TV Series & DVD Review: Parenthood (NBC)

This NBC series stimulates thought. Yet it moves the audience to experience powerful emotions. Parenthood (2010 to 2015) accomplishes this through intricate and intelligent characterization playing to an overarching theme that parenting can and ought to be both rational and rewarding.

Buy the series on DVD

Family is not an end in itself, according to Parenthood. It’s a unit of unique individuals that exists primarily to serve as a rocket launch and refueling center. This is why a family can be integral to creating, making and forging the meaningful, purposeful, selfish life.

Parenthood, created and written by Jason Katims and based on the Nineties movie by Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon, Solo: A Star Wars StoryApollo 13), essentially tells the tale of four children who choose to have children. Two sons and two daughters and their parents sputter, propel and revolve in multiple relationships, professional, romantic and otherwise. They do so with humor and poignancy in each of its six seasons.

These are the characters in the Braverman family, led by Bonnie Bedelia (Sordid Lives, Presumed Innocent) and Craig T. Nelson (Coach, Poltergeist) as the parents. Favorite son Adam (Peter Krause) is a buttoned-down establishmentarian; he lives to lead. Younger brother Crosby (Dax Shepard) is the free-spirited comic relief; he strives to achieve. Julia (Erika Christensen) is the perfectionist; she thrives on striking the ideal balance. Black sheep Sarah (Lauren Graham) is the single mother mess; she seeks to create and cash in. 

Through her lens, the audience first sets sights upon this warm, intelligent and inviting family. 

Bravermans are sharp, unpretentious and intellectual. They think about what they do before they “just do it”. They use words. They talk. They also listen. But these are depictions of humans that know how to communicate through verbal means. But they not only like communicating with each other—they thrive on it. They draw strength from it. They get powered by it. They refuel. This feeds the interplay that makes Parenthood go.

Bravermans think about how to love and raise a child, as well as how to tend to themselves. They are biting, flawed and competitive—in unhealthy and healthy ways—and they can be bitches and brats behind one another’s backs. Like your family.

This is what makes Bravermans go and do. They go for the gold in life, even when there’s less and less time left to live, too much that’s been said in anger, or too much alcohol involved, or too few moments together in plain, honest talk. Mother and daughter, father and son, sibling rivalry—the pretty one, the smart one, the responsible one, the overindulged one—it’s all here wrapped inside a series of gilded parenting fables. 

With a neat timeline tie-in which pre-dates its thematically similar cousin, NBC’s excellent This Is Us, Parenthood depicts the child in the family and the inner child within each parent. It shows how each among us must guide and parent the self and it shows how parenting is properly done.

No problem goes unaddressed. No deficiency goes unnoticed.

The whole series is an enveloping, unfolding story of these Northern Californians (without the superiority complex) arcing toward a bittersweet resolution which reminds the viewer that life is finite, rich and breathtaking. But only if you choose to think first, put yourself first and go after what you want.

With baseball as a leitmotif, Parenthood’s is a distinctly American family orientation. Each Braverman works to play, plays to compete, competes as a whole person—playing more than one position—and each player aims for the grand slam. The show often hits and scores. But they are united.

This is family as it can and ought to be. Perhaps the one you’ve never had, always wanted, desperately miss, read about and long to have and hold.

Watch Parenthood for its fresh surprises. You’re likely to find yourself questioning and challenging your own ideas about parenting. The series depicts certain dilemmas, some that may be familiar and some that may not, that prompt you to think twice about your own upbringing, family and child rearing. 

Whether it’s raising a kid with Asperger’s, starting over, fielding calls from police, making time for sex or parenting the child neglected for her ability, Parenthood covers it all. There’s a memorable call for help from a truck stop in Gilroy, marital strife and a son named Jabbar (Tyree Brown as the most honest and appealing child character). 

