The Riches: Pilot (series premiere)
(S01E01) If there's anything close to a certainty in this wacky world of 3,000 channels, it's this: When a new show premieres on FX, chances are it's going to be pretty damned good. Even the less-than-stellar shows are more daring, creative, and entertaining than most of what you might see on a broadcast or basic cable network. And The Riches is no exception; in fact, it is one of the most well-done new shows of the year. The pilot, which aired earlier tonight, was nearly as riveting as that of The Nine, wich was almost universally lauded before the fall season started. But unlike The Nine, The Riches knows where it's going. And it looks like it's going to be a pretty fun ride.
Eddie Izzard plays Wayne Malloy, the patriarch of a family of Irish Travelers, who roam from town to town assuming identities and ripping of innocent people, or "Buffers," in their terms. We find that out right away when Wayne and two of his three kids -- Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) and Sam (Aidan Mitchell) -- invade a high school reunion; the kids steal everyone's wallets while Wayne distracts them by becoming the life of the party. The oldest Malloy child, Cael (Noel Fisher), awaits to spirit them away in the family home / getaway RV.
After some difficulty, they swing by the penitentiary to pick up Dahlia, played by Minnie Driver. Dahlia missed her kids and husband during her two years in the joint, and we find out later that she got snagged for a crime for which Wayne should have taken the fall. Anyway, after Dahlia reunites with her Traveler clan, a dustup occurs between Wayne and his cousin-in-law Dale (Todd Stashwick), who has taken control of the clan's affairs. Wayne steals the family's money and takes the Malloys on a trip to parts unknown, essentially breaking from Dahlia's family in one fell swoop.
On the road, they get involved in an accident that kills the occupants of a BMW. Wayne decides to take the family's ID and the keys to their new house in a wealthy Baton Rouge subdivision, where no one has ever met the dead couple. Once they move in, Wayne realizes that assuming the role of the dead couple -- the Riches -- not only helps them hide from Dale, who wants Wayne's hide, but will also allow his family to get off the road and finally live the American Dream, in their own perverse way. After initially objecting, Dahlia agrees to stay. And so begins the Malloys' life as the Riches.
Izzard and Driver are what make this show work; although Izzard isn't particularly adept at maintaining an American, much less a southern, accent, it doesn't matter; we can feel his love for his wife and his seething rage that he has to be subservient to an inbred schmuck like Dale. We also feel his need for something more. Driver, on the other hand, is one of the few Brits around who can affect an American accent quite flawlessly, but that's not why I like her here. The pain she suffered while she was in jail, which we see via her simultaneous addictions to cough medicine and meth, is etched all over her face. And, unlike her husband, she's a sympathetic crook; she regrets that the Riches had to die for them to be able to hide out in luxury. Being a "death buffer" is hard to deal with, but she's willing to try, her devotion to her family is that strong. The chemistry between the two stars, whether the Malloys are in a post-jail coitus session or fighting tooth and nail, is palpable.
We don't know much about the kids just yet, outside of the fact that Cael seems to be the one most in control, Dehliah knows more about the family's skeletons than she lets on, and Sam likes to wear girls' clothes. But I'm sure we'll learn more as the weeks go on.
The pilot actually showed less humor than I initially expected, but there were flashes. You don't have Eddie Izzard on a show and expect him to be completely serious. The scene at the reunion showed Izzard at his schmoozy finest, and the scene where he goes golfing with his neighbor Jim (Bruce French) and hustles obnoxious executive Hugh Panetta (Gregg Henry, last seen as Mitchum Huntzberger on Gilmore Girls), shows Izzard's sly side.
Questions abound: will the Malloys be outed? How does a bumpkin like Wayne know how to play golf so well? Will Jim's wife Nina (Margo Martindale) be the one to find out the ruse, or will she be too doped up to care? When will Dale catch up to them?
Like most FX shows, there's an overabundance of bad language -- the entire cast seems to be enamored with the word "shit" -- some violence, and flashes of nudity (unfortunately, it was Izzard's butt we saw instead of Driver's). But it didn't distract me from concentrating on the Malloy's adventure. Have the writers -- among them first-time show-runner Dimitry Lipkin -- gotten me to sympathize with this family of grifters yet? No. But I'm interested in wanting to find out more, and any pilot that does that gets high marks in my book.