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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."
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 McNamera (Lois and Clark). It was meant to be a modern take on 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.
This series has been singled out as being way ahead of its time. Later shows, such as 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 left-of-center morality and use of voice-over, though Dexter's voiceover narration.
- 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.
- Affably Evil / Evilly Affable: Profit alternates from both extremes, sometimes within a single episode.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys
- 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.
- Anti-Hero: Joanne is a Type III.
- 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
- Blackmail: How Profit ended up recruiting Gail to his side.
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Profit never actually says this to Gail, but a few of their conversations touch on the trope.
- 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.
- Briar Patching
- Cassandra Truth
- The Chessmaster: Profit. It comes with the Magnificent Bastard package.
- 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.
- Christmas Cake: Bobbi Stakowski.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Cracker
- 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.
- Dead-Man Switch: Profit's extra safeguard against Jack, whom Profit framed and got imprisoned.
- 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.
- Devil in Plain Sight
- Distressed Damsel: Nora Gracen, though the final episode has her finally showing a spine
- Double Agent
- Eighties Hair: Despite having been made in the '90s.
- Epunymous Title
- 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.
- Exact Progress Bar
- Expy: Many of Profit's darker qualities wound up finding their way into Pasdar's protrayal of Nathan Petrelli a decade later.
- Family Business: Gracen and Gracen, which Jim Profit desperately wants into.
- Fan Service: Pasdar appeared naked and/or towel-clad in every. single. episode.
- Flash Back
- Freudian Excuse: Just about everyone, good and bad alike, had had god-awful childhoods.
- Girl Friday: Gail for Jim Profit.
- Hannibal Lecture
- Heroic Sociopath: Possibly one of the first television examples.
- Kubrick Stare: ... see photo above.
- Manipulative Bastard: Bobbi. While she took most of her cues on what to do from Jim, she still managed to masterfully twist every single one of her targets around her little finger.
- Mega Corp: Gracen and Gracen, of course.
- Oedipus Rex
- Off the Wagon: Played straight by Pete - and also subverted when Pete sobers up for his, Sykes, and Arthur McLean's takeover.
- The Public Domain Channel: Bobbi Stakowski is shown watching an old 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.
- 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.
- Sacrificial Lamb
- Sexy Coat Flashing
- Single Tear: Profit himself, in the pilot.
- The Sociopath: Profit
- 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
- Villain Protagonist: Profit
- Villain with Good Publicity
- 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..."
- Wicked Cultured