I just finished watching the first episode of The Philanthropist, a new prime-time television show about an adventuring multi-millionnaire who has an epiphany and shifts his impressive talents from making money to giving it away. This first show finds Teddy Rist bushwhacking through the Nigerian jungle to deliver cholera vaccine to a hurricane-ravished village. I particularly enjoyed all the Nigerian people along the way who told him he was an arrogant American and should get lost. He was undaunted. The show was perfectly cheesy and melodramatic—looking forward to next week.
This is a huge step up from the last philanthropy-focused show I checked out, Oprah’s Big Give. If you missed that, it was sort of an amazing race to give away money. Contestants competed to creatively and effectively give away larger and larger amounts of money in short amounts of time. In an early episode, a woman who used her $1000 to buy out the inventory of a flower stand and hand out the flowers to passing motorists left me speechless (as did the judges’ favorable remarks about this act of random generosity).
The protagonist is apparently loosely based on the life of businessman-turned-philanthropist Bobby Sager, founder of the Sager Family Travelling Foundation and Road Show.
One interesting question about the show is whether it will actually raise awareness and money for global causes. On the website, the show’s stated intention is that “This is not just a television show…but a philanthropic force.” Co-creator Charlie Corwin dubs it the first “Obama drama” alluding to the new zeitgeist around service. Indeed, there are links to health and relief organizations working in Nigeria. Presumably, next week the links will be to organizations working in Myanmar, where the episode is shot. I hope to see some coverage of the results, and also some shows featuring domestic issues.
So if you are free next Wednesday night at 10pm, and you like James Bond-esque adventure, you might check it out.