James Purefoy deserves a better show than The Philanthropist.

James Purefoy deserves a better show than The Philanthropist.

The charming, British-accented Purefoy, who gained fame on HBO's Rome, brings a welcome gusto to his role as billionaire-vigilante Teddy Rist. Besides Purefoy, the NBC drama's biggest asset is its stunning backdrop, shot on location in South Africa.

The pilot fills us in on Rist's background story through an exchange between the billionaire and an attractive bartender in a dusty dive bar. Rist tells of his recent business trip to Nigeria, where he was supposed to engineer an oil deal and instead got stuck in a hurricane.

While there, he's inspired to become a do-gooder after he saves a small child from nearly drowning during the frenzied evacuation. The encounter is especially meaningful, we learn, because Rist recently lost his own young son.

His tale grows more and more crazy - he returns to the devastated country to try to track down the young boy; soon he's on a trek to deliver a cholera vaccine, during which he's shot at by locals, robbed of his phone and shoes, and bit by a snake. The bartender declares she doesn't believe a word of it.

But the biggest problem with The Philanthropist isn't that it's unbelievable. It's that there's no excitement, no "where do we go from here?" The pilot felt more like a self-contained TV movie than a sneak peek that leaves you begging for more.