There’s the kid that dyes her hair black, the dance audition, the hobbies, practices, rehearsals and nights climbing into windows and stumbling into sofas. There’s Craig T. Nelson hilariously memorizing and trying to remember why it’s important to invoke the line “I hear you and I see you”, the importance of getting credit and giving gratitude and saying ‘thank you’.

One of my favorite episodes occurs on Crosby’s houseboat. I like it because it dramatizes the character’s progression toward his choice to commit to being a parent. It is rare that any show tackles the abstraction of what Ayn Rand describes as man as a being of volitional consciousness.

Parenthood, filled with meaning, pathos and insight, does—from its theme that Crosby has the power to put what he loves up for sale by owner to how deftly it displays and honors the value of owning material possessions, whether a home or a piano. Other second season highlights include a character played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) as an alcoholic, which dovetails into an ex-husband’s alcoholism and a daughter’s drug use. 

But, whether it’s camping with Grandpa for the purpose of studying bugs at dawn, cancer, being fired, adoption or enduring Parenthood’s most irritating characters — Max, Adam and Kristina and controlling Jasmine — there’s always an organic reason for each plot point, each character arc and every plot twist. Even when Adam dresses like a rapper to get new business.

The cast is excellent. Look for all-around good casting — recurring guest stars turns include Richard Dreyfuss, Ray Romano and Jason Ritter — forethought, screenwriting and carefully crafted arcs such as Sam Jaeger as a businessman, husband and father. 

Flaws include that Sarah’s always apologizing, scenes don’t play out and overacting. Characters constantly talk over each other.

As the Bravermans’ family tale comes to a close, season five’s “Promises” episode is among Parenthood’s most profound. I’ll leave it at that. But know that this show presses every subplot into marvelous tales of redemption, letting go, dying, grieving, moving on and finding the goodness in each new day.

Ice skating with the kids—playing hooky to surf in the ocean—starting a school—opening a recording studio—running a political campaign—dating an Afghan war veteran—releasing the scream—coming out as gay—embracing moving day—leaving California—the meaning, memory and mining of road-tripping with Grandpa in a Pontiac GTO—meeting the other mother in Wyoming—accepting the marriage proposal—and, beautifully, leaving the 1972 Reggie Jackson baseball card in the rafters as a benevolent legacy for strangers, stressing the importance of chosen values over the importance of going merely by blood.

Enjoy Parenthood as a fully circular voyage of the child’s and parent’s—and grandparent’s—life. You will probably cry and laugh, often during the same episode. I did. But you almost assuredly will be provoked, if deftly and down to your core, to think. 

The DVD’s deleted scenes often fill in gaps as important action sometimes happens offscreen; the extras’ flaws include a lack for original air date stamps and music that’s too folksy.

TV Review: Schitt’s Creek (CBC, Pop TV)

This light comedy series deserves its reputation as enjoyable. The six-season show, which aired from 2015 through this spring, costars Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, who both also co-produce the program.

The premise of an extremely wealthy family losing their wealth and going to live in a small rural town, is silly. Schitt’s Creek essentially reverses the premise of the popular CBS comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, by replacing that show’s iconic grandmother character with O’Hara’s eccentric wife and mother and two adult kids as unlikely to launch as Elly Mae and Jethro. You can get a sense of Schitt’s Creek from the name of one of its main characters, who also happens to be the town’s mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott). I think I laughed out loud during almost every episode of the entire series.

With an affected, gay son (Dan Levy) and a dim, shallow daughter (Annie Murphy), the married couple played by Levy and O’Hara anchor the series. O’Hara steals every scene as a vain actress. Eugene Levy plays it straight. These comedians, whose enduring careers trace back together to films and Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe and television program, provide hilarious material, bits and performances. Levy’s real life son and daughter have a hand in both production and regularly starring roles.

Standout episodes encompass later season story arcs involving O’Hara‘s character appearing in a direct-to-video horror sequel and the Levy character trying to launch a new business venture. Emily Hampshire as aimless Stevie, Jenn Robertson as perky Jocelyn, Karen Robinson as hardened Ronnie, Dustin Milligan as wholesome Ted and Noah Reid as entrepreneurial Patrick round out the cast of townies.

