Crime pays in 'Riches'
New F/X suburban dramedy looks like a promising investment

By Ben Megargel, Daily Arts Writer

In the debut episode of F/X's new dramedy "The Riches," a recently paroled Minnie Driver ("Good Will Hunting") considers shooting heroin before deciding to throw the needle out the window of her stolen mini-mansion. In a desperate fit of instant regret, she runs outside and searches frantically through the shrubbery, unintentionally attracting the maternal attention of a plump, well-meaning neighbor. Effortlessly blending hopeless addiction with obvious comic undertones, Driver displays some of the most nuanced acting on television today.

This balance between drama and comedy drives "The Riches," which follows a family of "white gypsies" who move into the recently purchased home of a family they inadvertently killed in a car accident. The series forgoes the emphasis on style that several other F/X programs focus on - none of the dramatics of "Dirt" or the high-gloss and style of "Nip/Tuck."

Instead, "The Riches" focuses on the complex dynamic of drifters and the cultural adjustments they have to make.

The series stars British comedian Eddie Izzard ("Dress to Kill") and Driver as Wayne and Dahlia, parents of three children. For this role, Izzard undergoes one of the greatest persona transformations in recent memory, shifting from his flamboyant stage personality as a stand-up (with a propensity for cross-dressing) to that of a wily patriarch with a taste for conflict. Driver is equally impressive, portraying a refreshing lack of vanity as she's forced to leave her vagabond extended family for her new faux-riche existence.

The on-screen relationship between Wayne and Dahlia is believably complicated. Although they often argue and have intense screaming matches, the two are able to express a certain degree of compassion for one another, and it's difficult not to root for their dysfunctional relationship - or their unique brand of humanistic crime. Izzard and Driver transcend their illegal activities and abnormal lifestyle to somehow appear wonderfully ordinary.

Although the debut episode's background story is choppy and awkwardly paced, confused over whether it wants to be a serious drama or an irreverent dark comedy, the narrative hits its stride once the family assumes their false identity as the Riches.

At times the small, intimate moments between the characters take center stage, while in other instances the focus is firmly on a spree of plot-advancing action. Is this a "Big Love"-style series about quirky family circumstances or a post-"O.C." story of rags to riches? Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" serves as a clich? finale song which doesn't help the case for either.

Ultimately, "The Riches" has enough acting credentials and dramatic spunk to compensate for its initial uncertainty of tone. The series is well worth the usual TV development period to fully bloom and realize its potential.

If it finally manages to consistently blend together its dramatic and comedic components ( Driver's heroin scene, e.g.) "The Riches" could find the same level of success as "Desperate Housewives."

The Riches

Mondays at 10 p.m.
F/XRating: 3 out of 5 stars

The other shades of British Chameleon Eddie Izzard:

Ocean's Twelve (2004): He only crafts one small theft device for Ocean's gang, but he'll be back in this spring's sequel.

The Cat's Meow (2001): Izzard doesn't look much like Charlie Chaplin, although he portrays the silent film star's playful maliciousness with accurate aplomb.

Dress to Kill (1999): Izzard's most famous stand-up routine features heavy eyeshadow, British pride and artful meditations on the druids of Stonehenge.

It's no con job: 'The Riches' is the real deal
Neal Justin, Star Tribune

It's time to retire the word "dramedy."

Great dramas have long injected action with healthy doses of humor -- Mick Belker's growl on "Hill Street Blues," Lennie Briscoe's morbid one-liners on "Law & Order," Uncle Junior's ramblings on "The Sopranos" -- providing much needed comic relief in an ever darkening landscape.

The latest to nail the formula is "The Riches," a new dramedy -- I mean, drama -- that is simultaneously one of the freshest comedies and most suspenseful series of the decade.

The premise is tailor-made for such a one-two punch.

The Malloys, a family of traveling con artists, have made a living off an endless supply of suckers. They bounce from one sting to the next in a dusty RV that wouldn't look out of place next to the "Little Miss Sunshine" VW bus.
But Wayne (Eddie Izzard), who spearheads the operation, is feeling restless. It's no longer enough to feed off the American Dream; he wants to live it.
So when he and the kids pick up mom, Dahlia (Minnie Driver), after a two-year jail term and learn about a wealthy family that perished in a car accident, they decide to pull the ultimate scam: They'll take over the lives of the deceased in a gated community in Baton Rouge -- swimming pools, cocktail parties, red convertibles, the works.

As they get more entrenched in the good life, the dangers increase as Wayne fakes his way into a law career, his wife struggles to control her drug habit and an infuriated hustler tries to track down the rebels to retrieve some stolen money.
Laughing yet?

The FX executives weren't, either -- at least not at first.

The origial pilot, directed by the esteemed Carl Franklin, was considered too gloomy. Peter O'Fallon was brought in to reshoot about half of the scenes; the rather unusual collaboration strikes just the right tone, one that continues through the next couple of episodes.

Black humor reverberates in scene after scene: the family sweet-talking their way into a high-school reunion with Wayne regaling the crowd with invented memories as the kids pickpocket the unsuspecting crowd; Dahlia getting into a catfight with a one-armed neighbor; a real-estate shark shooting at giant posters of Rush Limbaugh, Alan Dershowitz and his fourth-grade teacher from the back porch of his posh club.

"You can't just do a very dark story or it becomes just a little bit too hellish to watch, so people won't necessarily tune in next week," Izzard said in an interview earlier this year.

Few Americans are likely to be familiar with Izzard; he's known primarily as a cross-dressing stand-up comic.
That will quickly change. Izzard is a captivating comic actor who knows how to mine laughs without resorting to Jim Carrey-like buffoonery.

Driver, sporting both a swamp-dipped hairdo and a swamp-dipped accent, doesn't have much to play with in the pilot, but her contributions increase greatly in subsequent episodes as her volatile character proves just as shifty as her husband. A bit in which she tries to pass off some store-bought cookies as homemade, hoping herneighbor will trade pills for them, is downright delicious.

Despite all the humor, though, "The Riches" is ultimately a drama, about a man desperate to not become the Willy Loman of the swindlers' world.

Creator Dmitry Lipkin, a longtime playwright making his TV debut, provides eloquent soliloquies for his leading man, the most memorable coming at the end of Monday's premiere. "Who are you really, wanderer?" says Wayne, reciting the lines from a William Stafford poem to a college professor. "And the answer you have to give, no matter how dark and cold the world around you is: Maybe, I'm a king."

No maybe about it. This is regal stuff.

It's so tempting to root for the Malloys
By Andrew Lyons | MediaLife Magazine

The opening sequence of "The Riches," the new drama premiering tonight on FX at 10, is so exhilarating that it’s hard to imagine the show maintaining the pace. And it really can't. "The Riches" collapses in an uneven heap, a fascinating mess.

The drama is about grifters, conmen, a family of thieves, and on the face of it, that would seem to offer endless promise of intrigue and drama. And that it does, in a succession of rushes. The problem is that for all their surface charm, conmen--or in this case a con family--aren't at all likeable. The sleights of hand and camera are seductive enough but they never overcome this one flaw.

When we first meet Wayne Malloy (Eddie Izzard, "The Cat’s Meow"), he’s reviewing a yearbook with his teenage daughter and a young son before a high school reunion. But let us not be fooled. This isn’t his reunion and he doesn’t know the people in the yearbook.

The three, father, son and daughter, are attending to lift wallets and cash.

As the kids are roaming about the crowd, filching as they go, Malloy chats it up with the returning grads, displaying quicksilver wit and his great gift for getting people to believe his lies.

It's a stunning performance, both for Malloy and for Izzard creating the role of Malloy.

Even after he and the kids finally leave the party, the rush of his audacious con lingers, leaving the feeling of similar great rushes to come. There's the seduction of the con working, enticing the viewer join in as a co-conspirator.

But then "The Riches" slows to a halt. The family is off to pick up the mother, Dahlia (Minnie Driver, "Good Will Hunting"), who's being sprung after two years in prison. The four return to the campground they call home. The Malloys, you see, are Travelers--sort of American gypsies--who crisscross the country in RVs, conning regular society folks, or "buffers," as they call them.

But the meanderings of a family of con artists don’t alone have the dramatic pull to sustain a series, and as it turns out this is simply the buildup for a far bigger con.

"The Riches" takes a stunning turn. A wealthy couple on their way to a new home in a new state dies in a startling, unexpected way, and Malloy decides that his family will assume the lives and identities of the dead couple, named the Riches.

The family takes over the fancy home the Riches just bought, join the country club and investigate the couple’s history for possible threats to their new, assumed lives. The Malloys get the ultimate opportunity to test their con-artist skills. Wayne is impersonating a dead man, a high-powered securities lawyer, and Dahlia and the kids are busy fending off suspicions of a community no less obsessed with keeping up appearances than Malloy himself.

As an actor, Izzard is a wonder, his performance as a conman riveting. Whatever high-pressure situation he's thrust into, his voice is level and his manner calm. Only his intense, focused eyes betray any hint of distress as he deftly maneuvers through a maze of lawyers, developers and nosy neighbors.

Shannon Woodward ("Cold Case") as daughter Delilah is also a standout. Taking over maternal duties while Dahlia was incarcerated, she’s reluctant to give them back, especially to an emotionally unbalanced druggie. Woodward uses her flat tone and world-weary eyes to effectively channel a girl who has become an adult far too soon.

Noel Fisher ("Godiva’s") and newcomer Aidan Mitchell are solid as sons Cael and Sam.

The one dud in the cast is Driver, who struggles through an over-the-top Southern accent and various overplayed emotional twitches. The heroin addiction she picked up in prison is more tiresome than gripping.

But the strong acting by Izzard and Woodard can't cover up the bigger con working in "The Riches." That con is the attempt to fool viewers.

The Malloys make their living stealing. They steal in just the way all identity thieves steal. They assume the lives of others, in this case an innocent dead couple. There's the rush of seeing whether they will slip past undiscovered. But they don't deserve to. And it's hard to ask viewers to root for them except on the most cynical level.

FX is famous for going to dark places with its shows, but this time around, it’s hard to find any light at all.

Stealing the American dream of riches
By Maureen Ryan | Tribune television critic

The best actors have the ability to embody many qualities at once, and in the new series "The Riches" (9 p.m. Monday, FX), Eddie Izzard is a revelation.

The English actor plays the show's central character, semireformed con man Wayne Malloy, with feline grace and the kind of laser wit you'd expect from someone who made his name as one of the most creative and profound comedians of the last 25 years.

But there are so many other layers in Izzard's performance that it's a pleasure to get lost in them: There's the tenderness and lust unleashed in him when his wife, Dahlia (Minnie Driver), is released from prison, the hammy glee of a con artist who loves taking on new roles in order to fleece the gullible sheep, and the bittersweet wistfulness of a dreamer who is smarter -- and more idealistic -- than circumstances allow him to be.

