Jim Profit: A Name You Can't Trust.
"Gracen & Gracen, spearheaded by its aggressive acquisitions policy, has a capital base of $14.8 billion, making it the fifteenth largest corporation in the world and a very exciting place to work, especially if you're willing to put in that extra time and effort it takes to get ahead. And there's plenty of room for career advancement as well, if you know what you want. I want to be President of Acquisitions."
— Jim Profit
Aired (and quickly yanked
) by Fox
back in 1996, Profit
told the story of Jim Profit, an immaculately-groomed, sandpaper-voiced sociopath with a twisted backstory
, who was making his way up the corporate ladder of Gracen & Gracen Enterprises through a series of Machiavellian schemes.
The show was created by David Greenwalt (Angel
) and John McNamara (Lois and Clark
). It was meant to be a modern take on William Shakespeare
's Richard III
: the show centered around Profit's quest for advancement and the several employees within the company who, realizing his true nature, try to get him arrested or (worse) fired.
Special note should be given to the narration by Profit in each episode: it's done in a cheerful, inspirational, corporate-cliche-ridden style, which subverted as hell by his bribery, extortion, incest, kidnapping, identity theft, and occasional murder.
Although the show was critically acclaimed, the series died a quick and sudden death because of low ratings. Only four of the eight episodes (seven hour-long episodes and the two hour pilot) aired in America, its country of origin; the complete series would air in Europe (it was particularly well received in France
This series has been singled out as being way
ahead of its time. Later shows, such as Breaking Bad
, The Sopranos
, The Shield
, and Dexter
, proved that there was a market for sophisticated dramas about villainous protagonists
Compare to Showtime's Dexter
, a more recent and far more successful show which has been likened to Profit
in its questionable morality and use of voice-over, though Dexter's voiceover narration.
Also notable as the last series to come from Stephen J. Cannell Productions
(although the great man didn't create or write any episodes of this one).
This show provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Profit's sociopathy seems to come from the fact that he was raised in a cardboard box. His rival Joanne suffered an equally Gothic childhood, being raised by her abusive and mentally ill older sister, but turned out quite normal, leading to much angst between the two as far as Profit tended to exploit their similar hellish childhoods.
- Addiction Displacement: Jim fakes one of these in order to manipulate a wife of a rival into believing that, like her, he is a recovering alcoholic.
- Affably Evil / Faux Affably Evil: Profit alternates from both extremes, sometimes in a single episode.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Profit attracts many women.
- Almost Kiss:
- Profit and Nora Gracen, though this was intentional on Profit's part as part of his scheme to seduce Nora.
- Bobbi and Constance Gracen, intentional on Bobbi's part to seduce Connie away from Chaz, though the fact that it was "almost" is only due to executive meddling.
- Anti-Hero: Joanne is a Type III.
- Autopsy Snack Time: An episode has the title character saying that a mortician needs to do all kinds of things around his work. Including celebrating his birthday. And sleeping with a hooker.
- The Bad Guy Wins: The villainous main character Jim Profit is such a skilled and manipulative schemer that it could end no other way. The series concludes with Profit asserting his secret authority over Grayson & Grayson, his enemies destroyed, and Profit making out with his stepmom just as his supposed friends and colleagues are celebrating their company get together in the next room.
- Based on a True Story: The writers came up with the "cardboard box" thing after reading a book about a serial killer who suffered the exact same childhood.
- Battle Butler: Profit's loyal assistant, Gail.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Both Nora and Gail have elements of this. Neither woman starts out as anyone to be wary about, but eventually Gail sends her ex-stalker on a slow boat to China - literally, and locks him into a box as well - and Nora lets her uncle Arthur suffocate from a deadly allergic reaction rather than dial the phone that's in her hand.
- Black and Grey Morality: However, the protagonist Jim Profit might be the character with the blackest take on morality.
- Blackmail: How Profit ended up recruiting Gail to his side.
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Profit never actually says this to Gail, but a few of their conversations touch on the trope.
- Bland-Name Product / Take That: Gracen & Gracen = Johnson & Johnson, with a side of S.C. Johnson Wax (the constant reference to "a family company").
- Break The Fourth Wall: Profit's voiceovers explaining his actions are borderline; but at the end of each episode he would summarize what he'd done, and end by looking directly at the viewer while finishing. Usually just before he got into his cardboard box, naked.
- Briar Patching
- Cassandra Truth
- Character Development: Oddly, for Jim Profit himself. In the first episode he is single-minded in the pursuit of the coveted “President of Operations” position, to the point of being willing to tear Pete and Chaz apart. In the final episode, he has the opportunity to do so again, but turns it down to reconcile the brothers. He’s put aside his blind ambition in favor of another goal, maintaining his twisted view of family.
- The Chessmaster: Profit. It comes with the Magnificent Bastard package.
- Christmas Cake: Bobbi Stakowski.
- Compelling Voice: One of Profit's most often-used abilities, right up there with blackmail and extortion. He uses it expertly to manipulate others. And hilariously Lampshaded on the commentary track for the first episode.