Capitalism is Schitt’s Creek’s central plot springboard. It’s what powers the series, which has the sign of the dollar in the title. Each character requires capitalism to mine humor and make progress. For example, the husband and father makes a long, slow and steady comeback from being a former video store businessman thrust into impoverishment to mentoring an associate who studies, learns from and mirrors his money-making skills.

Schitt’s Creek’s climax comes, too, with a capitalistic venture. An apothecary, born of the son’s desire to break free from the pack, sets forth a new vision of his own making, rejuvenating the whole town and becoming a catalyst for his romantic breakthrough. In fact, the romantic subplot involving the son, poignantly and memorably rendered with a recurring cover of Tina Turner‘s “Simply the Best”, yields the upward arc toward the finale.

The actress playing the daughter, Annie Murphy, is very good. She provides Schitt’s Creek’s best dramatic acting. Each of the performances is excellent. As the completely ridiculous mother, O’Hara caps everything with dry wit and a touch of madness. From her pronunciations and incongruous vocabulary to her blinding, glittering wardrobe of feathers and glitz, O’Hara’s neurotic wife and mother character elicits the most laughs.

Each character strives to make money doing work she or he loves. This is the heart and soul of Schitt’s Creek. It’s what distinguishes and differentiates the show from today’s chronic contempt for capitalism and pervasive, predominant comedies infused with absurdism, anti-heroism and cynical vulgarity.

In this sense, Schitt’s Creek — silly as it is — is one of a small number of television comedies during the past 70 years that makes audiences laugh without sniveling at the universe, civilization and the best of humanity.

Schitt’s Creek belongs in the same general category as Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show,, Leave it to Beaver, the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Jeffersons, My Three Sons, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Golden Girls, Frasier, and Modern Family in depicting the American family as a joyful and enterprising source for fostering the happy, romantic and idealistic — and distinctly American — life.

TV Review: Mrs. America (FX, Hulu)

I watched every episode of this curiously involving micro-series. Like most cable television-based micro-series, Mrs. America skims the surface of its own topicality. It’s extremely specific in certain details. These details may or may not reflect reality as the opening disclaimer of each episode discloses.

But the nine-part streaming series does provide interesting depictions of both feminism and what the series creators clearly regard as feminism’s opposite—traditionalism. It’s predictably slanted in favor of feminism. However, it’s not without thoughtful dramatic touches.

The whole series centers upon Phyllis Schlafly. Portrayed by Cate Blanchett (Carol, Truth, Cinderella, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), who does not overact for the most part, the downstate Illinois conservative housewife and activist who took on the feminists’ pet issue, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the American Constitution, is the most engrossing character. Who knows how much of this if any of Mrs. America is true. As Schlafly, Blanchett essentially portrays herself playing a Stepford wife.

Other characters are key real-life figures in the so-called women’s movement including Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Midge Costanza, Jill Ruckelshaus and various fringe figures. It’s best to watch this series for an overall sense of both political activism in the 1970s and the proliferation of feminism as a dominant cultural trend.

Feminism is a side effect of egalitarianism. As such, it’s merely a variant, an offshoot of no serious value to human progress, which is abundantly clear in today’s culture. As an offshoot, however, feminism triumphed. It did so by dovetailing with its cousin, Puritanism, a philosophical parallel dating back to women’s suffrage and the evil movement to ban alcohol, Prohibition, which was violently foisted upon our young nation at the turn of the previous century — primarily by sinister, religious and Puritanical women.

Of course, Mrs. America fails to dramatize this connection. The clues, tidbits and details are all there for you to piece together for yourself. In color schemes, costume, set and production design and in certain characterizations in this show created by Dahvi Waller, Mrs. America captures the tectonic shift in the role of women in Western civilization which took place in the 1970s. It’s extraordinary. The series depicts the change.

