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July 31, 2014

The Riches: Pilot (series premiere)

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 13th 2007 12:40AM
The Riches
(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.

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Biff

I like it,although it does kinda look like "Big Love"
I'm still not sure what happened with the cop in the first episode. can anybody clear that up?

March 28 2007 at 1:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
diana

It had me at Hello! I am so into the characters already I think about them during the day and evening as though they are real.

And, for those who asked, YES, there really are Irish Travelers who are American gypsies and travel mostly southern roadways, staying in an area until they've tapped it out, then moving on en masse to another. If you've ever paid for a new roof or other maintenance but the "contractor" skipped out, you may have met an Irish Traveler, after all.
(I must say, however, I've never seen one of the gypsy men look as cultured and fresh as Izzard! They usually have the look of being ridden hard and put up wet.)
The plot and performances held me captive to the point that I did not even notice Izzard's accent "struggle". Good writing! I hope they crank it up a notch or two as the story line progresses, and let the actors completely flesh out!

I've admired Minnie Driver for a decade. She, like Meryl Streep, always delivers. She is one of our generation's most noted actresses!

March 20 2007 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Frost

As a recent transplant to the south I really enjoyed how quickly I was able to feel for the Malloy family and their attempt to fit into the vagrancies of Suburban life. I see tons of slow jokes built on which culture is stranger.

I too expected there to be more humor but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the drama. Can't wait to see what's next.

March 16 2007 at 9:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fran

I was confused about the show, because I thought that it was going to be a comedy. It is great to see Eddie Izzard on American tv. I will definitely watch the show every week as long as it is on FX.

March 15 2007 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TeresaMac

I love Eddie Izzard, and I love this show! Even though incredibly, painfully darker than I expected it to be - and that was with it lightened up to take advantage of Izzard's comedic background.

As far as accents go, I imagine that a nomadic people like Irish Travelers, with their own language, would also have their own accent which would not necessarily correspond with a specific geographic area. And experienced grifters like them would be good mimics, in order to put the people they are conning at ease. And that's how I'm going to accept whatever excuse for an accent I hear :) And there definitely are Irish Travelers (check out Wikipedia entry, which was very informative) in Ireland, UK, and America - although I think might be a bit slanderous to say they are all criminals. What they do by way of legal work I have no idea though.

March 15 2007 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erroneous_nick

BTW, we jokingly refer to BR as "New New Orleans".

March 14 2007 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erroneous_nick

TomB,

Don't mess with Baton Rouge, we've been through a lot. I know we didn't get the brunt of either Rita or Katrina, but we were refuge for the poor souls who were hardest hit.

Going from what would previously have been described as "a bunch of small towns clustered into a city" to "Louisiana's largest city" doubling our population literally overnight is enough to drive anyone nuts. If that weren't enough, I had twelve extra family members staying in my home for a tad over two weeks. That's 16 people in a modest 3 bedroom home, part of the time with no electricity! Tell me all that togetherness wouldn't push you just a bit over the edge... :o)

March 14 2007 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TomB

error_nick, you live in Baton Rouge? That explains alot.

:-)

March 14 2007 at 10:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pamela

Excellent. FX does not let down. Izzard and Driver are wonderful. The storyline is different and the writing enjoyable. I was very entertained and will continue to watch.

March 14 2007 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rogphi

Brilliant Beginning. I am Huge Eddie Fan and I can get past his accent because his acting is so good. He does have a dialect coach so hopefully it will improve! Cake or Death? Anyone ?

March 14 2007 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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