Profit: The Complete Series Review
“Life is full of surprises; you never really know what’s around the corner. But if you do the best you can and you give 100% then you can go to sleep with a clear conscience“.
Not that Jim Profit has one. In fact he’s a bit of a bastard really.
Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar) has managed to go from being an abused child who was made to sleep in a cardboard box to becoming Junior VP at head of acquisitions for Gracen and Gracen; a multi-billion conglomerate firm. And he still sleeps in a cardboard box. Profit has it all; money, women if he so desires, brains and good looks, but all of this isn’t enough. He has his sights set on becoming the president of Gracen and Gracen; no easy task when you’re just starting a new job. So in a bid to work his way to the top Profit resorts to some very shameless acts, earning him quite a reputation as a villainous lead. Things would be smooth if it wasn’t for several obstacles; namely Roberta “Bobbie” Stakowski (Lisa Blount), his drug-addict mother in law who has managed to track him down and learn of his new identity. Dealing with her demands is simple enough, but the fact that she’s a constant thorn in his side makes matters a little more troublesome. Never mind, Profit always finds a way to use someone, and as the series progresses he comes up with quite a few interesting ways to exploit her. As he tries to worm his way up the corporate ladder he acquires the assistance of secretary, Gail Koner (Lisa Darr), though you can be sure he didn’t just ask nicely. No, he bribed her after learning that she embezzled money from the company to pay for her sick mother’s medical bills. Then there’s the family unit consisting of Jack Walters (Scott Paulin) - president, Charles Henry "Chaz" Gracen (Keith Szarabajka) - the founder’s son and his younger brother, Pete (Jack Gwaltney), who suffers from alcoholism and impotence. Profit knows that the line is long and he must come up with ways to systematically erase any contender’s hope of a promotion. Next up is head of security, Joanne Meltzer (Lisa Zane) - former lover of the married Walters and finally Jeffrey Sykes (Sherman Augustus); a man with a hidden agenda who will use the media to get what he wants.
If all of that sounds like a glorified soap opera, well then it’s because it is; it's Dallas done dark and dirty, crossed with the kind of surrealism that graced Sunset Beach; John McNamara might kill me for saying that. Sorry John. Make no mistake though, Profit is a silly, yet 100% addictive series that no matter how many twists or blows it delivers it always manages to keep the viewer glued in anticipation for the next episode. There’s family feuds, corporate back-stabbing, slandering, outrageous coincidences and so on, but it’s all written so damn well that it’s nigh on impossible not to enjoy it for all its ridiculousness. It helps that the main character draws us in as well as he possibly can, even through breaking the fourth wall to do so, in what becomes a series of regular narrations. As long as Profit remains such a detestable - and at the same time likeable - character we can buy into anything he throws at us, and when it’s as relentlessly paced as this that’s a real blessing.
Profit is something of an obscurity, having lasted for just eight episodes (or seven, depending how you view the pilot) and it is one in quite a number of shows to claim that it was ground breaking and ahead of its time. Sure it was; hence its premature cancellation. Today it would easily fit in with any number of high profile dramas to come forth from the states, which is a shame as if anything it deserved a full season at the very least. Profit is certainly ambitious and ultimately ambition can befall a series if it’s unlucky. I mean how many shows centre on a bad guy? Jim Profit isn’t exactly a saint; he has no scruples but then he’s in a cutthroat industry where everyone is paranoid and somebody is always watching another person’s back. He lies, cheats, back stabs and bribes - murders even?; you name it he’ll have done or attempted it, and that’s great! What always worked in Profit‘s favour was that it never buckled under its own pressure, no attempts are made to truly humanise Profit and neither do we want that. It’s the characters in the end that prove to be one of Profit’s greatest assets. Although Adrian Pasdar carries much of its weight, there is a clear collaborative effort on behalf of every supporting player. As the series progresses - and believe me I’m trying my best not to spoil anything - every other player has something of importance to bring to it. There’s a non stop cycle that works around each character’s every action, creating a cumulative effect which aids dramatic tension. Seeing how Bobbie uses her sexual prowess to benefit herself, or watching Joanne desperately trying to catch out Profit becomes sad but compelling. Desperation is perhaps the key word when describing any character in the show, and in many ways it’s a justified reason for why so many of the characters act in the they way that they do. In the end its Profit himself who creates desperation and paranoia within the working environment, which makes him something of a corporate git.
There’s a perverse kind of truth coming from a series that takes a long, hard look at how businesses run and how individuals operate, but of course this series is coated with bizarre, aforementioned dramatics. Add to that a healthy amount of exceedingly dark humour and taboo subjects and you can begin to see what was causing the studios concern. Topics that include lesbianism, extra marital affairs and incest would be old hat by today’s standards, but just ten years ago these were too racy. Credit when credit’s due, the series revelled in it at the time and because of its daring approach it’s still fresh ten years on - at least in terms of content anyway. There are naturally several things that have become glaringly dated over the years. The most predominant aspect relates to the use of Gracen and Gracen’s computers. At the time it seemed as if Profit was trying to be revolutionary in more ways than one, even creating a strange computer interface with overblown, blocky graphics that look far from convincing; you don’t even see anything remotely similar on personal computers these days, let alone ten years ago. There are also other moments that don’t fare quite so well as a result of its limited budget, plus there are a number of slightly clichéd shots that only further add to its soap opera like charm.