There are many little problems, consistency errors and incomplete stories and subplots. But Mrs. America is brisk, smart and, occasionally, intelligent. A fictional character, Alice, played by Sarah Paulson (Carol, 12 Years a SlaveMud), is too pat and cardboard to be realistic. But she could’ve been real, or at least made more realistic, and this adds drama.

In frills, carefully curled strands of coiffed hair in the bundled and pinned up mop and an overly produced 1950s aesthetic of old appliances and shades of powder blue, Schlafly comes off as a capable if ruthless conservative feminist. She’s never really driven by a commitment to what she professes are her beliefs or convictions. She lusts for power.

There is truth in this depiction. The hypocrisy that Schlafly exhibited was real. She was a woman who tirelessly worked year after year after year to stop the Equal Rights Amendment by claiming that a woman’s place is at home procreating and tending to her husband and family. Obviously, she did the opposite. Mrs. America makes too much of this, frankly, and not enough of feminist hypocrisy, which is equaled and stems from the same distortion of reality; both “sides” radically, fundamentally oppose individualism.

There are too many loose ends and unfinished subplots in half-baked character and story arcs. A gay son subplot, for instance, never gets resolved. Neither does lesbianism among feminists. Neither does the issue of racism among leftists. A subplot about Chisholm, who ran for president, is embarrassingly abbreviated and underdeveloped.

For example, Gloria Steinem is portrayed as having a long-term affair with a black man. At some point in the series, apparently, she dumps him or vice versa. The barely visible man vanishes. Par for the leftist course toward the one who’s black, he serves a purpose as a means to the end of propagating leftist dogma. He’s never seen or heard from again.

This may have been a series point; that men are discarded as pieces of flesh by women claiming to seek liberation for women when, in fact, what they seek is for women to be as irrational toward men as they prejudge that men are toward women. But in any case his character isn’t realistic or purposeful. Most male characters in the series exist strictly to promote the feminist view that that one’s sex predetermines one’s destiny, fate and life. Not a single male character is truly dimensional. Again, this may be on purpose. Female characters are more dimensional. But they, too, lack development.

Mrs. America’s theme that man is deficient or evil and always betrays woman is depicted without much conviction. The main reason to watch Mrs. America is as a kind of cultural study of grass-roots political activism that sprang forth in the 1970s in the wake of the New Left’s domination of academia, which set up today’s entrenched status quo. Now, this brand of activism horrifyingly rules the streets in a nation that’s crumbling and falling apart.

Watch Mrs. America to find out how and why today’s monstrous Me, Too and other toxic social activist movements and their emerging anarchy came to be.

Steinem’s portrayed by Rose Byrne as a waif. She was never as attractive in real life. Steinem’s a sniveling, sneering, nasty figure. Here, Byrne plays her as softer and sweeter. The series creators seem to think that Gloria Steinem was a real babe. That she’s not doesn’t fit Mrs. America’s thesis that women who’re feminists are hot and women who’re not feminists are not. Steinem was simply less unattractive than other feminist leaders.

Steinem accomplished next to nothing and Mrs. America at least gets this partly right. Unlike Freidan, Robin Morgan and Ayn Rand, Steinem never wrote serious or best-selling books. Steinem never had serious political impact. Even her sole business venture, a publication that’s one of the great publishing failures in the history of the American press, fades into oblivion after great fanfare.

Congresswoman Abzug, portrayed by Margo Martindale, is brash, loud and interesting and Martindale does her best to capture the louder than life woman. But she’s not nearly as abrasive as Abzug was in real life. Apparently, Abzug had two children that aren’t even mentioned until the last episode. Mrs. America never gets at what motivated this angry advocate for government control of human life, who reminds me of Ayn Rand’s literary character Comrade Sonia.

Mrs. America’s best acting performance is by Tracey Ullman as feminist intellectual Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking study The Feminine Mystique in 1963.