David Greenwalt: Hi, I'm David Greenwalt, co-creator.
John McNamara: I'm John McNamara, co-creator.
Adrian Pasdar: Adrian Pasdar, actor.
McNamara: Your voice is so awesome. I want you to read me to sleep every night.
- The Conscience: Gail shows moments of becoming this for Profit, especially in "Chinese Box" when he's fairly truthful with her about his plan and that his family wasn't as nice as hers.
- Consummate Liar: In the episode "Healing," Profit must beat a lie detector test. He does.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Very nearly everyone at Gracen and Gracen.
- Corrupt the Cutie: What Profit does to Nora deliberately (and as of the finale, "Forgiveness", succeeds), and Gail fairly offhandedly.
- The Cracker
- Cross Over: Sadly Foiled; David Greenwalt, producer of Angel, intended for Jim Profit to join Wolfram and Hart sometime during that show's lifetime but rights issues over the character and Adrian Pasdar being involved in another series (Mysterious Ways) at the time kept it from coming about.
- Date Rape Averted: And how, with Gail and Jeremy Batewell in "Chinese Box". She knocks him out with a statue and steals the McGuffin from him.
- Daydream Surprise: In the pilot, G&G security chief Joanne is walking down the company's hallways when suddenly Jim Profit walks up to her from around the corner and shoves her up against the wall as he strangles her. Joanne quickly startles awake from her nightmare.
- Dead Man Switch: Profit's extra safeguard against Jack, whom Profit framed and got imprisoned.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Word of God says Jim Profit would have been revealed to be this, had the show been renewed another season.
- Depraved Bisexual: Bobbi's seduction of Connie, though it's never confirmed that she is, in fact, bisexual. It's very clear she's only playing the part to destroy Connie and Chaz's marriage.
- Devil in Plain Sight
- Distressed Damsel: Nora Gracen, though the final episode has her finally showing a spine
- Double Agent
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Jim Profit was sexually abused by his stepmother, who blackmails him back into the sexual relationship upon discovering that he has become wealthy and powerful. Despite the fact that he is clearly unhappy whenever he's forced to engage in this behavior, and her repeated demands that he allow her to tie him up and beat him bloody, the writers and some of the fans seem to view it as a kinky relationship, not a series of sexual assaults. Fans often excuse the relationship because Jim is so wicked, ignoring that his stepmother is actually one of his Freudian Excuses for being the Sociopathic Hero and that if their genders were reversed she'd be one of the most vilified characters of all time.
- '80s Hair: Despite having been made in the '90s.
- Epunymous Title
- Even Evil Has Standards: Jim Profit is utterly disgusted by Arthur MacClane, who molested his niece Nora Gracen when she was a little girl. Profit fully admits that he's a manipulative sociopath himself who has no problem with destroying people's lives to get ahead or even flat-out murder, but he considers MacClane plain Evil and gives Nora the opportunity to get some well-deserved revenge on the bastard.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: In this case, in a creepy Oedipal way, but if Profit genuinely cares about anyone, it's Bobbi.
- Everything Is Online: One of the first shows to heavily use computers and the internet, though with really lame mid-90s level graphics.
- Evil Chancellor: Jim Profit is an Evil Vice President of Acquisitions. Profit's lack of scruples and continued success eventually allows him to become CEO Charles Grayson's right hand man, who's almost as corrupt as he is.
- Exact Progress Bar
- Expy: Many of Profit's darker qualities wound up finding their way into Pasdar's protrayal of Nathan Petrelli a decade later.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: Gracen and Gracen has its own computer network which consists of a CGI version of their real building. Logging into the computer of a different person is shown on the screen by walking into their office and a mannequin with a black and white grid with the owners headshot shopped on it exploding.
- Family Business: Gracen and Gracen, which Jim Profit desperately wants into.
- Fanservice: Pasdar appeared naked and/or towel-clad in every. Single. Episode.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: Profit, though it's more like a demented corporate speaker spouting uplifting cliches that are undercut by the action just seen.
- Flash Back
- Freudian Excuse: Just about everyone, good and bad alike, had had god-awful childhoods.
- Girl Friday: Gail for Jim Profit.
- Hero Antagonist: Jack Walters, Joanne Meltzer, and later, Jeffery Sykes. They're all colleagues of the sociopathic main character who realize his true nature and try to expose him for what he is.
- Hannibal Lecture
- Kubrick Stare: ... see photo above.
- The Man Behind the Man: Jim Profit is a rare protagonist version, as he eventually becomes this for the entire Gracen & Gracen corporation. Officially, Profit is simply the boss Charles Gracen's right-hand man and advisor as Vice President of Acquisitions. However, by the finale he controls the Gracen family so thoroughly through his relationship with Charles and his brother and the backdoor manipulation of Bobbi as Charles's lover that Profit effectively runs the company. As he puts it, his goal was to control one of the largest economic groupings in the United States, and he achieves exactly that.
