Profit (1996)
Principal cast: Adrian Pasdar (Jim Profit), Lisa Zane (Joanne Meltzer), Keith Szarabajka (Charles Henry "Chaz" Gracen), Jack Gwaltney (Pete Gracen), Allison Hossack (Nora Gracen), Lisa Darr (Gail Koner), Lisa Blount (Bobbi Stakowski), Sherman Augustus (Jeffrey Sykes), Scott Paulin (Jack Walters), and Jennifer Hetrick (Elizabeth Gracen Walters)
Created by: David Greenwalt and John McNamara

Before David Greenwalt made a name for himself at one of the people who started out scripting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later helming the production of the spin-off Angel, he and John McNamara came up with Profit, a deliciously nasty TV show that is obviously inspired by American Psycho, only with more dark comedy and disquieting issues that make me feel genuinely disturbed inside and even guilty for finding the amoral hero, Jim Profit, prime bad boy heartthrob material.

As a TV series, Profit lasted only a few episodes before it was canceled due to low ratings and controversy generated over its heartless and nasty antiheroic lead character. Eight episodes were created altogether and four of them are released to the public for the first time in this DVD set. I guess back in 1996 people weren't ready for antiheroic Jim Profit on their TV screen. But today we have Nip/Tuck and we see that one of the more antiheroic characters in Lost is also the most popular character on that show, so perhaps Jim Profit will find his audience that he deserves today. He sure finds one in me.

In this TV series, the ever-reliable and beautiful eye candy Adrian Pasdar pulls a perfect one-eighty from his adorable geek role of Declan Dunn in Mysterious Ways - he plays the ruthless and amoral Jim Profit, a man whose one sole goal is to become the president of the international acquisitions company of Gracen & Gracen. As the series unfold, I will learn that Jim Profit has a very traumatic past filled with abuse, but the show never uses this as an excuse to get me to pity Jim, instead Jim's past is a cold explanation as to how Jim shapes up to be the man with ice flowing through his veins.

In the pilot, Jim, whose real name is Jim Stakowski, joins Gracen & Gracen as a junior executive. His predecessor died, conveniently, of a heart attack. Jim quickly sets his eyes on the top and doesn't hesitate to use all kinds of means to attain his goal. Quickly, he blackmails a secretary Gail Koner into being his partner-in-crime, backstabs the only colleague that is kind to him and sends her packing, and sends his immediate superior to jail for murdering Jim's predecessor. When he's not busy plotting, he's doing little things for kicks like figuring what to do with his stepmother Bobbi who's blackmailing him (fair is fair, I suppose) and when the opportunity arises, pays back his abusive father with a tidy little homicide. All this happens about two hours into the season and the fun has only just begun.

Gracen & Gracen are populated by a cast straight out of a dysfunctional Jackie Collins story. The current president, Charles "Chaz" Gracen, is a ruthless man who distrusts Jim even as he uses Jim as his secret weapon against his opponents. His wife, Elizabeth, can't stand him. Chaz's brother, Pete, is impotent, always drunk, and is constantly jealous of men paying attention to his wife Nora. Nora is very lonely and as she becomes increasingly estranged from Pete, she becomes an easy victim to Jim's manipulations. I've mentioned Gail, the unwilling secretary who is trapped by her own sins (she embezzled funds from the company to pay for her ill mother's medical treatments) into helping Jim, as well as Bobbi who sees Jim's plans as a way for her to hitch a ride on his back and snare herself a wealthy husband in the process. Then there's Joanne, the head of security who knows what Jim is doing but she cannot find any evidence to get Jim in trouble. Jeffrey Sykes is the man with ties to the FBI who will join Gracen & Gracen with a secret agenda and he immediately finds himself in conflict with Jim. We cannot have two people with their own hidden agendas (Chaz) competing for the same bone in the same manger, after all. Sykes and Jim are polar opposites in that Sykes wants to do the right thing, but the two men play the game using the same rules.