As Friedan, Ms. Ullman is outstanding — she’s always in character and on point. Friedan is a fascinating figure in the so-called women’s movement. She made the best arguments. She was the most convincing. She spoke like a rational human being. She was a thinker, writer, wife, divorcee and mother. The feminist movement treated her like trash and Mrs. America shows this. But it does not even begin to dramatize who is Betty Friedan.

Clearly, feminism poisons American culture. Much of the toxicity was at least addressed and forecast by Phyllis Schlafly, a fact which is honestly depicted. This wicked notion that one’s identity is based on one’s sex is sufficiently portrayed in Mrs. America.

Yet feminism and the havoc it wreaks doesn’t get its due; Mrs. America doesn’t depict the truth. It does get key facts right, including Schlafly‘s influence on the Republican Party, pushing it toward religionism. So, this is an interesting depiction of how things went down and spiraled America into descent. The ERA was stopped after being ratified by most American states. But it’s never been crushed. Feminism spread like a disease.

Mrs. America dramatizes this horror. It depicts the air-headed movement to reduce sex to power lust based on the fallacy that one’s sex is the essence of one’s identity. It shows both feminism and its variant, Puritanism, as petty, vain and shallow.

Tellingly, the proposed Constitutional amendment, a relatively short proposal, is never explained. The ERA is not shown, let alone defined. It exists on background, apropos of feminism, without facts, definition, detail or exposition. In the end, Mrs. America fails to explore the feminists in earnest, let alone why their feminism spreads. It doesn’t grasp that a presumed conflict between Puritans and feminists is false; that they are both a fraud.

If you watch, and you should because these vacuous, power-lusting women made a demonstrable and sinister mess of daily American life, you could learn what moves foul women to lust for power over men. And lord over other women.

TV Review: Golden Globes 2020 (NBC)

The Golden Globes are an awards ceremony which are essentially and primarily a broadcast to promote Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) influence in Hollywood and to make money for HFPA and its designated broadcaster through advertising revenue. In other words, it’s meaningless except as a tool for promotionalism, offering no real value except as advertising for the industry of mass entertainment.

This isn’t saying much, especially now. I watched the awards broadcast this year for one reason: comedian Ricky Gervais. He hosted the show. This far left environmentalist is a passionate spokesman for his pet causes, such as his crusades against hunting, animal cruelty and for various laws aimed at controlling man’s life. But he’s also a biting satirist.

Gervais did not disappoint. The comedian launched into a scathing monologue against Hollywood, pointing out that the raging, pigtailed anti-child touted as a mascot for environmentalism is deprived of knowledge and explicitly naming Hollywood’s — and Silicon Valley’s — hypocrisy.

As Apple boss Tim Cook, a decent man who defied the Obama administration on principle and won, sat stoned-faced, Gervais skewered Apple and other technology companies for breaching while claiming superior business ethics. Above all, he was irreverent without being malicious. His humor was hilarious. I laughed out loud.

Why? Humor, like music, is complicated. One’s responses to humor are, I think, the byproduct of what lies deep inside one’s innermost premises, thoughts and psychology. That said, in this case, I think I laughed — and, apparently, so did many other Americans — because Hollywood deserves the criticism. That it was done with conscious, self-aware, self-mocking vulgarity unmasks the hubris of California’s preachy, leftist technology and entertainment celebrities.

There were finer moments, including for the celebrities, most of whom laughed at the host’s jokes. They did laugh at themselves, though some of them didn’t appear to know whether this was appropriate, an unfortunate sign of suppressive or repressive times.

The best performing artists elegantly or smartly exercised the right to free speech. Stellan Skarsgård, who won an award for his outstanding performance in HBO’s Chernobyl, joked at his own expense in appreciation of a crew member’s ability. Comedienne Kate McKinnon came out as gay in a humorous display of appreciation for comedienne and TV hostess Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian who, in turn, expressed admiration for comedienne Carol Burnett, namesake for the award DeGeneres won.

