting the “Pilot” and attached controversies, casting, character issues and the approaches taken by the actors, the use of voiceovers, inspirations and related concepts, storylines, stretching boundaries and censorship, reactions to the show and its legacy.

”Kills” repeats some of what we hear in the commentaries, but it acts as a much more satisfying package. It lacks most of the inane praise and self-congratulation of the commentaries and discusses the series in a tight manner. We get a very good synopsis of all the appropriate issues and learn quite a lot in this strong piece.

Also on DVD presents ads for Titus and Doogie Howser, MD. Finally, an eight-page booklet includes a good essay by Jo Swerling that covers the production’s history.

One of those series seen as ahead of its time and too edgy for network TV in its era, Profit doesn’t quite live up to its legend. However, the show does a lot more right than wrong and proves to be interesting and entertaining. Except for the “Pilot”, the episodes looked pretty good, and audio was always fine as well. The extras include erratic audio commentaries as well as a solid documentary. Profit remains too dark to be for everyone, but fans of cynical TV drama should give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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