Izzard is one big reason to tune into this intriguing new series, and the terrific Driver, another Brit, is more than a match for him. Dahlia Malloy is a force of nature, a fierce and feral creature who, as she says, has been "running hot plastic" and doing any number of scams since she was 8 years old.

The Malloys are Travelers, a secretive group who, according to this series, roam the country defrauding unsuspecting "buffers," or upstanding citizens. In the bravura first scene of the series, Wayne infiltrates a high school class reunion, and he plays the lively, boozy long-lost pal so well that the partiers don't notice until late in the game that the guy leading the conga line and giving the sentimental toast lifted their wallets.

But Wayne, it emerges, is tired of life on the road. Two years of raising his three children in a beat-up RV have made him ready for a change. And just when his mouthy ways get the Malloys in trouble with the self-styled leader of their Travelers clan, a golden opportunity falls in the family's lap.

They stumble upon a couple who were about to move into a plush gated community, and lucky for the Malloys, the couple are dead -- but nobody knows that. Wouldn't it be the ultimate scam to take over the dead couple's identities and "pass" as boring, respectable, Dockers-clad suburbanites?

Dahlia, who's secretly nursing a drug habit, doesn't want to linger in Doug and Cheri Riches' house. She wants to strip the couple's Baton Rouge McMansion of its valuables and move on, given that moving on is all she has ever known (she, like her kids, never attended school). But once Wayne gets a look at the Riches' overstuffed life, full of soaring foyers and buzzing Blackberries and respectable shoes, he wants to try it. There must be something to this life, he muses, or why would so many people aspire to it?

The dangers for the mostly engrossing "Riches" is that it occasionally hits the "we're stealing the American Dream" theme a little too hard, and it remains to be seen whether it will coast on the taut, engaging performances of Izzard and Driver.

The Malloys' three kids, though well-played, are mostly blank slates in the early going, though the younger boy has a penchant for dressing as a girl (a detail in place before Izzard, a transvestite in real life, joined the project).

The first three episodes concern the Malloys' assuming the Riches' identities, Wayne's attempt to get a real job and the machinations that go into getting the kids into school. But after that, one wonders, what comes next? The writers will need to be inventive to keep this family's saga worth watching in a very crowded TV landscape. And though there are promising hints about the repressed neighbors in the Malloys' "Edenfalls" (get it?) subdivision, another plot about Dale, Wayne's Travelers nemesis, veers a little too close to Southern Gothic melodrama.

Still, the screen fairly buzzes with energy when Izzard and Driver have good material to sink their teeth into, and Gregg Henry (Logan's father on "Gilmore Girls") is sensational as eccentric local millionaire Hugh Panetta. Those three alone make "The Riches" well worth the price of admission.


'Riches' on FX is a 'must-watch'

By Roger Catlin | Hartford Courant

The best new show of the year comes to cable tonight.

The eye-opening new FX series "The Riches," premiering at 10 p.m. on FX, follows the surprising trail of the Molloys, a tight-knit family of swindlers and con men (and women), who live life just ahead of the law in their beat-up RV.

Their fortunes change big time when Wayne and Dahlia decide to steal the identities of a couple who die in a rural car accident and are easy enough to make disappear entirely.

Suddenly the Molloys become the Riches, and their neighbors in their well-to-do cul-de-sac neighborhood accept them.

But can they pull off what will be the biggest con of their lives: pretending to fit into upper-middle-class America? Will anybody ever come looking for the actual couple? And will the band of thieves they've left behind, the Travellers, come after them as well, since Wayne helped himself to their cash before he left camp?

What's exceptional about "The Riches" is that it sidesteps overdone TV genres like cops and hospitals, choosing something that viewers can relate to and that is different.

At a time when many middle-class Americans worry about the bottom falling out from under their comfortable existence, or feel like frauds in their own fancy neighborhoods, "The Riches" provides a wry metaphor.

Like HBO's "Big Love" it depicts a family trying desperately to fit in and seem normal, despite a secret that could sink it.

And unlike other TV story lines with thieves as protagonists - from the NBC offering "The Black Donnellys" to CBS's long-canceled "Smith" - "The Riches" succeeds on sheer charm, if only because con men as skilled as the Molloys must also succeed in winning over the buffers (as dull ordinary folks are called).

"The Riches" comes with a cast as surprising as the story line: two prominent English actors playing the heads of household in this Southern family.

Minnie Driver is first-rate as a mother addled by addiction and recent release from jail, where she has had her hair corn-rowed. She's torn by allegiance to her family left back at the camp, the kids around her and her addiction.

Comedian Eddie Izzard brings a flurry of energy to the story from the start, when he becomes the life of the party at a random high school reunion he crashes, pumping up the dreams of the classmates he never had as his kids empty their pockets.

Izzard is executive producer of "The Riches," along with its creator and chief writer Dmitry Lipkin.

Lipkin says he went through a couple of variations on that theme, "and then I stumbled upon the Travellers." Sometimes mistaken for Gypsies, Travellers have a clannish, rootless existence.

"They're (known as) tinkers in Ireland, and there are about 20,000 to 30,000 Travellers in the United States," Lipkin says. "In a time where everybody's on the grid, these guys are off the grid completely. We know nothing about them. They're living in America, and they're completely outside from us."

The Travellers weren't too eager to talk about themselves, either.

Izzard describes the show as having "wonderful characters ... but it's essentially about a family that is of the Travellers," he adds, "not a story about Travellers."

About half of the original pilot for "The Riches" had to be scrapped because it was just too dark. "It was decided to put in slightly more lightness," Izzard says, "so that it could be a visceral ride as opposed to just a hellish ride."

'Riches' is dark, funny

By Scott D. Pierce
Deseret Morning News

PASADENA, Calif. — Brits Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver might not be the first people you'd think to cast as a uniquely American couple, yet they're just about perfect as "The Riches" (tonight at 11 on FX).
Izzard, best known as an outrageously funny stand-up comedian who performs in drag, and the Oscar-nominated Driver star in this new FX drama (with comedy) as Wayne and Dahlia Malloy — a pair of "travelers" (aka gypsies) who live on the wrong side of the law. Along with their three children, they've scammed everyone and everything they could.

But through an unlikely set of circumstances, they assume the identities of a wealthy family — the Riches — and try to make things work as a "normal" family.

It's very dark and often very funny.

"She's genuinely the greatest character I've played," Driver said. "I'm so incredibly thrilled to be doing it because it's surprising. Very surprising for me, and I think it will be surprising for audiences because I'm (playing) a full-grown swampy from Louisiana — (a) crack addict."

Izzard said he wasn't happy with the film roles he was getting offered and was determined to find something better in American TV. He was meeting with the studio that's producing "The Riches" shortly after playwright Dmitry Lipkin had turned in the script.
"They said, 'We're doing this thing about this traveler family.' And I said, 'Can I do that, please?"' Izzard said.
"'Yes. All right."'
"I said, 'Thanks very much,' and that was it. It was just basically I was just there at the right time."
Lucky for the producers. And viewers.

The Malloys are a family of con artists. Fairly successful, often amusing con artists. And they've happened into the biggest con of their lives, trying to make people believe they're the Rich family. And the faux Riches are a window that looks onto how odd American life can be.
"I wanted to write a show about a family who pretends to be someone who they're not." Lipkin said. "I always felt that's sort of what I was doing in my own life. I'm sort of an immigrant refugee. I came here when I was 10, and

I kind of reassessed who am I — what is going to be my life?
"I came from Russia and ended up growing up in Louisiana. So I wanted to kind of capture that oddness and that kind of outside perspective on America."
Mission accomplished.

And, for all their oddness and intense behavior, the family quickly grows on you. It doesn't take long to get in their corner.

"I think they're people who love each other and who stick by each other and who may have a slightly different sense of morality from the rest of America," said Lipkin, who created the series, wrote the pilot and is one of the executive producers. "But I also think their sense of morality overlaps with the rest of America. I like them."
And that's the strange thing. It was midway through the pilot episode before I could start to warm up to these characters ... but I did.

"They're thieves. They're liars. But you'll love them," said executive producer Dawn Prestwich.
It's weird ... but you will.

But watching "The Riches" is no Sunday drive through safe TV. It's sort of scary and often gut-wrenching. And, this being FX, you can expect some very adult content.

"Ideally, the show careens from comedy to utter tragedy very fast," Limpkin said. "That's really what we are trying to do with it."

Mission accomplished.


FX show strikes it rich with con-artist family

By David Kronke, Television Critic
"I'm going to give us the life we all deserve, whether we want it or not!" Wayne Malloy (Eddie Izzard) vows to his family in the new FX drama "The Riches." It's a great line precisely because his family is so conflicted about what they're after.

The Malloys — Wayne, wife Dahlia (Minnie Driver) and kids Delilah (Shannon Woodward), Cael (Noel Fisher) and Sam (Aidan Mitchell) — are Louisiana Gypsy Travelers, low-rent scam artists with a deep contempt for those in mainstream society, whom they witheringly dub "buffers."

But when Wayne makes a break with the other Travelers, and they witness the accidental deaths of an upscale couple en route to a new life in a new community, Wayne decides to assume that couple's identity and lifestyle.

Such a gambit is fraught with peril — the Malloys are scarcely equipped to portray an affluent family, particularly given that Wayne assumes the role of Doug Rich, a corporate attorney. But what are lawyers, if not well-paid liars? Maybe he can pull this off, after all.

"The Riches" tracks Wayne's ebullience and Dahlia's reticence in attempting to assimilate (the kids all fall somewhere in between) into a culture they quickly realize is just as dependent upon lies and obfuscation as their own. Soon they're as caught up in the quest to get ahead — to drive the right cars, to place their kids in the right private schools — as anyone.

Not all of it works — Wayne's speech to his charges on his first day on the job is clearly halting, yet succeeds wildly — and "The Riches" feels a lot like HBO's "Big Love": Both shows focus on a family who have escaped a grungy subculture and struggle to keep up appearances in contemporary suburbia.

But "The Riches" is more forthcoming in its social satire, and Izzard and Driver revel in their characters' peccadilloes. As Wayne/Doug, Izzard is like a kid in a candy shop, hoping no one actually notices he's in the candy shop. He's wonderfully compactly charismatic, while Driver plays Dahlia as an exquisite mess — internally, she defines herself by her flaws and failures, yet her experience as a con artist has taught her not to reveal those deep inner fissures.

FX made three episodes available for review. Beyond their own pluses and minuses, what became apparent were the riches to come in this series.


Stealing the American dream is a family affair

By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff  |  March 12, 2007

The last thing you might expect from Eddie Izzard, the gonzo standup comic and proud heterosexual transvestite, is a masterful dramatic TV performance. The second-to-last-thing you might expect is to find the flamingly British Izzard so very convincing as a scrappy American making a play for the American dream, with its boxy McMansions and Corian countertops.

