When you see British matinee idol James Purefoy swing into action tonight on NBC’s “The Philanthropist,” you will also hear Sting’s “Englishman In New York” playing in one of the scenes.
There’s a good reason: the equally British superstar rocker is responsible for this show coming into being. It was Sting and wife Trudie Styler who introduced Boston philanthropist Bobby Sager to TV producer Charlie Corwin. In the mix was also NBC programming chief Ben Silverman, who the couple have known since he was a tyke.
The result is the Indiana Jones-James Bond version of Sager, although in real life this real philanthropist has a strong Boston accent, a beautiful wife and two great kids. Purefoy’s charming Teddy Rist is a divorced cad with a deceased little boy and an ex wife (George Clooney’s ex, Krista Allen) and a lover (Neve Campbell).
At last night’s premiere at the Paley Center in New York, Sager ‘ who’s a flamboyant character on any occasion ‘ was the sane one during a Q&A session. Others on the panel were director Peter Horton (Gary from ‘thirtysomething’), writer Tom Fontana, his producing partner Barry Levinson, and Purefoy. Sager reminded the gathered crowd ‘ an eclectic mix that included director/artist Julian Schnabel and “Honeymooners” actress Joyce Randolph ”that the show is actually about ‘ hey ‘ philanthropy.
“It’s all about baby steps,”’ Sager reminded the crowd. “If everybody takes one, that’s how you can make it work.” Through his Sager Family Foundation in Boston, the real Teddy Rist has been busy helping with the rebuilding of Rwanda, for example. He’s there several times a year.
Meantime, “The Philanthropist” is one of the few network dramas that looks great, and shows some real ingenuity. It was really shot in Mozambique and other African locales. The next seven episodes are also on location, and couldn’t be more original. Horton told the audience at the Q&A, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the description. It’s not about hospitals or the police. I said, Are they really going to do this on network TV?”
P.S. In between the screening at the Paley Center and a big celebratory dinner downtown at El Quijote next to the Chelsea Hotel, Sting surprised Central Park music lovers. He walked over to the Bandshell to hear pal Andrea Griminelli, the famed flutist, play several Bach pieces. When Griminelli was finished, Sting whisked him downtown for paella and Sangria. Today, Griminelli is on a plane for Seoul, South Korea to play at a private gig underwritten by Prada, Sting is back in the studio finishing his Christmas release, “If On A Winter…”
Here is Griminelli, from Luciano Pavarotti’s funeral.