FX is arguably the go-to channel for edgy (lots of letters…L, S, V, M…in its onscreen parental advisory) drama on basic cable…be they good (The Shield, Rescue Me, the better episodes of Nip/Tuck) or not so good (the woeful Dirt, the other episodes of Nip/Tuck)…and The Riches, the new series that debuted on the channel this week, certainly fits in on that basis.
If you can go along with the preposterous premise…a family of "Travelers" (roaming con-artists who supposedly traverse the country running scams on “buffers” [the derogatory term they use for non-Travelers]) end up taking over the mansion…and the lives…of an affluent couple (whose surname is Rich) whose deaths they accidentally caused…there is some enjoyment to be found in this show. But that’s a big “if”.
The notion that the dead people…who were strapped into their car and sunk into a swamp…wouldn’t have people who would miss them and find it strange that another family was living in their new house (the dead couple were conveniently moving into a new mansion that they bought on the internet so neither their neighbors nor their realtor had ever met them) and using their names stretches credibility (though one presumes that will addressed as the series…which has a 13-episode first run…continues.)
Minnie Driver is ferociously engaging as the mother of the clan, newly released from prison and hooked on drugs. Eddie Izzard is more subdued, but effective nonetheless, in his role as the ambitious, crafty, slightly sadsack father (who instigates the move into the new situation by stealing money from their fellow Travelers and then taking the personal papers and wallets of the dead couple and letting them lead them to the mansion.)
The other characters…the three children (the oldest son is sullen, the daughter has mommy issues, the youngest son is, for unexplained reasons, fond of wearing female clothes), the other Travelers, the new neighbors…are all sketched out in broad strokes in the pilot (something else that one presumes will be addressed as it goes along.)
I have my doubts that this setup lends itself well to an ongoing show…the previews for upcoming episodes in the series show it trying to be a family drama, a con artist farce, a soap opera, a fish out of water tale, and a crime caper all at once and I don’t think, Driver and Izzard notwithstanding, that it can pull all of that off. If they can, The Riches could turn into an interesting show.
But that’s a big “if”.