But Izzard is a great surprise in FX's "The Riches," and just one of this fascinating new series' unexpectedly soulful pleasures. "The Riches," which premieres tonight at 10, could have been "The Beverly Hillbillies" with an FX license to make Jethro's tangiest fantasies come true. Instead, it's a layered drama about a family of Louisiana grifters that steals the American dream in broad daylight.

Creator Dmitry Lipkin delivers comedy, as pockets are picked and gated suburbia is flimflammed; but "The Riches" is most potent as a bold nightmare about identity and theft in an age of identity theft.

Izzard's Wayne Malloy, his drugged-out wife, Dahlia (Minnie Driver), and their three children are travelers -- a nomadic society of Irish crooks who survive by conning law-abiding Americans (whom they call "buffers"). The 1997 Bill Paxton movie "Traveller" portrayed the same world of old-school thieves who are contemptuous of the America in which they are steeped. Ultimately, of course, the Malloys are sympathetic criminals, in the manner of all cable TV antiheroes. They're trying to flee the traveler life and their clan rather than submit 16-year-old daughter Di Di (Shannon Woodward) to an arranged marriage. But like the Mormons in "Big Love," a similar subcultural TV journey, the travelers do not let defectors off easily.

On the lam, the Malloys are in a car accident that takes the lives of Doug and Cherien Rich , a wealthy couple en route to a new home in a new community. And so the Malloys take over the Riches' lives. Pretending to be Doug, Wayne plays golf with the guys and interviews for a job at an old-boy law firm. Dahlia, just out of jail after two years and dulling her pain with NyQuil , befriends a neighbor who doesn't mind sharing her prescriptions. They pick through the Riches' unpacked boxes for clues to their new identities.

It's preposterous, and yet it's a fantastic premise for both an outsider's anthropological look at suburbia and a cynical take on the lies of American society. The Malloys are frauds, as they fake their way into upward mobility and the trappings of legitimacy. They've stumbled onto the grid like a wily theatrical troupe. But the people they fool -- a snippy neighbor who wants their RV off her land, a macho businessman who uses photos of friends for target practice -- are no less fraudulent in their way. The Malloys are merely the new pretenders in a massive game of social pretend. And it's hard not to root for them.

Wayne loves danger, and he takes to the charade immediately. And that gives Izzard a chance to ham it up a bit, as Wayne bluffs his way into exclusive country-club klatsches. But Dahlia, with her white-trash fancies, is conflicted. And so are the kids -- strong-willed Di Di, cynical 17-year-old Cael (Noel Fisher), and little Sam (Aidan Mitchell) , who likes to wear girls' clothing. They've been wanderers all their lives, and trained to scorn the narrow buffer lifestyle they're now adopting. They long to return to the anarchic atmosphere of the clan, and that forces them to pretend to want to pretend they're the Riches -- yet another melody in the show's symphony of deceit.

The reason the casting of "The Riches" works so well has something to do with the fact that both Izzard and Driver are Brits. They have a decent-enough handle on their American accents, but they nonetheless bring a vaguely alien quality to their characters. And that works thematically. They are actors feigning a nationality, just as the Malloys are counterfeiting the Riches. The only truly genuine thing about "The Riches," it seems, may be its promise.


Rich in acting, but not intention

FX's adult drama series have always had a precise point of view and a clarion voice in expressing it. Even when you don't take to a show, it's easy to see what the point means to be. The shades-of-gray cops in "The Shield," Denis Leary's fiery delirium in "Rescue Me," even Andre Braugher's brooding heist drama "Thief" -- they've all been crystal clear about their aims, through provocative layers of thematic and tonal ambition.

Now tonight comes "The Riches," in some ways the most ambitious of the bunch, and the most tantalizing.

And the most frustrating. This time, FX needs an optometrist. "The Riches" wrestles with that vision thing.

Drama? Comedy? Satire? Hmm. Realism? Farce? Sure. Which? Dunno.

Which can drive you crazy only because there's greatness begging to be grasped here, and nobody has a handle on it.

The pilot hour actually feels fairly sure-footed. It's next week we run into trouble. Tonight's introduction is an enticingly brazen little indie film. Acclaimed British comic Eddie Izzard, who has won Emmys for his intellectual transvestite standup (HBO's "Dress to Kill"), plays it straight here as Wayne Malloy, sharp father of a young family of "white gypsies" in the South. These travellers from Ireland run scams out of their RV -- first, dad and his three kids, and then mom Dahlia, after the troubled woman (Minnie Driver) is retrieved from a prison stint.

We see them working the well-researched con, at which Wayne is clearly a master, and we follow them to the camp of the wandering tribe to which they're tied. In swift and surprising order, there's internecine discord and violence -- and then, through an astonishing sequence of circumstances smoothly sold, there's a chance for the family to flee this existence, to assume the identities of a yuppie couple in a gated community, to start not only "normal" lives but affluent ones.

You don't blink twice when smart teen daughter Dee (Shannon Woodward) nonchalantly inquires "How're we bleeding 'em?" or when her sensitive younger brother Sam (Aidan Mitchell) dolls up in her old dress and barrettes. "The Riches" puts it over -- even lines like "Life's a river, kid, you gotta go where it takes you," or "The American dream -- we're gonna steal it." Izzard coolly rides the current toward a big-time American breakthrough.

But once the Malloys, now known as the Riches, actually settle down, it's the show that goes roaming. Where the pilot combines humor, jeopardy and social commentary so surely you don't sweat the shifts, the next episodes stagger all over the map in attitude. The travellers' troupe that first suggested such a sense of danger now careens into a broader kind of camp. Con tactics once played with subtlety start conking us over the head with their comedy.

Even the lead performances -- Izzard and Driver are two immensely engaging personalities -- lose their conviction. They feel differently directed for each scene. He's a goofball! No, he's shrewd. She's a basket case! Nope, she's got it together. The three unusually consequential kids, also including achy teen boy Cael (Noel Fisher), are by contrast marvels of consistency.

So many paths seem worth following here -- traveller subculture meeting nouveau-riche gauche; tricky dynamics of marriage, family, corporate and social strata; who's scamming who, whose values are true. Not to mention defining that "American dream."

And all those ideas -- and most of the setup -- are fine. But the ensuing execution? Series creator Dmitry Lipkin, a Russian-Jewish immigrant to Louisiana who knows from being a stranger in a strange land, is a playwright mapping out his first TV series. The showrunners, Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich("The Education of Max Bickford"), were brought on to help steer. The original pilot, filmed in Louisiana a year ago by atmospheric director Carl Franklin ("One False Move"), was significantly reshot (by series director Peter O'Fallon) to "lighten up" what was considered too dark a mood.

Which brings us back to that vision thing. "The Riches" presents a rich palette from which to work. But somebody has to lay those colors down coherently. Though we'd never ask FX to paint by numbers, this show cries out for clearer definition. Best to choose being either a deftly shaded portrait or a primary colors cartoon, if you can't master the mix.


Poverty, wealth, family converge in `The Riches'
By Charlie McCollum| Mercury News

Toward the end of the mesmerizing opening episode of FX's new series ``The Riches,'' Wayne Malloy -- flimflam man, grifter -- decides to pull the ultimate con: He and his clan are going to assume the identities of a family recently killed in a car accident and put down roots in a suburban gated community full of country clubs and conspicuous wealth.

What's the point, asks his oldest son, who at 17 has spent his whole life on the road running the game.

``The American dream,'' Malloy replies. ``We're going to steal it.''

On its surface, ``The Riches,'' which makes its debut at 10 p.m. Monday, is a dark if often funny piece on the lives of Irish Travellers (often called Tinkers in Ireland), a nomadic tribe who live an off-the-grid life of petty crime. Their targets: ordinary law-abiding folk -- called ``buffers'' by the clan.

What makes the new series so unique, so rich and riveting, is that at its core, it's all about America and that ``American dream'' Malloy wants for his family. It's about wealth, class conflict, addiction to status, outsiders trying to be insiders and the way people -- whether Travellers or buffers -- cover their real identities in lies to become upwardly mobile.

``America is such an upwardly mobile country,'' says playwright Dmitry Lipkin, the show's creator. ``People can really jump several classes within a lifetime.

``The show is an extreme example of that. Here is someone who wanted to change his life and instead of going to law school and doing it the more ordinary route, he just took over somebody's life.''

Lipkin, who hadn't written for television before ``The Riches,'' has an outsider's perspective on America. A Russian-born Jew, he and his family emigrated from Moscow to Baton Rouge, La., when he was 10. He could barely speak English and had little knowledge of such Americana as football.

``I saw myself as displaced,'' says Lipkin, whose off-Broadway stage work includes such well-received plays as ``The Wanderer'' and ``Moscow Nights.'' ``I wanted to write a show about a family who pretends to be someone who they're not. I always felt that's sort of what I was doing in my own life. So I wanted to capture that oddness.''

Lipkin tried a number of different approaches to that theme -- and then stumbled upon the Travellers. ``These people exist, and there about 20 to 30 thousand in this country,'' he says. ``In the time where everybody's on the grid, these guys are off the grid completely. We know nothing about them. They're living in America, and they're completely outside from us.''

``They're thieves and they're liars,'' adds Dawn Prestwich, one of the series' other writer-producers, ``but you'll love them.''

``The Riches'' was immediately snapped up by FX since, in tone and style, it fits in with the cable channel's array of such edgy-with-a-touch-of-humor dramas as ``The Shield,'' ``Rescue Me'' and ``Nip/Tuck.''

That mix of laughs and grim reality is ``something that the network really aspires to,'' says FX president John Landgraf. ``I hasten to add that I think `The Riches' achieves that in a totally distinctive way. I don't think it's in any way imitative of or substantially similar to any of our other shows.''

The first few episodes of ``The Riches'' form a tonal roller coaster ride through darkness and back into light. Indeed, the first episode -- originally shot by director Carl Franklin (``Devil In a Blue Dress'') -- was overhauled substantially with a new director, Peter O'Fallon (``Suicide Kings''), when it was deemed too grim even for FX.

As a result, Monday's opening hour is a bit disjointed stylistically. But the individual pieces are so compelling that you're still going to be sucked into the saga. And the show gets far more consistent in future episodes.

The first one opens with Wayne Malloy (British comedian Eddie Izzard) running a con at a high school reunion with his daughter Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) and youngest son, Sam (Aidan Mitchell). While Wayne assumes the identity of one classmate and dazzles the crowd, the kids are lifting wallets and picking through ladies' handbags.

The clan then jumps into its ramshackle RV to retrieve mother Dahlia (Minnie Driver) from prison where she has spent two years -- and acquired a nasty crack habit. Things really start moving when the Malloys reunite with their Traveller clan and, after a showdown with the group's leader, Wayne steals the tribe's money.

