What Exactly Is Going on With the Mysterious Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Saudi Arabia Cryptocurrency Series?
Frasier Crane is filming a cryptocurrency TV show in Saudi Arabia with Wesley Snipes and Jon Lovitz — but you’ll (probably) never see it.
Late last month, the financial crime drama series Paper Empire made history by being the first American TV show to be produced in Saudi Arabia, as the production is currently shooting its third season in the Middle Eastern country right now. Paper Empire tells the story of a savvy financial fraudster whose Ponzi scheme diverts billions of dollars into a cryptographically concealed “Digital Limbo” that attracts the attention of various powerful international organizations, legal and otherwise. In Paper Empire, Robert Davi, best known for playing one of the Fratelli brothers in The Goonies, leads an ensemble cast that includes such stars as Denise Richards, Wesley Snipes, Steve Guttenberg, Richard Grieco, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Lovitz, and, of course, the incomparable Kelsey Grammer, who has already appeared in 15 episodes of the show so far.
If you’re wondering, “Why have I never heard of this show before now?” or, “What soon-to-be-defunct streaming service bankrolled this mess for three seasons?” you’re going to find more questions than answers trying to sort out the truth. Paper Empire is neither airing on television nor streaming on any platform, nor has it ever been made available to the public. In fact, the makers have barely promoted the show at all beyond releasing a single trailer three years ago and hilariously posting a three-minute episode preview of the first season finale to the Web 1.0-looking Paper Empire website. It’s almost like, after Grammer made Money Plane, he wondered, “What if my action career was even more inexplicable?”
The more you dig into Paper Empire, the less it makes sense. The series was created by Robert Gillings, whose IMDb page lists just three obscure writing credits, through his personal production studio, and the project was originally acquired by a mysterious L.A.-based international film production company Hannibal Pictures. Despite the fact that Paper Empire still hasn’t found a home at any streaming service, TV network or cryptocurrency-based content hub, Gillings and his team continue to forge ahead with production, shooting season after season without a distribution deal in sight.
Now, it’s hard enough to get a pilot funded, let alone finance 13 episodes without the support of a single distributor or major production company. But for a showrunner to self-renew his series twice without ever finding a platform to air the pilot episode or a studio to back it is preposterous to the point of lunacy. Add to that, Gillings somehow assembled a veritable who’s-who of 1990s A-listers and seemed to have shot every second of the show’s three seasons on private jets and luxury yachts. Is Paper Empire an attempt to break the world record for “most absurdly massive amount of money spent on a TV show before even landing a general at Netflix”?
As for Gillings himself, that IMDb page contains a definitely-not-self-written bio that leaves us more confused by the mysterious creator of Paper Empire. For instance, he writes, “Robert is widely known for representing himself (Pro-se) in his Two Year Custody Trial for his three children. Robert was Granted by the Court Complete and SOLE custody and his children and they have been exclusively residing with him since. Robert was then asked how it feels to win, he responded; ‘They're (sic) are no winners in divorce.’”
Another perplexing paragraph reads, “Robert was born and raised in New York and has a strong emotional attachment to his home city and state. The attack on 9/11 was even more personal to him, as his sister Melissa was working in Tower One when it was hit. Robert also does Architectural Design, created and submitted his own vision of how he felt the WTC Site should be rebuilt. A Symbolic response to the horrific attack.”
The Robert Gillings Productions website calls Paper Empire Gillings’ “hit TV series,” but, three seasons in, no one else has watched it! We can’t watch it, because it’s not streaming anywhere, it’s not on any TV station and the only footage of it that’s available to the public is, again, a three-year-old trailer and a teaser for the finale of a season that hasn’t even started. Right now, Gillings is in a desert oasis in Saudi Arabia with a cast full of former superstars filming the third season of a mega budget financial crime show that only he’s ever seen, and every entertainment industry publication, from Deadline to Variety, continues to post trade articles about the show’s production as if anything about this is remotely normal.
After Paper Empire, Grammer should just cut to the chase with his next choice in projects and sign on to star in the ninth movie of our Kuwaiti film franchise that will exist only on a 2008 Dell laptop that’s missing its charging cord — we’re calling it Money Laundry.