- Manipulative Bastard: Bobbi. While she took most of her cues on what to do from Jim, she still managed to masterfully twist every single one of her targets around her little finger.
- Mega Corp.: Gracen and Gracen, of course.
- Meaningful Rename: The main antihero changes his name from James Stakowski to Jim Profit after running away from his abusive father and reinventing himself as a Machiavellian corporate shark.
- An Odd Place to Sleep: Jim Profit regularly sleeps naked in a cardboard box, just like the one he was raised in by his abusive father.
- Oedipus Complex: Jim Profit takes this archetype to the logical extreme —by murdering his father and having sex with his (step)mother.
- Off The Wagon: Played straight by Pete - and also subverted when Pete sobers up for his, Sykes, and Arthur McLean's takeover.
- Plato Is a Moron: One episode has Jim Profit comment how a spider carefully weaves its web, an invisible inescapable trap... Before stepping on it, calling it an amateur.
- Psycho Psychologist: Doctor Jeremy Batewell uses his skills at hypnotism to molest his female patients. Jim Profit uses recordings of this to blackmail the doctor into psychologically destroying a rival and committing her to an asylum in a perpetually drugged up state. Jim later exposes the Doctor and "rescues" his rival, leaving her in his debt, and others questioning whether her legitimate-if-dedicated investigation into Jim was the result of the Doctor's handiwork all along.
- The Public Domain Channel: Bobbi Stakowski is shown watching an old The Three Stooges clip in the pilot episode. The creators admit it wasn't a likely choice for her character but they didn't have a licensing budget.
- Punishment Box: It's the central object at the heart of the show. More specifically, it's a box emblazoned with the Gracen & Gracen logo. As a child, Jim Profit practically lived in it thanks to his abusive parents. A television set, visible from a small hole cut in the box, was his only way of learning about the outside world. Even as an adult, he still has that box...
- The Renfield: Gail has been compared to Dracula's assistant by the show's writers, though she's hardly incompetent.
- Rich Bitch: Chaz is a Rare Male Example.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Albeit ripped from the business section. Some of the dialogue in the pilot alludes to the Beech Nut apple-juice scandal.
- Sacrificial Lamb
- Sarcastic Confession: In the pilot Jim Profit blackmails his boss's secretary to leak a corporate scandal so he can pin it on one of his rivals. When someone at the board meeting calls for lie detector tests to find the culprit, Profit dissuades them by spinning a story about how easy it would be for anyone to have done it, giving himself as an example with the exact scenario he actually used.
- Schizo Tech: It takes place in the 90s but computers have touch screens and interfaces that run on Extreme Graphical Representation of the level of Beast Wars. You can also make photos with a regular camera, connect it with a telephone (that appears to be of the kind you have in your living room but somehow works in cars without being connected to anything, too) and directly send it on the computer of a person you currently talk too. This in the time where you couldn´t even surf and phone at the same time.
- Sexy Coat Flashing: Nora Gracen attempting to seduce Jim Profit. She comes into his office in a trenchcoat, she drops it to the floor, and when she's about to kiss Profit, her husband appears in the outer office. Gail has to stall him so she can get her coat back on.
- Single Tear: Jim Profit cries a single tear when he kills his father in the pilot. Justified because he's a Sociopathic Hero who does not understand these strange human things called emotions.
- The Sociopath: Jim Profit is the high-functioning type. He's an amoral and remorseless schemer who manipulates people around him to his own ends (including blackmail and murder) while presenting himself as a charming, likeable guy.
- Took a Level in Badass: Gail in "Chinese Box" and Nora in "Forgiveness" - this is what happens when you listen to Jim Profit.
- The Vamp: Bobbi Stakowski - not only is she sleeping with her stepson, but she once seduced another man's wife in order to wreck their marriage, via getting her to file for divorce so that she would forsake any sort of settlement as part of the couple's clause claiming that the one who files for divorce gets nothing. Not to mention getting said husband addicted to morphine and firmly cementing her status as his soon-to-be new wife.
- Viewer-Friendly Interface: The G&G Network is designed with a punch-button interface (complete with a giant fake hand pressing the button on the screen), an organization system based on a slow-moving-but-cool-looking hallway theme, and only is able to depict people in cube-format... Still, it was cool how they exploded when people get fired.
- Villain Protagonist: Profit, possibly one of the first television examples.
- Villain with Good Publicity
- Wham Line: In the pilot, Jim Profit is visited in his office by a mysterious sultry-looking woman who immediately walks up to him and shoves her tongue down his throat. His following response is exactly this trope:
Jim Profit: Hi mom.
- What Is This Feeling?:
- Jim Profit gets this a lot, being a complete sociopath raised by the television, but the moment in the pilot sticks out when he's completely baffled as to what this weird wetness is on his face after he kills his father.
- He also does this in the lie detector episode. In order to beat a lie detector, he puts some carpet tacks in the heels of his shoes. When he crunches his heels down onto them, his expression just says, "Hmmm..."
- Wicked Cultured