As the family flees, they accidentally (sort of) run a car off the road. H. Douglas and Cherien Rich, the couple in the car, are killed. Initially, Wayne sees their deaths as just another opportunity to take from the rich -- or Riches -- and give to the poor (the Malloys themselves).

Then it turns out that the couple had been in the process of moving to that country club community -- where they are complete unknowns, even to the real estate agent who sold them their new house (which is really more of a mansion). An idea is born, and the Malloys launch their con as they fend off sometimes suspicious neighbors and try to avoid the other Travellers now out for revenge.

Izzard and Driver are superb as Wayne and Dahlia. Izzard's comic flair serves him well, but he also gets the chance to show the dramatic skills he has displayed on the London stage in such plays as ``A Day In the Life of Joe Egg.'' Driver, best known for her ``girlfriend'' roles in such films as ``Good Will Hunting,'' is moving and thoroughly convincing as a fiercely protective mother and wife who has to struggle with the darkness of the life she was born into.

While they dominate the show, Izzard and Driver get lots of top-notch support from the rest of the cast -- particularly Woodward, a relative newcomer who is engaging as the teenage Dehliah, and veteran character actor Gregg Henry (``Gilmore Girls'') as a self-absorbed and self-important businessman, as scheming in his way as Wayne is in his.

The writing and storytelling -- by Lipkin and the team of Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin (``Brotherhood'') -- is first-rate, entertaining while making its points about life in America.

In a nice touch, the overriding theme of ``The Riches'' -- the warmth and worth of family, even though the world we live in is filled with frauds and impostors, including ourselves -- is summed up when Bob Dylan's ``Shelter From the Storm'' is used as the music under the first episode's final scenes.

``Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved,'' goes the song. ``Everything up to that point had been left unresolved. Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.

`` `Come in,' she said. `I'll give you shelter from the storm.' ''


'Riches' examines American Dream, Gypsy style


In the risk-taking world of FX dramas, "The Riches" is better than "Dirt." Faint praise, eh?

Here's more perspective: "The Riches" is not as outrageous as "Nip/Tuck," as wrenching as "Rescue Me" or as tough as "The Shield," which returns April 3.

With time, though, "The Riches" could match them all. The first three episodes suggest this series has the knack for offbeat characters, sharp observations and unsettling situations.

FX gives you a family of grifters. Don't be surprised if you don't mind being taken. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver set a tantalizing trap with complex performances as the parents.

The time slot could help, too. "The Riches" plays at 9 p.m. Mondays, starting tonight. Several dramas, notably NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," have failed there. But anyone looking for an alternative to CBS' "CSI: Miami" should welcome the Riches, who are actually the Malloys.

Mom Dahlia Malloy (Driver) leaves jail after two years and makes a rocky re-entry into the world. Papa Wayne (Izzard) puts family first, even if he has his clan living in a battered RV and embroiled in scams.

They put their three kids through amazing scrapes. Dahlia's unsteady behavior annoys daughter Dehliah (Shannon Woodward), who is 16. Son Cael (Noel Fisher), 17, seems smart, although his love life could trip up the family. Sam (Aidan Mitchell), who is 10, could be the best con artist in the bunch.

The Malloys mark mom's release by celebrating with her sprawling Gypsy Traveller family. The series ushers you into an energetic, seedy world at the Traveller camp in Louisiana. Dale Malloy (Todd Stashwick), Dahlia's unhinged cousin, struggles to lead the Travellers, but he clashes with Wayne with life-altering consequences.

Wayne puts his family back on the road, and they take an unexpected detour into suburbia. They move into a lavish house and adopt the identities of the Riches. Can they pull off a gigantic scam, fooling everyone around them?

"The American Dream -- we're going to steal it," Wayne says.

In a top-notch cast, Izzard stands out as the father. This role allows the standup comedian to play the showman, from charming the attendees at a high-school reunion to stunning neighbors on the golf course.

Wayne's new neighbors include Nina Burns (Margo Martindale), who pops pills to make it through the day, and Hugh Panetta (Gregg Henry), an overbearing businessman.

The series keeps returning to the American Dream and how pursuing it shapes people. Characters see the limits of the good life, but they keep grasping for it.

"The Riches" was created by Dmitry Lipkin, a Russian who moved to Louisiana at age 10. That sense of an outsider looking in is crucial to the series' appeal.

"It is still the most upwardly and the most downwardly mobile country in the world," Lipkin says of the United States. "I think the show is kind of the extreme example of that."

Two performers from Britain, Izzard and Driver, tackle these unconventional spouses with zest. Why do we never hear about the British Dream?

"It's a nightmare, that's why," Driver says.

"The American Dream -- it was the place where people came from monarchy systems and aristocracy systems to go and make a lot of money or to practice religion and be really weird," Izzard says. "It's become slightly unlevel again ... a money aristocracy."

So this is how they see us? "The Riches" has the makings of a bracing, provocative series.

Dysfunctional families -- from "All in the Family" to "Everybody Loves Raymond" to "The Sopranos" -- never go out of style. They have always been far more interesting than the seemingly perfect clans, a point "The Riches" reinforces with verve.


Stealing the dream BY JOANNE OSTROW | Denver Post

Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver assume a posh position in 'The Riches'

Doug Rich absentmindedly hangs a handicapped-parking pass on his BMW's rearview mirror as he pulls into a reserved parking place at the corporation where he serves as in-house counsel. It is a small symbol of the shortcuts and not-quite-legal status that make up his life.

In fact, Doug Rich isn't handicapped. He can't afford a BMW. He isn't a lawyer. He isn't even Doug Rich.

Everything about him is counterfeit, except his love of family and belief in the American Dream.

Doug is actually Wayne Malloy, a nomadic con artist from rural Louisiana who, with his wife and three kids, is on the run after stealing money from his clan's extended-family bank.

In FX's "The Riches," debuting Monday, Wayne (Eddie Izzard) and his wife, Dahlia (Minnie Driver), are seasoned cons who talk their way into whatever they need.

When they witness an accident, they seize the chance to assume the identities of a deceased couple, Doug and Cherien Rich, and move into the Riches' waiting McMansion in an affluent subdivision. There they study the couple's bills, phone records and e-mail for clues to their world, and launch new suburban lives.

In time they realize that the hypocrisies and strained relationships required of them in their newly upper-middle-class lives are as bizarre as anything they've pulled off as petty thieving "travelers," the insular network of extended Southern families with a notorious reputation for grifting.

One of the toughest things to remember in their newfound station in life is that the local police are not there to arrest them but to protect them from the riffraff.

The Riches apply themselves diligently. Soon, they con their way into a private school as easily as they conned their way into a wedding reception. Moreover, the idea of private school and the sense of entitlement that goes with it become as important to them as lifting wallets and wedding presents once was.

Izzard and Driver are phenomenal: raw, scary and convincing in their roles as family-style grifters. Driver, in particular, is impressive as she morphs from an uneducated woman just released from prison with a heroin habit into an uneducated junkie pilfering pills from her neighbor in a gated community, learning how to navigate both the snazzy kitchen and the nosy, snooty neighborhood association president who demands they move their RV.

Driver, who scored an Oscar nomination for "Good Will Hunting" and had a recurring part on "Will & Grace," makes Dahlia's furtive and dangerous life choices seem reasonable in context. She brings Dahlia's brutal background to vivid life, even while taking on the charming persona of Cherien.

Izzard ("My Super Ex-Girlfriend"), who won an Emmy in 1999 for his stand-up special "Dress to Kill," is funny and endearing, when he's not also pathetic, as Wayne/Doug.

The three kids — played by Shannon Woodward, Noel Fisher and Aidan Mitchell — hold up their end of the scripts. The cross-dressing youngest son (not unlike himself, Izzard said) represents a new direction for primetime.

Playwright Dmitry Lipkin created the series.

Clearly this is the best FX has offered since "The Shield," a daring original work that speaks to class consciousness in America and the posturing that goes with it. "The Riches" is good enough to erase the memory of "Dirt," the shallow, ill-conceived Courtney Cox drama that FX premiered in January.

As the Riches cannily steal the American dream, they are hunted by the clan of "travellers" whose money they've taken. Their trailer-trash past threatens to catch up with their country-club present. As we've seen with Tony Soprano, it's tough to avoid pulling for the imposters squatting in the million-dollar home with a pool.

Let's hope any day of reckoning is several seasons away.

Gypsies, tramps & thieves


BY DOUG ELFMAN Television Critic | Chicago Sun Times

They're called Irish travelers, a sort of gypsy. The Malloys are a family of con artists. But they've come to a crossroads -- on a road, no less -- and decided to steal the identity of a dead couple, move into the couple's house and forge a more stable life.

Fortunately for them, clueless neighbors in this Louisiana town never met the couple they impersonate. So all Wayne (Eddie Izzard) and Dahlia (Minnie Driver) have to do is connive their way through this new and rough assimilation.

Producers of FX's "The Riches" say there's no other show on TV like this, but HBO's three-Mormon-wives drama "Big Love" is slightly similar. In both, the protagonist family lives a secret life while a rival family of the same ilk is out to get them.

There's a lot going on in "The Riches." Soon enough, Wayne will consider faking his way through a real job. Dahlia must adjust to being freed from prison while raising three kids and struggling with a nasty drug habit.

The show's first three episodes don't always land their punches. But "The Riches" takes daring swings. And the acting, especially in Monday's debut, is as good as it gets on TV.

Comedian-turned-actor Eddie Izzard finds the sinister but conscientious soul of Wayne, slyly talking himself into bounty and out of sticky situations. Minnie Driver is nothing short of remarkable, making Dahlia multifaceted and at times funny.

There's room for improvement. The first episode is excellently textured. A few upcoming episodes get bogged by slack scripts and workaday direction, though the show is in the reliable hands of producers who drafted HBO's "Carnivale."

"The Riches" works best when it's more dramatic and subtly comic than when it sometimes unravels into broad eccentricity.

But it's a good start for a good show, whose tone is best when not loud. In the premiere, Wayne quietly recites a William Stafford poem summing up the hopeful drift of his family of traveling thieves:

" 'Who are you really, wanderer?' / and the answer you have to give / no matter how dark and cold / the world around you is: / 'Maybe I'm a king.' "

Wayne is royally deceptive. He's even hustled himself into believing his biggest lie, that everything will be turn out just fine.


FX rolls the dice for next eccentric drama Cable network takes a gamble on Eddie Izzard and “The Riches”
Cable network takes a gamble on Eddie Izzard and ‘The Riches.’


The Riches” reminds me a bit of “Big Love” the first time I saw it. I wasn’t sure whether to like these people or despise them, whether I bought the premise or not.

And yet, at the end of the hour, I wanted to see more.