DeGeneres appeared in a montage in which she was shown telling a post-9/11 audience: “What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews”. The comedy succeeds in that clip because, as delivered, hers is a statement, not a question. This goes to what’s good about DeGeneres; her sense of irony.

DeGeneres was shown in various clips dancing through her life, which with her irony taps the essence of her appeal. It was fitting that she won the Carol Burnett Award — Carol Burnett sat with DeGeneres, demonstrating her grace and elegance as always — and she’s a testament to the power of mass media, especially television.

“Live your life with integrity,” DeGeneres told an audience of graduates in a clip, before sending up Hollywood pretentiousness herself in a humorous acceptance speech.

Integrity defines the night’s winner for lifetime achievement. Tom Hanks (SullyPhiladelphiaThe PostA Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodBridge of Spies) displayed honesty during an emotional acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award. This was the best moment of the Golden Globes, which aired on NBC. I say this because Mr. Hanks, an impeccable actor of ability, took the opportunity to share his thoughts and insights on his own ability. This alone is a remarkable departure from the usual pandering, bootlicking, sniveling, smearing and ranting that emanates from Hollywood awards podiums.

An old white male — at a time when the old white male is under siege in Hollywood — had the audacity to reject the status quo and imply that today’s industry needs to do better, to be better, to strive to be the best. Hanks made a strong rejection of the Me, Too movement’s proposed codification of egalitarianism, the basis for feminism, multiculturalism and other offshoots of tribalism. He emphasized instead the singular pleasure of doing one’s work, of doing it right, of doing it on deadline (and, by implication, on budget) and of doing it for one’s own sake.

Tom Hanks made this radical breach of altruism and collectivism after a woman of ability, Charlize Theron, thanked the old white male. Theron thanked Mr. Hanks for choosing to be supportive, subtle, decent, kind and deft in hiring her for his movie (That Thing You Do!, innocuous and enjoyable fluff chiefly of value for its Americanism) early in her career.

Showing genuine emotion for his wife, children and family, following an exemplary reel of moments from his greatest performances, Tom Hanks accepted his winning the award for, as he put it, “showing up on time”, which he rightly called liberating — he told Hollywood that “you [should] do it for yourself” — and for his lifetime of achievement.

This, not momentary hilarity of satire by Ricky Gervais, who distinctly, notably, wisely and, to his credit, did not mock or joke after Tom Hanks spoke, displayed man at his best.

Other artists also shined. Quentin Tarantino, winning an award for his overrated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, plainly declared “I did it” rather than parrot the status quo of an artist acting as if he exists at the mercy of the lives of others. Tarantino also acknowledged writer Robert Bolt, who wrote A Man for All Seasons, providing the evening’s most intellectual moment of justice. Laura Dern (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), unfortunately beating Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) for an acting acknowledgment which Bates deserves, acknowledged the importance of the story — as against merely pictures and effects — to the movie for which she won, The Marriage Story.

Best Picture clips were ads, not scenes, and the Best Song award presentation— an actor singing to promote his upcoming appearance in a musical was granted more musical performance time than the nominated songs, which mostly went unheard — was awful. Even director Sam Mendes was shocked that he won an award for his movie, 1917, which does not qualify for serious consideration of a great, let alone best, movie. Michelle Williams, a talented actress, accepted an award with what amounts to an attack on the virtue of selfishness pushing more of the same collectivism. Unfortunately, she did this under the guise that she was defending rights, i.e., woman’s right to an abortion, which needs (and does not receive) a proper defense.

For his satire, Ricky Gervais is the host of the moment. But the best part of the Golden Globes, heralding egoism, implied if not made explicit by Tom Hanks, came from Elton John, accepting an award for the first time with Bernie Taupin for a song they co-wrote. Elton’s exuberance, enthusiasm and title and meaning of his memoir, Me, and his movie (2019’s best), Rocketman show that art exalts life. Elton spoke, appeared and expressed himself with a style of his own. True to themes of his movie, book and life, he did so for his own sake, neither excoriating nor appeasing, placating or seeking for the approval of others.

