NBC’s The Philanthropist

Posted by laurelgerard on July 28, 2009

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal entitled “How Philanthropic is The Philanthropist.”

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Teddy Rist, the main character on the primetime show, The Philanthropist

This event was a discussion concerning the new NBC television show “The Philanthropist.” There were four individuals on the panel: Tom Fontana, co-creator, executive producer, and writer of the show; Steve Gunderson, Council on Foundation’s; Sean Stannard-Stockton, manager of the website and blog Tactical Philanthropy; and Ian Wilhelm, The Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s senior writer.

The show itself concerns a rich New York City business man by the name of Teddy Rist. In the pilot, which I had the pleasure of watching on Hulu, this once man around town turns into an activist because of a life changing experience during a flood in Nigeria. After this experience he suddenly embarks on a crusade to help a Nigerian village acquire Polio vaccines. “The Philanthropist” is an entertaining, prime time television show. Even though some of its moments are a little far fetched, including Teddy following the image of his dead son out of the jungle, with a box of Polio vaccines in hand and a venomous snake bite in his ankle. All the same, it is a gripping show that will hopefully inspire people to start doing good.

One of the major things discussed by the panel was the fact that although “The Philanthropist” may not show the most accurate depiction of philanthropic work, it is still raising the general population’s awareness. Sean Stannard-Stockton made an interesting point: he explained that after the grand success of ER, there was a record number of applications applying to medical school. After airing the show CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), interest in forensic science exploded throughout the country. By airing the Philanthropist, it could get young people interested in philanthropic jobs.

As an American Studies major, one thing I know is that prime time television shows are reflections of current issues and trends occurring in society. Ian Wilhelm even went as far as to say that “The Philanthropist” is the first “Obama-Drama.”  Essentially this television show is a reflection of the current interest in philanthropy. Hopefully with the airing and success of this show, people will become more aware and interested in public service.


One Response to “NBC’s The Philanthropist”

  1. I’d like to help this guy invest in a global endeavor bringing attention to the natural resources in countries where the poorest in the world should be living like Kings of the earth!
    See the blog:

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