So consider that an endorsement for “The Riches,” debuting 9 p.m. Monday on FX, another show that is playing hard-to-get with its audience.

As the show opens, Eddie Izzard is tooling around in a beat-up RV with his kids. Everything about the scene says shady business, so when a cop pulls the rig over, it’s not surprising. Then they swing by the old gray-bar hotel to pick up Minnie Driver. Minnie Driver! I guess we’re supposed to like these grifters.

More strange turns. A welcome-back picnic by a whole community of disreputable looking hillbilly-types. A bizarre fight. A high-speed RV chase. A fateful collision — and the next thing you know, our family-on-the-run finds itself parked. In someone else’s home. In a gated community on a golf course. Which they will live in until someone finds them out, or until one of their fellow gypsies stumbles upon them and says, “My, my, my, haven’t you come a ways?”

This could be a parable about the American Dream. Upward mobility and all that. It could be a satire of the middle class and the pointlessness of said mobility. Or it could simply be a train wreck, though the first episode certainly starts out strong.

“The Riches” is the latest roll of the dice from FX, which isn’t afraid to try something viewers might possibly hate (“Dirt” and “Starved” come to mind), or give writing and producing contracts to young men with off-kilter ideas. A native of Russia, Lipkin arrived in Louisiana when he was 10 and worked his way to New York, where he wrote plays. This is his first TV anything.

“I wanted to write a show about a family who pretends to be someone they’re not. I always felt that’s sort of what I was doing in my own life. I’m sort of an immigrant refugee. I wanted to capture that oddness and that outside perspective of America,” Lipkin said at a January press event for “The Riches.”

There’s always the chance “The Riches” will go down that “Dirt” road, but I’m thinking not. Two words why: Minnie Driver.

“You define your career as an actor by what you say no to, oddly, and I don’t say yes very often,” Driver said. “When I read this, it was just far and away the best part I’ve ever been offered…. and that this was like a springboard into something completely unknown and spontaneous. She’s the greatest character I’ve ever played.”


FX has an embarrassment of dramatic riches
Sunday, March 11, 2007 | Mark Dawidziak |

FX will premiere "The Riches," a drama starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, at 10 p.m. Monday. The title is a good description of the risk-taking cable channel's robust drama portfolio.

Talk about paying dividends. FX has made its strongest programming investments in the drama field, reaping a wealth of acclaim for "The Shield," "Rescue Me" and "Nip/Tuck." Here, to be sure, there are riches to spare.

And with HBO saying farewell to "The Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "Rome," FX now is the undisputed heavyweight champion in television's drama division.

That's not to say every FX gamble has paid off handsomely in the ratings market. The channel has its share of noble failures, including "Lucky" (it wasn't), "Over There" and "Thief."

That's also not to say these FX dramas should be approached without some degree of caution.

There are dangers involved with any high-risk investment, and no one pushes the TV-MA rating quite as vigorously as the producers behind these shows.

"The Riches' is no exception. It's an adult drama swimming in ambiguity. It's a show stocked with sly performers dancing expertly on the edge between heart-stopping drama and outrageous humor.

Edgy is a wildly overused adjective in programming circles, but it doesn't even begin to describe the FX dramas.

Izzard and Driver play Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, a rural Louisiana couple and members of the supersecretive Gypsy Travellers society. The con artists go on the run with their three children after stealing money from the grifter clan's bank.

They hide in plain sight, assuming the identity of the Riches, a wealthy suburban couple killed in a car wreck. Can they continue to pose as a normal American family? And will viewers take the scheming Malloys to their hearts?

"They're thieves and they're liars, but you'll love them," said executive producer Dawn Prestwich, who, with writing partner Nicole Yorkin, helped shape such innovative cable dramas as HBO's "Carnivale" and Showtime's "Brotherhood."

Best known for his stand-up comedy, Izzard was intrigued when a friend told him that "the best writing in the world" was being done for American television dramas.

"I realized this is great drama," Izzard told a group of TV critics in Pasadena, Calif. "I realized I was just missing something. And the bridge between film and television, it's just level now. And so I felt that people weren't throwing me great roles in film, so I will push the television drama."

Driver, too, was frustrated by the lack of good roles on the film side of the street.

"When I read this, it was just far and away the best part I've ever been offered," Driver said. "There are maybe four actresses who get the really wonderful film roles -- they're mostly called Kate. And I always wanted to do stuff like that. When I read this role of Dahlia, I knew that this was someone who could become anything, could go anywhere. She's genuinely the greatest character I've played."

The series was created by playwright Dmitry Lipkin, who was born in Moscow.

"I wanted to write a show about a family who pretends to be someone they're not," Lipkin said. "I've always felt that's sort of what I was doing in my own life. I'm sort of an immigrant refugee. I came here when I was 10, and I kind of reassessed who I was, and ended up growing up in Louisiana. So I wanted to capture that oddness and that kind of outside perspective on America . . The show careens from wonderfully hilarious moments to utter tragedy very fast. That's really what we are trying to do with it."

Yorkin and Prestwich were at the helm of a network drama before fleeing to HBO, Showtime and FX. Producing "The Education of Max Bickford" for CBS "was a fairly traumatic experience for us," Yorkin said.

"As television writers, you don't get the creative freedom on network to write the kind of stuff you can write at HBO and Showtime and FX," Prestwich said. "You don't make as much money, but you get up every morning thrilled to go to work. I mean, it's worth it. It's completely worth it."

The Riches': Fresh, funny and smart

AMANDA CUDA | Connecticut Post

It's always exciting when a television show gives us a window into a world we've never seen before.

But, with the TV schedule so crowded with police detectives, doctors and attractive young people struggling to create productive lives, it's recently seemed that those who create television had no interest in giving us something new or fresh.

That's what makes the new FX drama "The Riches" such a pleasure. The show, which premieres 10 p.m. Monday, stars Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard as Dahlia and Wayne Malloy, a pair of Gypsy travellers from rural Louisiana.

The husband and wife, along with their three children, are accomplished con artists and thieves, but Wayne wants more from life. Soon, under circumstances that I won't reveal here, the family has fled the camp where they live and taken up residence in the home of a deceased wealthy family, the Riches.

The plot centers around how the Malloys, who have spent the majority of their lives as vagabonds, must adapt to living in traditional society. But, again, I don't want to give away too many details, because I want you to be as surprised by "The Riches" as I was.

This show is so fresh and funny and smart, it almost feels dangerous.

True, other shows have examined the lives of con artists (the British show "Hustle" leaps to mind), but not quite like this. The opening episode gives us a glimpse into the travellers' camp, and tells us about their community and its structure. The travellers have their own code, even their own language.("Normal" people, we learn, are referred to as "buffers.") In a few short scenes, "The Riches" brings this subculture to life in rich detail.

The show also gives us interesting, unique characters we care about despite their questionable lifestyle. Even in a TV landscape populated with dark, complex characters, the Malloys stand out. They're bonded together by fraud and deception, yet they're also a loving family who support and protect each other.

It helps that the series is populated with fantastic actors, particularly Izzard, who is nothing short of tremendous as Wayne. Best known as a stand-up comedian, who usually performs in drag, Izzard is an ideal choice to play a cagey con artist who must constantly improvise to stay ahead of his prey.

It's impossible to take your eyes off him from the opening scene, in which he and his kids crash a high school reunion and proceed to charm, delight and rob everyone in the room. Izzard is charismatic and hilarious, but still lets us see that Wayne is tortured by his desire for a better life for his family.

Driver is every bit his match as Dahlia, despite the corny Southern accent she's acquired for the role. A quirky, engaging actress, Driver has had some success playing "girlfriend" roles in movies like "Good Will Hunting" and "Return to Me." But Dahlia is unlike anything we've ever seen her do before.

When she first appears, she's been freshly released from prison and is soon thirstily chugging a bottle of cough syrup. Not exactly what you'd expect of the sweet medical student from "Hunting."

Driver's Dahlia is ferocious, impetuous and selfish, yet she's also a tender, loving woman who adores her family. Driver and Izzard have great chemistry, both in their love scenes (which are plentiful — be forewarned) and in their quieter moments.

They manage to imbue all their scenes with the relaxed familiarity of a couple who have been together a long time. It's rare, and refreshing, to see that on TV.

"The Riches" isn't for everyone. Its dark, quirky tone probably won't sit well with those who like their TV dramas pat and predictable.

But those hungering for something new will find much to enjoy.

'Riches': FX, Izzard find humor in American dream

The network known for its edgy dramas dips into comedy, but it's hardly standard fare.
By Greg Braxton, LA Times Staff Writer

The network that brought you murderous cops, sex-crazed plastic surgeons and a pill-popping fireman who all but raped his estranged wife is now in a family way.

FX, which made its groundbreaking mark on the television landscape with such dynamic, raw fare as "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me," is entering into milder territory on Monday with "The Riches," a series centered around a married couple and their three children residing behind the gates of a cushy, comfortable community.

Though it sounds like a suburban idyll, "The Riches" is a world away from "Father Knows Best." What with its layers of complexities and nuances, it is something of a ragout for TV.

Take the spiciness of "The Sopranos," "Big Love," "Weeds," "The Fugitive" and "Ugly Betty," add some original European seasonings and fresh homegrown sauciness, sprinkle with satire and it might come close to defining "The Riches."

The series, which at its heart is a thematic search for the American dream, was created by a Russian refugee who moved to Louisiana as a youngster, and features two versatile British leads — one who made a splash as a cross-dressing heterosexual comedian — who are new to weekly American TV. Helping to run the show is a producing-writing team who used to be known as "the soccer moms."

It's that hybrid of disparate creative forces that provides "The Riches" with its unique chemistry, said Eddie Izzard, one of the show's stars and an executive producer: "It's challenging but also a great learning ground."

Izzard teams with Minnie Driver ("The Phantom of the Opera," "Good Will Hunting") to play Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, two hustlers who are part of a tribe of outlaw Gypsy Travellers in rural Louisiana. When they run afoul of the larger clan, the Malloys flee. A series of bizarre, and deadly, circumstances provide the fugitive Malloys with the literal and figurative keys to safety — the house of a deceased affluent couple. In Wayne's world view, assuming the identity of the Riches is an opportunity to make a better, more honest life for his family.

Or, as Izzard put it, "Wayne has to lie and cheat his way into legitimacy."

Series creator Dmitry Lipkin said he wanted to build a show around a family that was pretending to be something it wasn't, "a family that has a private and a public identity." "The Riches" takes a poke at the establishment, the wealthy and suburban life even as it probes the volatile dynamics of the Malloys (smooth-talking Wayne isn't as smooth in his desperate struggle to keep the family together; Dahlia is a drug addict, the youngest son likes to wear dresses).

Despite the grueling seven-day-per-episode shooting schedule in the Santa Clarita Valley and the 17-hour days, Izzard — who has performed in movies, plays and an acclaimed one-man show in which he wore women's clothing — and Driver, who has lately pursued a singing career, both declare "The Riches" one of their most satisfying experiences.

