With Heroes on a short hiatus and with Studio 60 taking a much longer (and hopefully not permanent) hiatus, we had to get our television fill last night. FX doesn’t disappoint. Even their short lived shows like Thief and Over There delivered the goods. It’s no stretch to propose that FX is the best network for television outside of HBO. Pound for pound I’d like to see that fight. Yes, yes we know that Dirt is a steaming pile of turds and Lucky wasn’t much better. But we were still curious about their latest affair, The Riches, starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard, curious enough despite their lame promotional push.
The Riches is an exceptional work of family-drama. Mining similar territory to HBO’s Big Love and Showtime’s Weeds, the story of gypsy grifters trying to go legitimate – by assuming the identity of a dead couple – sounds on the surface kinda lame. It’s premise has a been there/done that vibe, which is why the marketing department at FX had a difficult time promoting this show. Is it a comedy? A drama? Well, it’s a little bit of both. This is dark territoy, no doubt, at least in the pilot.
As the story begins we meet Wayne Malloy, who with his family in toe: level headed Di Di, chain smoking Dale, and cross-dressing Cael, are at a high school reunion. Wayne is the life of the party, while his offspring pickpocket guests, rip off car steroes, etc. It’s pretty funny stuff and though the con isn’t convincing, Wayne’s charisma is. He’s a likable chap and we’re along for the ride.
Before long the family picks up matriarch Dahlia (Minnie Driver) at prison. They return to their gypsy clan, but an unwanted arranged marriage forces the Malloy family on the road in search of a new life. And that’s when they run into the good luck of running the Rich family off the road and into a ditch. When Wayne realizes the Rich family is dead he doesn’t hesitate to bury their BMW into a lake and assume their identity. The Malloy clan moves to Edenfalls, a golf course development in Baton Rouge, LA. We get glimpses of Wayne’s existential crisis and desire for something more, which turns out to be allure of the white picket fence and a happy ending.
Once in suburbia the Malloys do the best they can to blend in. Wayne plays golf and Dahlia copes with her drug addiction by drinking cough syrup and mingling with the neighbors. It’s pretty wide open to where the story of the Malloy family goes from here, but one assumes their secret life will begin to bubble to the surface. This was a strong show and hopefully will only get stronger as the season goes on. If for nothing else it’s worth watching for the powerful performances of Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard. Their chemistry together is magnetizing.
If there is any flaw, it’s the show’s desire to hit the audience over the head with the theme of taking the American Dream. We get it, we don’t need it to be repeated over and over and over again. Even if it is so important to the identity of who the Malloy family is. It’s a minor quibble for another stellar FX show.