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"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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..."