Said Driver: "This is the hardest work I've ever done. But this is also the best character I've ever played."

The two performers, who knew of each other but had never met before they came together on this project, use American accents in their roles. "There's a fantastic irony in us doing this series," Driver said. "Everyone wants the American dream. But that has really gone off the rails in the last few years."

The launching of "The Riches" comes at a crucial time for FX, which would welcome a hit to join its reliable veteran roster. Several series in the last few years, including "Thief," "Black / White," "Over There" and "Starved," have failed. And while FX executives say the jury is still out on the tabloid journalism show "Dirt," that series so far has not caught fire with critics or viewers.

Special care is being taken with the shaping of "The Riches," a pet project of FX Networks President John Landgraf that has been in development for two years. The original pilot, directed by Carl Franklin ("Devil in a Blue Dress"), was shot a year ago. But producers felt the tone of the pilot was too dark and called on director Peter O'Fallon to re-shoot some scenes and to add more humor.

Writer-producers Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin were brought in to further finesse the tone. The partners, who have young children, worked on several other series and created the short-lived "The Education of Max Bickford."

"The concept of the series is that these folks are taking over dead peoples' lives," Prestwich said. "But Eddie and Minnie are very funny. It's a constant balancing act."

Added Yorkin: "The show is about wish fulfillment, but this kind of wish fulfillment can have a very dark side."

Still, Izzard is so confident that "The Riches" will strike pay dirt with viewers that he's already thinking up story lines for the sixth season. "I love doing this," he said. "I insist that it work."

Grifting clan lives large in 'The Riches'

Friday, March 9, 2007 | SF Chronicle | Tim Goodman

The Riches: Drama. 10 p.m. Mondays, FX.

There is a dizzying array of strange and wonderful dramatic themes and virtuoso performances in the new FX series "The Riches," but your first reaction might be just to stare at it. "The Riches" is both unique and intoxicating -- and plenty more. But first, let's just stare at it, wonderstruck.

This is not a cinematic issue. While there's plenty to like visually, there are neater tricks in this show that leave one impressed -- agape, even. For starters, it's a drama about the Irish Travelers -- a secretive group of itinerant Americans frequently derided as thieving Gypsies. Are they Gypsies? Not technically, but Gypsy-esque, sure. What's with the spelling? (There was a 1997 movie called "Traveller" and this band of people is often referred to with a double-L spelling, and yet they are, technically, "travelers," traipsing mostly through the rural South in RVs -- "The Riches" is set in Louisiana.) What about thieves? That's the knock, sure, and that's the root of "The Riches." Are the Irish Travelers -- not to be confused with the Romany clan -- a cult? Are the alleged 30,000 Travelers in the United States subverting the social system, in the vein of polygamists? Who are they, really? And where are they going?

Those are more than enough questions to make viewers curious and keep writers on the show unflaggingly busy. But the beauty of "The Riches" is that it's also these things -- and they, too, are inventive and interesting in their own right:

It's a show about "stealing the American dream." Which means it's about rogues and bold thinkers and crazy people and cynics and opportunists -- all under the banner of capitalism and the Constitution.

-- It's a fresh send-up of suburbia and class and their intertwined sociological issues.

-- It's a treatise on lying and stealing and the importance of family.

-- It's about square pegs and round holes and the tyranny of the mainstream.

-- It's a comedy.

-- It's a drama.

So the questions that need to be asked before assessing those attributes are these: "Are you serious? Are you really going to try to pull that off?" Perhaps that's part of the staring thing. While HBO and FX and a few others are constantly trying to set the creative bar high, this might be overly ambitious, no?

Not really. And here's why: Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver put on a tour de force of acting. Izzard comes straight out of the gate as a fully formed whirlwind, a con man so good that he blows past the safety signs not only because he can but also because it's fun. Driver blossoms from a low-key (more likely shell-shocked) parolee in the first episode to a dangerous and funny hellcat in the next two.

Once you get over the weirdness and the inventiveness (if you ever do), there's time to really appreciate what creator and writer Dmitry Lipkin is attempting (he's helped on the show by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, the writing team behind a lot of good TV work, including Showtime's acclaimed "Brotherhood" last season). Sometimes, while watching as Izzard makes his mad dash at an Emmy, it's easy to forget that "The Riches" is tackling a big bear here. It's good to know there's a solid team behind the scenes who might be able to bring home 12 strange episodes.

"The Riches" is about the Malloys, a family of Irish Travelers in rural Louisiana who are very good at their game, which is the con. Any con. Wayne (Izzard) is first glimpsed going over a plan with his kids: motivated daughter Di Di (Shannon Woodward), jaded son Cael (Noel Fisher) and somewhat naive but exceptionally bright Sam (Aidan Mitchell), the youngest boy, who likes to dress up as a girl. They are on the road to pick up their mother, Dahlia (Driver), who has just spent two years in prison for a con gone wrong. Inside she's picked up a cough syrup habit. And she's a little angry.

Now, there's a lot to mine right there in "The Riches," and odds are you'll be hooked by the Irish Traveler mystique in much the same way HBO's "Big Love" had a unique conceit -- polygamy -- that had enough rituals and quirks to keep the uninitiated fascinated before realizing that there were plenty of other dramatic elements to keep the series afloat. (Strange that "Big Love" star Bill Paxton was the lead in the movie "Traveller.")

But "The Riches" ups the value of the premise by adding a twist -- there's a brutal accident that leaves a man and his wife dead. Their BMW is run off the road. She dies instantly. He's impaled on a tree limb. It's not the Malloys' fault, but they rush to help. Then Wayne discovers an envelope in the BMW. It contains a house key and a letter. The couple -- a lawyer and his wife, named Doug and Cherien Rich -- were moving to Louisiana from Florida and had bought a beautiful house in a gated community. The lawyer bought the house on the Internet. Nobody's ever seen him in Louisiana. You can probably guess what Wayne dreams up next.

But it's not that easy -- nor should it be. Good drama needs tension, and there's plenty of it in "The Riches." Wayne, the best con man anywhere, is looking for an exit. But Dahlia's a parolee who's living in a dead man's house, and she's restless. Besides, she comes from one of the major Irish Traveler families and prefers that nomadic lifestyle, as do their kids. The kids have so totally bought into the us-versus-them mentality that suburbia seems more frightening and stupid than attractive. The rest of the family wants to take advantage of "buffers" -- regular, law-abiding folks -- rather than live like them.

Credit the casting on "The Riches" for giving the series an enormous boost. Both Izzard and Driver are phenomenal, but the three young actors more than hold their own.

There's much to love and gawk at in "The Riches," and one of the most underappreciated elements will certainly be the amazingly nuanced tone. At its core, "The Riches" is a comedy. It's breezy and sly and ridiculous. But the series shifts effortlessly into dramatic terrain and then back out again. You almost don't notice. That's both good writing and good acting. And the drama in "The Riches" is not derived merely from fear of being caught but also from the internal struggle of the characters to come to terms with their place in the wider world.

"The Riches" is yet another triumph for FX -- a wild ride with a view to gawk over.


On TV: A wealth of talent in FX's newest series 'The Riches'


In a few weeks, when the final episodes of "The Sopranos" hit the air, we'll begin reading stories about all the ways in which the series changed television. Rightly so. HBO came to represent television at its best, inspiring other networks to raise their ambitions. The most successful transformation has to be FX, the basic cable network that built up its reputations on the combined strengths of "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck," "Rescue Me" and "30 Days."

Monday night, the channel introduces "The Riches," a drama about a family of traveling con artists from the backwoods of Louisiana, a show that vacillates between riveting and middling in its first three hours.

"The Riches" premieres strongly, with casting tailored to grab our attention. Two famous Brits, Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, play Wayne Malloy, the charming head of household (the house in question being a tattered R.V.), and his wife, Dahlia.

The Malloy kids are budding grifters, especially jaded Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) and moody Cael (Noel Fisher). Youngest child Sam (Aidan Mitchell) is a highly intelligent kid who likes wearing his sister's old clothes. As Gypsy Travellers, they hold to a set of superstitions and laws, one being that if you sleep indoors you risk losing your soul.

Quirks glued in place, we launch toward a level of complexity that evokes premium content as opposed to basic expectations. As it opens, a confident Wayne saunters into a class reunion, wearing another man's nametag, making conversation and parting the clueless "buffers" (the term for non-Traveller folk) from their wallets. He's a nice enough guy, and his kids love him.

From there, it's on to prison to pick up Dahlia, looking nothing like her name -- gray-skinned, mangy and ornery, Dahlia carries a souvenir from the pokey in the form of a drug habit. A hell of a transformation on Driver's part.

"The Riches" is a leap in other ways as well. It's the first series from playwright Dmitry Lipkin, a man with a biography almost as interesting as his series.

Born in Russia, he moved to the Southern U.S. at age 10 and learned English from sacking out in front of his television, and it's obvious he picked up the form's language as part of those studies.

Constructing a series about people off society's grid comes naturally to him. However, he could be in for an unpleasant lesson in viewer fickleness when it comes to criminals.

The Malloy family, pleasant as they come across, are thieves. No getting past that. However, meeting the rest of the Traveller clan, soon to be led by a reckless, violent cousin named Dale (Todd Stashwick), makes Wayne and Dahlia seem like rascals in comparison.

That's the key, isn't it? We have to buy these bad, bad people as flawed but not unredeemable, fallible men and women somehow driven in spite of their humanity to do the terrible things they do.

Maybe that quality will help Wayne win over viewers, since he makes it clear he considers himself to be better than the rest of his ilk -- more intelligent, more cultured, and more deserving of success. He has the bricks and mortar of the American dream in his hands.

When his opportunity comes knocking, it takes the form of a left-field twist some people may find too repugnant to accept.

It's a wrenching scene. The kind that makes you clap your hand over an open mouth. But this fateful development allows the tricksters to slide, somewhat cleanly, into the buffer life. The Malloys become The Riches, moving into an exclusive luxury community with unusually friendly neighbors led by the curious Nina Burns (Margo Martindale).

Themes like these don't always pay off below the premium tier, particularly in a medium in which the greatest successes are ones that operate on classic engines. USA's "Monk," TNT's "The Closer," these are scripted series propelled by unconventional and beloved characters. Take away their central draws, and you have two run-of-the-mill cop shows.

Everybody loves cop shows. FX has to acknowledge that; the series that put it on the map is "The Shield." The question is, will enough people welcome the Malloys?

That's a tough one. "The Riches" operates on an improbable conceit from the outset, one Lipkin sells very well in that first hour. Izzard's Wayne is quite the smooth operator at the top of his game in many social situations, and the actor makes him lots of fun to watch.

