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Series / Profit

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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 Mc Namara (Lois & 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 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 the 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 voiceover, through 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). The show's co-creator, David Greenwalt, would go on to work as an exectutive producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co-create Angel with Buffy creator Joss Whedon, as well as co-creating and producing Grimm.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Gracen and Gracen, 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: Everyone. However, the protagonist Jim Profit might be the character with the blackest take on morality.
  • "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.
  • Celibate Hero: Profit has affairs with Nora, his stepmother Bobby, and the manipulative journalist Coral, who are all very attractive women, but he does it only to manipulate all of them and doesn't seem to take any real pleasure from it. Plus, he is never seen sharing bed with any other women (or men for that matter) just to enjoy it. He gives a good proof of it in Security:
    Profit: If that's what she needs, that's what I'll be for her.
  • Character Development: Oddly, for Jim Profit himself. In the first episode he is single-minded in the pursuit of the coveted “President of Acquisitions” 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 Charmer: Profit is an expert social manipulator, quickly ingratiating himself with people by pretending to have shared interests and always presenting himself as a dapper gentleman. The only people this doesn't work on are Bobbi, who has known Profit since he was young, and Joanne, whose suspicion of Profit is dismissed despite her being the Only Sane Woman.
  • The Chessmaster: Profit. It comes with the Magnificent Bastard package.

  • 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, using a tack placed in his shoe to skew the results.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Uncle: Nora Gracen was molested by her uncle Arthur McClane when she was a little girl. When Jim Profit learns of this, he uses McClane's crimes to sabotage a covert takeover of the Gracen company orchestrated by McClane and Nora's husband by convincing her to confide this secret to her husband. Jim later presents Nora the opportunity to get revenge by feeding McClane allergic food and giving her the choice to let him die in front of her or call the paramedics. She chooses to watch him choke to death.
  • Crossover: 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 a a mob boss who gets arrested because of him.
  • 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.
  • Distressed Damsel: Nora Gracen, though the final episode has her finally showing a spine
  • Double Agent: Gail serves as this in G&G, unwillingly at first.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jim Profit is utterly disgusted by Arthur MacClane, a pedophile who once molested his niece. 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 Gracen's right-hand man, who's almost as corrupt as he is.
  • Evil Gloating: Jim normally avoids cackling, but Adrian Pasdar's trademark dry wit substitutes just fine. When his colleague brags about telling the man Profit framed for murder that Profit's life is in danger, Jim smiles and says she should give him Jim's best wishes. When a victim asks him how winning makes him feel? "You tell me"
  • Evil Versus Evil: Jim comes across a lot of nasty people who he makes pay for what have they done, in order: a Russian gangster, a psychiatrist who rapes his patients, an abusive husband who killed his previous wife, and a child molester. Remind us who the bad guy is?
    • Of course, he's quite happy to help the Russian gangster keep his operations running, only turning on him when convenient. Profit also gets innocent colleagues fired or imprisoned, destroys a journalists career, frames an environmental group for arson, and commits treason by trafficking a key cybersecurity asset to China. He's definitely the bad guy.
  • Exact Progress Bar: Part of the ridiculously 90's computer graphics.
  • Expy: Many of Profit's darker qualities wound up finding their way into Pasdar's portrayal 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 owner's 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: To Profit's incredibly awful childhood.
  • Freudian Excuse: Just about everyone, good and bad alike, had had god-awful childhoods.
  • Hero Antagonist: Jack Walters, Joanne Meltzer, and later, Jeffrey Sykes. They're all colleagues of the sociopathic main character who realize his true nature and try to expose him for what he is.
  • Hollywood Hacking:
    • Invoked and averted in episode 6. The "Ultra Chip" supposedly allows you to hack any system. Not only does Profit point out it will be obsolete in two years, but it also doesn't work in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Charles Gracen is known to be on the lookout for a new mistress. Profit learns this through his brother Peter, so he arranges a situation where Peter will run in on Charles and Peter's wife Nora in a private setting to give the impression that they're having an affair. Peter starts a fight with Charles, before realizing his mistake when Charles's real mistress interrupts them.
  • 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. However, while he did unambiguously loathe his father, his interactions with Bobbi can best be described as a love-hate relationship.
  • 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 commercial 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 Dana Grant 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.
  • 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 the computers have touch screens and interfaces that run on Extreme Graphical Representation of the level of Beast Wars. You can also take photos with a regular camera, connect it to 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 to the computer of a person you're currently talking to. This in the time period where you couldn't even surf the Internet and use a landline 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 for his own ends while presenting himself as a charming, likeable guy, and is willing to resort to blackmail and murder.
  • 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 with Good Publicity: Jim is excellent at maintaining his public image.
  • 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..."
    • In episode seven, Security, Jim is somewhat confused to see something in a reporter's eyes that reminds him of himself. It doesn't stop him from blackmailing her.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • When Jim's plans start to go awry, he shows a mastery of this. Need to undo a recent acquisition? Jim trades them the 'Ultra Chip' in exchange for going away. His rival finds out? Jim reveals the illegal deal to the Commerce Department, making himself look like a hero. Ultra Chip doesn't work? He trades the developer instead, tricking him into a shipping container on a one-way trip to being held hostage by the Chinese underworld.