Be warned, some of the things Jim does in this show are disturbing and even nasty, like forcing Nora to confront the uncle that sexually abused her when she was twelve and getting Gail to go on a "date" with a man that once sexually harassed her in order to further his own plans. Jim crosses the line more than once in the series - he is not a misunderstood man and he doesn't want anyone's pity or understanding. That's the beauty of Jim Profit's character: played with arresting magnetism and charisma by Mr Pasdar to the point that Jim is like the devil incarnate, he represents a kind of vicarious escape at first. Jim Profit is the badass guy who will make the Big Man pay and pay. However, as the show progresses, it becomes apparent that Jim is not the man who will take down the Big Guy and make us cheer - he is a nasty piece of work, amoral and cold and not above manipulating people in the basest manner possible to attain his goals.

With such an amoral man at the helm, how can Profit even work? The solution here is to leave one's morals and conscience at the door. Profit is so ruthless and cruel that he is a genuine badass antihero and I find it hard not to love such a cunning and predatory antihero. I love bad boys in my movies and fiction and Jim Profit is everything a bad boy should be and more. There are other things to enjoy this show for, mostly in the form of Chaz. That man is hilarious - he has the best lines in this show. How can I resist a sexy guy who says things like "The day he gets hit by a bus, I believe in God again!" and "I can imagine a holocaust of lawsuits and debt. I can imagine being eaten alive by bottom-feeding cannibals. I can even imagine prison!"? Not to delve into spoilers, but he will start a relationship with a character that is darkly humorous and therefore most amusing to follow.

The only likable characters here in a conventional manner are Pete, Gail, and Nora, but even so, Nora is always too weak and therefore too susceptible to manipulations while Pete is only showing signs of overcoming his tendency to sabotage his own life by the time the show gets the ax. But towards the end, the weaker characters Nora and Gail are starting to become corrupted by Jim. Nora is infatuated with Jim at first but towards the end of the show's run, she is starting to understand a little about her situation in which she is way out of her depths while Gail is starting to become Jim's more willing accomplice as she becomes increasingly tempted by the rewards she can reap if she abets Jim in his plots. The good guys, Joanne and Sykes, are generally too obsessed with their agendas to the point that it's hard to see them as the good guys - they're more like the flip side of Jim and company, probably with more virtuous agendas but equally obsessive and self-absorbed. Interestingly, Gail and Nora, who share identical story arcs involving sexual trauma (I can't tell if this is lazy writing or not since the show ends too soon), are the ones who promise to be the most interesting characters of the show if they are allowed to develop further as characters on this show.

The script isn't always good. There are always a farcical nature to the plots of every episode, a cartoonish feel, even, as Gracen & Gracen ends up dealing with everybody from Chinese espionage weapon and drug smugglers to Russian mobsters. Some of Jim's plans are fantastical and he seems to pull out money and acquaintances out of nowhere to carry out his plans. Also, this show's depictions of computer functions and the Web are laughable in light of the actual computer and Internet technology we have today, but that's okay. Everyone in 1999 has no real idea that virtual reality and the Internet are not the same thing. The strength of Profit, therefore, lies not in the script but the acting - mostly, Mr Pasdar's, although he has fine support from especially Keith Szarabajka and Lisa Blount - that allows me to be compelled to keep watching. Sometimes the tables are turned on Jim at the end of an episode, but he'd shrug it off as if it is nothing more than a minor bump. Sometimes Jim ends up doing something good instead, such as when he ends up reuniting the Gracen brothers as well as Pete and Nora, and I find myself wondering why he does that. By the last episode made in this series, I find myself wondering whether Jim really wants to be the president of Gracen & Gracen or if he is actually looking for something more than that. Perhaps he's looking for... a family of his own?

But that would mean redemption of some sort for Jim Profit. I will never know if Mr Greenwalt and Mr McNamara intend to do that (and in a way, I'd rather not see Jim redeemed because a gloriously evil man like Jim is too good to be redeemed) because the show is canceled before much can be developed in terms of characters and story lines. There are only delicious hints of what could have come and what could have been since there are only eight episodes of Profit in existence. A part of me is glad that this show didn't drag on and on because its premise is at best a one-season wonder (something that the producers of Prison Break obviously don't understand, heh). Even so, eight episodes are enough to make me wish that there could at least be one complete season so that they can wrap up Jim's story to a reasonable conclusion. I want a little bit more Jim Profit, damn it!

Fans of amoral bad boys, you know what to do. Get to know Jim Profit and show him the respect he deserves, folks. He's a badass dude indeed and as a plus, Adrian Pasdar shows ample amount of skin to enhance the viewing experience!

Rating: 95

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