That Elton John was acknowledged and recognized for his ability, and that he welcomed the recognition without pleading for altruism or collectivism, happy to bask in his own glory — this, not satire as such — is the mark of progress. This, man’s pride in his own ability, is what is worth celebrating. This is what we ought to strive to regard as golden and make universal.

 

TV & DVD Review: The Moneychangers (NBC)

The Moneychangers, a four-part 1976-1977 winter miniseries that aired on NBC, is based on the bestselling novel by Arthur Hailey, who also wrote Airport and Hotel. The miniseries has a varied broadcast history as it’s been re-broadcast in a few incarnations, having been split into shorter or longer segments of varying lengths. I watched the approximately eight-hour series on DVD.

The television drama is better than I’d expected. Combining subplots that feed into the history, conflict and survival of an American bank, which is what makes this miniseries appealing, The Moneychangers shows how general consumer banking works. How many TV series, then or now, revolve around the boardroom discourse, daily operations and profitability of a bank? I’ve never read the novel, though I’ve read some of Hailey’s fiction, which I’ve enjoyed as light industrial or business-themed entertainment.

Buy the DVD

The Moneychangers, produced by Ross Hunter, who’d previously adapted Hailey’s Airport into one of Hollywood’s first major blockbusters in 1970, makes me want to read the novel. With a musical score by Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), a cameo by Marla Gibbs (Florence on The Jeffersons), a radical, anti-profit Elizabeth Warren-type character and leading performances from Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) and Kirk Douglas (Paths of Glory) as two bankers competing for the bank’s top executive position, the miniseries has potential.

The Moneychangers bundles its variety, potential and possibility for good drama, or at least melodrama. Especially with pre-Dynasty Joan Collins as an upscale prostitute on a crooked banker’s (post-Bonanza Lorne Greene) payroll. Look for Robert Loggia (The Jagged Edge), Stan Shaw (Scared Straight) and Patrick O’Neal (The Doris Day Show) as a crime boss, young black activist and advertising crony.

Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) plays a handsome young bank employee who embezzles the bank, gets caught, tried and convicted. He then serves time in prison. After he’s gang raped, he succumbs to an interracial same-sex relationship for protection. Later, upon his release from prison, the bank gives him an opportunity for a fresh start but it involves going underground to bust a counterfeit ring, with help from a single Latina mother and bank teller with whom he falls in love.

So, this is not typical mid-Seventies network television programming. Anne Baxter (All About Eve) co-stars as a top notch bank executive. Hayden Rorke (Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie) and Ralph Bellamy (Roots) also star in key roles. Look for Helen Hayes (the Boeing 707 stowaway in Airport) as an empathetic doctor.

The central plot involves the contentious rise of the two bankers seeking the bank’s top position after a grandson of the bank’s founder announces that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Add to this a run on the bank, the “social justice” warrior (Susan Flannery), class and racial strife, a terrorist bombing, a mentally incapacitated spouse, suicide and a crime syndicate and The Moneychangers moves briskly with a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, the theme’s not an endorsement of capitalism. But, for a pre-high technology, pre-mergers and acquisitions showcase of banking, as with Airport and Hotel, I found the dramatization of the industry fairly accurate, relevant and absorbing.

Kirk Douglas is relatively subdued for a change, not hamming up every scene, gritting teeth and overacting, though he does show off his muscles. This is some of Douglas’s best acting. Plummer strongly plays a Puritanical second-hander and pulls off a powerful climax. The late Percy Rodrigues, in the best acting performance and role of his enduring career, plays the bank’s security chief. He catches the Bottoms character in crime and serves one of the The Moneychangers’ best performances and subplots. Anyone who works in banking or wonders what’s involved (or was in the mid-70s) in money-making, saving and changing will probably find something here to appreciate and enjoy, even if half-naked Collins and some of the cast are cheesy in that melodramatic acting style.

The Moneychangers does not depict high finance. But it entertains.