It’s interesting to reflect upon Profit and wonder how it might have continued had a second season been commissioned. In all honesty I believe a second season would have been unnecessary; this could have all been neatly wrapped up in a single season of twenty or so episodes. Profit just isn’t multi-season material. Jim Profit has one clear goal and to even consider him carrying this out over the course of several seasons is a little more than absurd. It’s hard to imagine the writers ever being able to sustain interest levels. After all, the bulk of the series is firmly rooted in a single location and there isn‘t that many people to overthrow. Profit could have turned out like the masterful Murder One and ended up going out on a marvellous high but sadly it leaves us with many unanswered questions, which relate to Profit’s past and future, as well as several supporting members; some of whom simply disappear and await their fate.
As I’ve avoided spoilers, even most of the commonly known ones that are revealed early on I shall end things here, as it’s simply delightful to witness events unfold with little to no knowledge. Profit is a superb little series that was cut down just too early. Despite a few flaws its an amazingly entertaining piece of work, backed up by some superb performances. Why Adrian Pasdar never became huge after this I have no idea; he delivers one of the finest and most unashamedly nasty performances seen on a television series to date. I had immense fun revisiting Profit and seeing how well it performed after all this time. Thankfully it’s as strong as I remembered.
Anchor Bay presents Profit in an attractive slip cover that houses two slim-pack cases. Accompanying the set is a booklet that details the series’ production and provides some interesting facts. However it isn’t without mistakes, notably where it mentions that France was the only country to air it in its entirety. Profit‘s complete season was also aired here in the UK, thanks to SKY broadcasting, which is where a fair few of us saw it originally. Perhaps this is worth updating should the series see a UK DVD release.
The menu designs are decent, atmospheric affairs, although the lack of a "play all" option is disappointing. Likewise there are no chapter stops, which is always preferred.
Profit is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and early signs indicate that all is not well. The pilot episode is quite poor, being soft and full of aliasing, Edge Enhancement and cross colourisation. Black levels are also shabby and skin tones tend to get a little too pink. Thankfully the transfer improves dramatically by episode 2 (counting the 90-min pilot as one ep). Although it still exhibits Edge Enhancement the levels are dropped and its natural sharpness comes through fine. Black levels are much better, but skin tones still wildly differ. The series seems to have been filmed purposefully with different tints and as such the transfer jumps about and it becomes difficult to tell just how much is deliberate. Faces go from being natural, to overly pink or saturated looking. A very strange colour palette indeed but one that isn’t too distracting.
For sound we get a simple 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track. The only thing that really stands out is Mike Post’s music, which has been given a little life and sounds great prior to each episode. Otherwise we get a few little added effects here and there for outdoor scenes that feature a bit of bustle. Dialogue is well centralised and remains clear throughout, so in all it does its job admirably.
You’ll find commentaries with John McNamara, David Greenwalt and Adrian Pasdar on the episodes “Pilot”, “Healing”, “Chinese Box” and “Forgiveness”. The commentaries start off well, with some very informative bits and pieces on the pilot episode, which is largely repeated for the later “Greed Kills” documentary. There’s a lot of jovialness throughout which then repeats itself on subsequent commentaries. Although each track offers a little extra info there’s not a great amount of detail strung throughout them. These tracks consist of a lot of laughter and ribbing; with certain scenes being pointed out for fun, but there’s also a fair amount of silence toward the end after the contributors have clearly exhausted themselves on the earlier tracks.
Greed Kills (66.51)
This impressive documentary starts of by introducing creators, John McNamara and David Greewnwalt, who go on to discuss the genesis of the show and how their partnership came about. They discuss the things that influenced the show; Richard III, corporate structuring and so on, before producer Stephen J. Cannell joins in for some discussion. From there they talk about pitching the shows, and how they had little luck for a while before finding some luck in ‘92. They eventually get into casting the roles and finding Adrian Pasdar, who concerned them at first but turned out of course to be perfect. Pasdar then shows up on the feature and expresses his feelings on the show and how he created his character. The pacing soon picks up and McNamara and Greenwalt get through talking about Mike Post’s music and other production elements, along with background info on the character of Profit before several of the show’s actors turn up. A lot of praise is given toward Adrian Pasdar, from the crew and actors, Lisa Blount (looking incredibly unrecognisable from her character) and Lisa Zane. With all of the contributors on board its time to discuss in depth more of the show’s humour, controversial material and individual characters, along with how each actor chose to play their role. In the end the creators talk about why the show was canned, despite the rave reviews. Lisa Blount voices her anger at the cancellation, and McNamara, Greenwalt and Pasdar flat out agree that Fox dropped the ball and should have kept it going for a little longer. There’s a fair amount of padding throughout in the form of clips and you’ll find things here that have been mentioned in the audio commentaries, but this is still a well put together feature with plenty of insightful comments. Frankly it’s more than fans had probably expected, so well done to Anchor Bay for sorting them out with a fond look back.
By Highlighting “Disc 3” on disc 3 you’ll be taken to a short interview with David Greenwalt, who talks about trying to film a promo spot with an unprofessional spider.
Although Profit‘s life was short it remains an outstanding piece of television that deserved to be around a little bit longer. Deliciously cruel in its execution it remains a memorable part of 90’s television, and it’s with thanks going to Anchor Bay that we can cherish it for many more years to come. Kudos for bringing back an obscure, yet classic show.