When Stephen J. Cannell Made Profit

We have reached the end of another year, so you know what that means: Many TV news programs, magazines and Web sites will run year-end reflections on noteworthy people within the entertainment industry who passed away during the previous twelve months. Among the year-end list for 2010 is Stephen J. Cannell, a giant in the TV production industry who created hit shows such as The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, and many more. Yet one of the shows that I remember the most that would not have seen the light of day without Cannell's support was a short-lived show that he did not create: Profit.

Profit was created by David Greenwalt and John McNamara, and Cannell was one of its executive producers. While eight episodes were produced, it only lasted for five episodes on the Fox Network. Greenwalt and McNamara said that they were inspired to create the series after watching a production of Richard III which featured Sir Ian McKellen, although Profit's more obvious predecessor would be Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel, American Psycho.

Profit detailed the exploits of the enigmatic, psychopathic Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar) and his unhealthy obsession with--and career advancement at--Gracen and Gracen, a multinational corporation. To make such a villainous, amoral character the central figure of a weekly TV series was unheard of at the time, and it was most likely the cause of Profit's premature demise. This was long before the cable networks such as HBO and Showtime began airing dark, edgy hour-long dramas; all of its satirical jabs at multinational business ethics aside, Profit is essentially the proto-Dexter. Adding greatly to the show's intensity was Pasdar's pitch-perfect portrayal of Jim Profit. Pasdar gave Profit a fluid mixture of easy charm, single-minded determination and cold detachment, so much so that you could believe that Profit could and would do anything he needed to at a moment's notice to serve his own interests, no matter how brutal, shocking and inhumane it might be. While Profit wasn't a horror TV series, it was certainly very horrific.

Profit was an ambitious experiment in prime-time drama, and it would not have been possible without Cannell's support--he even tried to get it picked up on cable after it was cancelled on Fox. My hat is off to you Mr. Cannell, wherever you are, for taking a chance on such a delightfully dark idea. If you haven't seen it yet, make it your New Year's resolution to see the entire series by picking up a copy of the complete Profit DVD set.


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