We've seen versions of Fox's new drama series "Filthy Rich" before. Kristin Chenoweth dazzled as the same character-type as Kim Cattrall's Margaret Monreaux — a Southern Christian woman — in the sadly short-lived "CGB," the critically acclaimed "Schitt's Creek" was a similarly perfect satire, and the now-canceled Fox drama "Almost Family" also entailed a massive paternity scandal storyline. However, even though "Filthy Rich" isn't entirely original in its origins, its debut at this particular moment — when several real-life conservative religious leaders are melting in puddles of their own hypocrisy — offers a bit of redemption to rebels and scorned women alike.
After all, the show opens with a blazing fire, and, as flames begin to overtake a picturesque Southern manor, Kim Cattrall glides out of the door in a stunning red dress, seemingly unconcerned about the destruction around her but obviously disgusted at the events that have led her to this moment. Though what led to the conflagration isn't immediately clear, we know right away that it had been a journey for her.
Rewinding the clock four months, we get to the start of that journey for Cattrall's Margaret, who began it as the cheerful wife of New Orleans minister Eugene Monreaux (Gerald McRaney). But they're more than mega-church officiants: Their Sunshine Network includes the church, charities, a television network and even a Sam's Club-type warehouse called The Sun Club. With their adult children, Rose (Aubrey Dollar) and Eric (Corey Cott), the Monreauxes are floating on a pristine and very Christian cloud until everything comes crashing down around them — literally — when Eugene's private jet falls from the sky while he's in the middle of a mile-high erotic escapade with several women.
His untimely demise, of course, leaves Margaret to pick up the pieces and grapple with the realization that Eugene fathered three now-adult children — "a hooker, a hoodlum and a drug dealer" — outside their marriage.
We have plenty of real-life models for how Margaret should behave: Time and time again, we've watched the wives of powerful men — Tammy Faye Bakker, Hillary Clinton, Dina Matos McGreevey, Silda Wall Spitzer and Huma Abedin, among others — stand with or even beside them amid their sex scandals, willing to share the brunt of public scrutiny, even if they'd had nothing to do with their husbands' actions.
These transgressions certainly aren't all old. John Gray, a high-profile pastor at Greenville, South Carolina's Relentless Church, recently found himself accused for the second time of being entangled with a woman who isn't his wife; his wife is standing by him again. (He is the same man who boasted that his wife, Aventer Gray, "raised" him into a man.)
More interesting even then Gray is the downfall the Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president of Liberty University. His "squeaky clean" image was shattered when former Miami pool attendant Giancarlo Granda alleged that he'd been in a long-term relationship with both Falwell and his wife, Becki. The story came on the heels of a photo Falwell Jr. posted of himself with his wife's scantily clad assistant and his own pants undone, shortly before a 911 call that seems to indicate that the evangelical Christian leader was severely intoxicated and bleeding from an injury he sustained while in that state; the university he led prohibited even of-age students from imbibing, which is often frowned upon in evangelical circles.
But while Aventer Gray had defended her husband against "strange women" and Becki Falwell has been made the sole scapegoat in the Falwell affair, on "Filthy Rich," Margaret is no longer interested in the subservient role into which she had been boxed. She is instead ready to take on total control of the Sunshine Network — and has decided to deal with her late husband's indiscretions as she sees fit.
No longer a prop and certainly not a victim, Cattrall's Margaret is deliciously fun to watch, adding depth and flair to the sometimes overly campy series. Margaret's evolution from a seemingly demure pastor's wife and show host to a manipulative boss, reining in her own children and her husband's offspring, make the show more than just a megachurch "Dynasty" derivative.
And Ginger Sweet (Melia Kreiling), the pastor's illegitimate daughter, turns out to be the one person with the ability to push Margaret into the truly modern era. Ginger, a webcam model with her own OnlyFans-type business, refuses to cower to get some share of her father's estate. Instead, she calls out all of the Monreauxes' moral failings — forcing Margaret to address the life she's been living for nearly 30 years and the parts of herself she's given up to hold the idea of her family together.
"Filthy Rich," of course, has its issues. Margaret isn't given the glorious lines that fellow Southern belle Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) bellows on "Greenleaf" (though Cattrall deserves them), and the massive cast teeters on the edge of cumbersome. The motives and actions of many of the characters feel predictable, perhaps because the show is too restrained — and it's clear that its being network TV forces it to be tamer then is beneficial for a show that needs to be over the top to be different from its essentially derivative roots. Still, Cattrall's turn as Margaret anchors "Filthy Rich" in a way that proves she was always meant to be standing in the spotlight — solo.