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Darling characters right on ‘Money'

Dirty Sexy Money

10 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC

“Gossip Girl”? “90210”? Grow up, people. The most satisfying soapy pleasure on TV right now is “Dirty Sexy Money.” Skip over “Private Practice,” by all means. But please get to know New York's rich, depraved Darling family and the people who (sometimes) love them.

And please note that this is adult soapiness, as opposed to skinny-alcoholic-kids-in-designer-clothes soapiness. That's what's great about it: The characters are old enough to be past those initial self-discovery issues. Their problems are, for the most part, more mature.

What are they, you ask? Oh, you know. Murder trials. Custody disputes. Obstruction of justice. Mergers and acquisitions.

This is not some “Mad Men”-esque effort to translate great literature to the small screen. It's happy to be middlebrow TV, and thrilled to drag the rest of us down with it. Dan Rather might not get the time of day from the Commission on Presidential Debates, but last month, he moderated a “Dirty Sexy” Senate debate involving William Baldwin.

Ah, how the mighty are falling – and isn't it nice to have fun, for a change, while we're watching the empire crumble? If we're going to spend our evenings socking it to the rich, we might as well laugh at the same time. The teen soaps force their actors to wear perpetual pouts and sneer into their Cosmopolitans. “Dirty Sexy Money” allows its cast to wallow in equal parts pathos and camp.

The best unsung performance is Glenn Fitzgerald's turn as Brian Darling, a self-centered former Episcopal priest who's discovering, almost against his will, that he has a heart. Seth Gabel, as playboy Jeremy Darling, carries himself with a Johnny-Depp-style androgyny that's utterly believable.

As patriarch Tripp Darling, Donald Sutherland perfectly walks the line between creepiness and camp.

And Peter Krause is getting better and better as audience stand-in Nick George, the son of the family's longtime consigliere, who gets enmeshed in Darling affairs (both figurative and literal). He's appalled but fascinated, he can be as manipulative as they are, and he finds their world increasingly hard to resist.

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