One caveat to that enjoyment is that you have to ignore his wandering American accent; Izzard slides around in his non-regional American enunciation, and if you listen closely to it (something you might do if you're familiar with his other work), the flaws can overwhelm the dialogue.

To be fair, his attempt trumps Driver's drawl, with inflections hauled straight out of some old cartoon about the Hatfields and McCoys.

Plot direction of subsequent episodes, though, is more likely to erode feelings of good will by attempting to sell ever-more implausible situations.

Doug Rich, the man Wayne is impersonating, is in a profession few people, even that kid in "Catch Me If You Can," could believably walk into. He gives it a shot, stumbling through an awkward, stop-and-go interview speech, and what is supposed to be a humorous interlude falls dead.

But the producers keep at it, getting Wayne, Dahlia and the kids deeper and deeper into their glamorous lie and serious expenses, and away from the truth of who they are.

This is the screenwriting equivalent of filling a field with bear traps, hoping to gather us in a cycle of anxiety as we return time and again to see how they'll get themselves out of this one, and that one, and the other thing.

That could be the nagging interior voice that wants to dismiss "The Riches" as another earnest jolt of dark and strange from the anti-hero network. Indeed, the price of being set among television's top-shelf programming is that any wobbling leads to a perhaps undue amount of distrust from the viewing faithful. A fall from such heights -- say, in the form of a clod like "Dirt" -- can halt momentum cold.

Enough goes right with "The Riches," however, to allow for a cautionary amount of faith that the series can do right by us. Some have complained about FX's style, considering its explorations of gray areas and shadiness to have a rote predictability. But it does engrossing, wonderful weirdness in a way no other basic cable network does.

"The Riches," imperfect though it may be, stands as proof of that.

New series chronicles a family of con artists
Alan Pergament | Buffalo News Entertainment

 In a sense, the casting of the new FX drama“The Riches” is as absurd as the premise.

Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, two Brits, star as married schemers from Louisiana chasing the American Dream at the same time they are being chased by the leader of their gypsy group of “travelers.”

Izzard gave up a recurring role on “24” to star in a dark FX series as a con man who is trickier than Jack Bauer’s father.

“The Riches” is another cable series with a unique premise that is more likely to attract critics and a cult audience than a huge following. It focuses on the adventures of the Malloys, gypsy travelers who steal the identity of a wealthy family to momentarily live the American dream with their three children.

Izzard plays the ultimate con man, Wayne Malloy, whose philosophy is “life’s like a river, you have to go where it takes you.” He is a quick study whether it is playing golf, playing a lawyer or playing a good neighbor.

His wife, Dahlia Malloy (Driver), is just out of prison and struggling with addiction issues. She isn’t exactly thrilled with Wayne’s latest scheme or that the folks back home — especially violent relative and leader Dale Malloy (Todd Stashwick) — are looking for them to reclaim the money Wayne stole from the camp.

The kids — teenagers Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) and rebellious Cael (Noel Fisher) and their younger cross-dressing brother, Sam (Aidan Mitchell) — are accustomed to the insanity around them. Cael seems to be the only child hesitant to totally buy into the dangerous games their parents play at high school reunions, prestigious schools and real estate companies.

It isn’t as easy buying the premise in the first three episodes made available for review as it is buying Driver’s southern accent and the first-class acting. The characters are hard to root for, the skewering of the shallowness of the upper suburban class isn’t terribly original and much of the violence — including the hitting of a pregnant woman — is gratuitous. But it is interesting enough to come back and see “where it takes you” over the next several weeks.

Created by Moscow-born playwright Dmitry Lipkin, “The Riches” follows terrain that has been traveled in different, lighter ways by ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” HBO’s “Big Love” and a brief CW series this past season, “Runaway.” As in those shows, the family at the center of “The Riches” has secrets to maintain, tries to assimilate in its new world as best it can and to embrace a suburban life that is easy to ridicule.

In the first three episodes, the family plots its escape from camp, accidentally gets ownership of a beautiful suburban house and cons its ways into an exclusive private school and a six-figure job. Still, the family appears on the road to be wondering if the life it seeks is worth seeking. It is a good question, too, since most of the suburban characters seem vacuous, materialistic, hypocritical and evil.

In an interview in Pasadena, Calif., Lipkin said he wrote a show about a family pretending to be someone they’re not for personal reasons. “I always felt that’s sort of what I was doing in my own life,” said Lipkin, who came to America when he was 10. “I came from Russia, and ended up growing up in Louisiana. So I wanted to kind of capture that oddness and that kind of outside perspective onto America.”

He said there are 20,000 to 30,000 travelers in America that no one understands. “Everything I learned about con artists is that you learn to do things just enough to pass in many, many different areas,” said Lipkin.

Izzard said he was drawn to the show after being told the best writing in the world is in American television. “I realized this is a great drama,” he said. “I felt that people weren’t throwing me great roles in film, so I will push the drama.”

Driver’s film career (“Circle of Friends,” “Good Will Hunting”) hasn’t exactly been going strong lately, either. She called Dahlia “the best part I’ve ever been offered.”

“(Dahlia’s) genuinely the greatest character I’ve played,” said Driver. “She’s constantly changing. I’m so incredibly thrilled to be doing it because it’s surprising. Very surprising for audiences because I’m a fullgrown swampy from Louisiana, crack addict. It’s great.”

It would be great for producers Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin if more viewers would find “The Riches” than their last two series, HBO’s “Carnivale” and Showtime’s critically-acclaimed “The Brotherhood.” They hope Izzard’s energetic and playful portrait as Wayne will draw viewers to the series after a pilot they concede is darker than subsequent episodes.

“We are so blessed to have Eddie as the father of this family,” said Prestwich. “He is such a light and sort of just a joyful individual in so many ways . . . There is no way that you’re going to be watching this show and not liking these people. You’re going to love them . . . OK, they’re thieves, they’re liars, but you’ll love them.”

Sorry, that’s a con job. “The Riches” is many things — wellacted, unique, devilishly clever, unpleasant and disturbing. But lovable isn’t one of them.


The Riches
From the Salt Lake City Weekly

Series Debut: Contrary to the dryly witty Eddie Izzard promos from FX, The Riches is not a comedy. Sure, it has its funny moments (see: master comic Eddie Izzard), but this story of a desperate family of modern gypsies living one step ahead of the law and under the thumb of an oppressive underground society is gray drama of the HBO variety: No right, no wrong, just survival. Izzard, Minnie Driver (who plays his just-paroled cough-syrup-junkie wife) and their three kids live on the lam in the Deep South, scamming as they can—until a highway accident that kills a rich couple (conveniently named the Riches) presents the ultimate identity theft. They move into the Riches’ new home, befriend their new neighbors, join the local country club and quickly become (somewhat) comfortable in their stolen American Dream. Problem is, before they bought in, “the Riches” stole a stash of cash from the gypsy society and now the hillbillies are on the hunt. Even though their Southern accents drift in and out, Izzard is the perfect con-man charmer and Driver is a convincing spitfire mess; The Riches should easily win back some of that dramatic cred FX inadvertently pissed away on Dirt. Not that Dirt isn’t fun, just sayin’ …


A wealth of drama in 'The Riches
Cynthia Horiguchi

A modern gypsy family of American con artists, living out of a trailer, moves into upper-middle class suburbia - a great premise for a comedic television series. "Beverly Hillbillies," anyone? FX's new drama, "The Riches," however, is a far cry from Beverly Hills.

Wayne (Eddie Izzard), father and con artist extraordinaire, and Dahlia (Minnie Driver), mother and freshly released prisoner, head the Malloy family. Their three children - angst-filled Cael, alluring Didi and grade-school-aged Sam - complete the family of traveling thieves. Together, the family performs a variety of quick-witted, intelligent ploys to get them out of trouble and into their victim's pockets.

Through a complex series of events, the Malloys find themselves estranged from their gypsy camp and extended family, landing, conveniently, in the upper-middle class suburb of Edenfalls. There, they assume the identities of their new home's intended inhabitants - the deceased Riches - and attempt the ultimate con: to steal the American dream.

The series' pilot episode is a slightly disjointed collection of scenes and stories, which will evidently be connected and explained in time. At first, it appears almost perfect for a comedy, but "The Riches" never strays from the serious. As the plot unfolds, more layers are revealed, deepening and darkening the show.

In their new setting, the Malloys struggle to find the best way to live their lives. Should they become "buffers," the very people they prey upon, or should they return to their traveling lifestyle of uncertainty and adventure? Should they run from their old life or turn back to face it? Do they even have a choice?

The concept of a family assuming the identity of another, without any skepticism from outsiders, seems a little farfetched. An uneducated (albeit obviously intelligent) conman turned golf pro and law-firm partner? Drug-addicted-prison-mother turned housewife? Why does all the clothing of the original family, the Riches, miraculously fit the Malloys? And how convenient that the Rich house was bought over the Internet, so no real estate agent would question the new inhabitants. It's just too perfect.

But the well-cast Malloys' clever antics effectively con the characters in the show, as well as the audience. As they attempt to win over their suburban neighbors, they also win over those watching from their living rooms.

"The Riches" may start out slowly, but it quickly picks up speed, substance and suspense. It is a safe bet that the Malloys-turned-Riches have many more tricks and demons left up their sleeves.


Among the Squares

Are the upwardly mobile grifters of The Riches TV’s most relevant newfamily icons?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007 - 4:00 pm
March of the grifters: The Malloys reach for an earthly paradise in The Riches. Between the crime revenue that allows a mobster to be a well-heeled suburbanite in The Sopranos, the pot business that keeps a bourgeois widow afloat in Showtime’s Weeds, and the hidden-in-plain-sight polygamy that if exposed could take down a successful hardware-store owner in HBO’s Big Love, you might wonder if there was even room for another drama about the hidden secrets that sometimes underpin the American Dream.

FX believes there is, and they’re happily right. The network’s new one-hour drama, The Riches, is about Louisiana con artists in the tradition of the old Irish Travelers clan, who undertake the biggest ruse of their lives — impersonating the well-to-do in a ritzy neighborhood. This is a meaty show about the complex allure of easy wealth and the traps it sets for one’s personal morality. Based on the three episodes made available for review, if the quality keeps up — the solid acting, edgy humor and character-driven suspense — The Riches may become the most relevant show of our day. With the country already polarized by class division thanks to a misguided concern for enabling the moneyed and a tired neglect for the poor and middle class, the notion of a show that directly addresses the point where quality of life and thirst for success intersect is a welcome one. It’s like a fraud’s variant on the classically American backstage-drama trope of “Let’s put on a show,” which in the age of never-ending campaigning, corporate malfeasance and the march to war in Iraq should be a disturbingly familiar topic for all.

Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver — Brit actors sporting American accents, as if to compound the series’ theme of pretend — play Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, RV-living nomads with a daughter and two sons well-schooled in the art of diversion and thievery. (In the first episode we’re introduced to the kids’ pickpocketing wiles at a high school reunion Wayne crashes.) When the demands of Dahlia’s extended clan begin to chafe at their cherished independence — namely an arranged marriage that would pair crafty 16-year-old Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) with a brainless hick — Wayne grabs a chance to sever ties by doing the unforgivable: stealing from their relatives’ reserves and taking off.

When a fateful encounter presents the Malloys with the chance to take the place of two affluent but dead buffers, which is Traveler lingo for what old-time gangster movies called “squares,” Wayne decides that maybe the greatest flimflam of all might just be convincing society and themselves that they belong in the world of golf courses, private schools, gated communities and — since his adopted persona, Douglas Rich, is that of a lawyer — a steady stream of income.

Of course, the first problem is that dreamer Wayne decides this without the agreement of hard-bitten realist Dahlia. And Dahlia, as fiercely played with a combustible backcountry mix of wifely rage and motherly sweetness by Driver, is not so comfortable being told what she has to do. After all, she’s just emerged from a two-year jail stint that we’re led to believe was the result of her taking the fall for Wayne. But she ultimately joins in, especially when she realizes that her addictive personality doesn’t have to feel low-rent — not when her friendly new neighbor (Margo Martindale) has doctor-approved happy pills at the ready.

What’s refreshing about The Riches, created by a playwright named Dmitry Lipkin, is that this isn’t the type of show that wants us to cavort on a bed of ill-gotten cash with the Malloys/Riches. We’re on their side, for sure, but the vibe is that of a manicured minefield. There’s a palpable unease on display — an anti-slickness — because the family is forced to close ranks to make their particularly crazy scheme work, especially if they want to avoid getting caught by either their instant friends and associates, or the old ones they burned and abandoned (and who desperately want revenge). The family’s predicament is a sturdy dramatic metaphor for the one-paycheck-away-from-poverty world too many of us have to live in. So as they enter a universe of credit cards, luxury cars, proper socializing and traditional sex roles, every shiny, gilded new element of their suddenly respectable lives — whether it’s Wayne playing legal counsel for a gun-crazed, shady real estate mogul (Gregg Henry), or Dahlia baking cookies for the neighbor, or the kids having to play nice to stay in school — is something potentially fraught with danger. It’s a pungent joke: The happy grifters keep wondering, will joining society corrupt them? Or will the family that stings together, cling together?


Suburban Warfare
The Riches features a family of grifters—and the most scathing take on class relations anywhere on TV.

By John Leonard | NY Times

From Eddie Izzard, the British stand-up comedian and sketch artist, we have come to expect funny: some Tim Curry with politics, some Robin Williams with a mean streak, and some bending of genders. Onstage all by himself, he is funny till it hurts. But The Riches isn’t funny, nor does it especially aspire to be. Instead, The Riches reminds us that Izzard has been onstage with other people, too—in David Mamet’s The Cryptogram, for instance, and Peter Nichols’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. There is a menace in his madness, and it shows up here in his Wayne Malloy, a so-called traveler trolling the Louisiana outback along with his cunning family in their butt-ugly RV, looking for “buffers” to sucker. Neither is Minnie Driver, as his drug-addicted wife, Dahlia, playing for laughs. Nor have their kids—sullen 17-year-old Cael (Noel Fisher), smoldering 16-year-old Di Di (Shannon Woodward), and cross-dressing prepubescent Sam (Aidan Mitchell)—ever heard of cute.

Travelers are Irish gypsies, on the road with a fiddle. “Buffers” are ordinary, law-abiding, middle-class stay-at-homes, ripe for plucking. In the first hour of the new FX series, the vagabond Malloys graduate from stealing wallets at a high-school reunion they’ve crashed, to stealing the family bank after their fellow travelers arrange a marriage that would trap Di Di in a “culture of nothing” forever, to stealing the American Dream itself by stealing the identities of a family of suburban buffers who perish in an auto accident for which the Malloys are partially responsible. There is slapstick along the way, of course, but it tends to be surprisingly violent. And in spite of everything you might have heard on The Beverly Hillbillies, upward mobility doesn’t lend itself to hilarity.

“What if I like it?” asks Dahlia, in the second episode, about their new house in a suburb zoned against RVs. After all, in her girlhood she had always wanted to go to a prom. But does this mean that she and Wayne, having sex, will need to “fake it like a buffer”? Cael likes computers, Di Di likes the boy next door, and Sam likes the swimming pool. Wayne finds that his flair for flimflam helps him with such tricky anthropological, religious, and erotic rites as playing golf and practicing law. Yes, vengeful travelers are out there looking for them and some woman keeps calling on the stolen cell phone late at night. And yet, disguised as “Doug,” all Wayne has to do is lie a lot, like everybody else. A nutcracker businessman (Gregg Henry) who hires him, after a game of Russian roulette, articulates this ethic: “You’re a sick mother, Doug—and I like that in a liar.” Meanwhile, Dahlia, who’s trying to follow her bliss but could really use a fix, gets in a scuffle with a busybody neighbor, a molasses-sappy southern belle whose prosthetic arm comes off as if she were a real-life Barbie.

I suppose some of it is funny, as in a Kafka/Beckett/Pinter soft-shoe shuffle of grotesques. Still, what’s so far much more mesmerizing about The Riches is class war and caste hate. I can’t recall another series so bald and raw about these matters since Profit, which lasted about a month on Fox in 1996, before there was a successful FX channel to let unusual television discover its audience. Adrian Pasdar’s malevolent Jim Profit climbed the greasy corporate pole at the same Fortune 500 conglomerate (“A Family Company”) that had manufactured the cardboard box into which an abusive father had dumped him as a naked child. Profit had many motives, but its principal conceit was the representation of upward corporate mobility as symbolic patricide. The Riches ups this ante, suggesting that social hierarchies are themselves mimicry, impersonation, and charade; that nothing is as it appears (not a lawyer nor an arm); that we are surrounded by impostors, subverted by leprechauns, and live in terror that someone will see through the make-believe to who we really are, frauds and fakes.

On TV: Don't look for many (any?) hits among the end-of-season fodder

"The Riches," 10 p.m. Mondays starting March 12, FX. I'm going to go out on a limb and call this spring's most promising new series: A Gypsy Traveler family on the run from their clan literally crash into the con of a lifetime, enabling them to steal the lives and identities of a rich family starting over in a subdivision where nobody knows who they are. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver (barely recognizable when we first see her) head the cast, and the performances in the pilot are outstanding.

TV: Is the next hit here?
By Vince Horiuchi The Salt Lake Tribune

The Riches * Mondays, 9 p.m., on FX (premieres March 12) Eddie Izzard is one of the world's funniest and most sophisticated stand-up comics. So why is he playing an Appalachian hillbilly in a drama? Sometimes Hollywood confounds. But Izzard and English actress Minnie Driver (huh?) play a white-trash, rural Louisiana married couple with three children who are part of a southern family of gypsies and con artists. They come across the bodies of a wealthy couple killed in a car crash and decide to assume their identities. They move into the couple's multi-million-dollar home and prey on the country-club types who live in the gated community. It's a sound idea for a new drama. It's just that this is one of the most miscast dramas on television. Please, someone put Izzard in a funny, edgy comedy series. * Grade: B- * Odds it will last: Again, not good. It's not "The Shield," and it's never going to be as wacky as "Nip/Tuck."

(NY Post)

February 27, 2007 -- IT'S been too long since we've seen a family drama about backwoods Louisiana Gypsies.

"The Riches" is an upcoming FX show about a Gyspy Traveller family headed by Wayne Malloy, played by performance artist/comedian/all-around oddball Eddie Izzard, who's never met a dress he didn't covet, and his wife, Dahlia Malloy, played by glorious movie star Minnie Driver.

Chances are good you know who they are. But chances are equally good that you have not a clue in hell who or what Gypsy Travellers are.

You aren't alone. Thank God for the Internet. Yes, Travellers have their own Web sites.

Think Brad Pitt in "Snatch" and you'll pretty much get the idea. But an American version.

"Traveller" groups have existed since, well, forever. They live a nomadic life by their own rules.

You'll be happy to know that the horse-and-wagon Gypsies from "Frankenstein" have been replaced by RV Gypsies who live all over the world - and are very much a presence in the U.S.; though they are otherwise invisible.

Giving new meaning to the term "high concept," "The Riches" - which is still a couple of weeks away from premiering - is one of those buy-the-concept-buy-the-series shows.

Right off, it's pretty clear the Malloys (a.k.a. the Riches) are not exactly the kind of family most of us can relate to.

In the premiere, mom is just getting out of jail, bringing a big heroin problem with her.

When she isn't sticking needles in her arm, she's comforting herself with cough syrup.

Dad is a grifter extraordinaire. He's never met a scam, a scheme or a safe he didn't love.

The Malloys also have three kids: 16-year-old Dehliah (Shannon Woodward), an up-and-coming scammer, thief and liar; 17-year-old Cael (Noel Fisher), a computer hacker who seems to be the only one with his head on tight; and little Sam (Aidan Mitchell), the artistic one who loves wearing girls clothes.

What's more, the Malloys belong to an extended Gypsy clan. But when Wayne steals from the clan's safe, they are forced to run for it. Dad's arch enemy and would-be head of the Travellers, Dale (Todd Stashwick), is not about to let Wayne get away with it.

Along the way, the Malloys steal the identity of a dead couple and set themselves up in fancy suburban life. Right.

Seemingly solid suburbanites, the Malloys have neighbors, it turns out, as solidly grounded as they are.

Will America be willing to embrace a family they won't be able to relate to? Probably not.

I mean, look how we all ran from that Soprano family and Nancy Botwin and her pot-dealing pals on "Weeds."

We also ran from those weirdo undertakers, the Fishers, on "Six Feet Under," not to mention "Big Love" and the very polygamous Henriksons.

No chance.


All in the Dysfunctional Family
Newsweek (02.07)

“The Riches,” meanwhile, establishes a unique, if outrageous, identity of its own by the end of the pilot episode. You never quite believe in Driver and Izzard as poor white trash, and the same goes for their whipsmart brood, but that’s part of the point: like any good grifters, they make you want to believe in them. Sometimes the show goes too far over the top, handing Izzard lengthy speeches that fall flat despite his best efforts to sell them, or introducing cartoonishly gothic characters who seem like jokes on the South rather than products of it. But more often, “The Riches” is frisky and poignant. The New South it portrays may not really exist, but it’s a wild, new playground for a TV drama. You haven’t been here before, and that alone gives you a reason to keep coming back.

It helps that the Riches actually feel like a family: confused and constantly on the brink of disaster, but enamored of each other nonetheless. Again, casting is everything, and this family flies largely because of the three excellent young actors who play the Rich children. Shannon Marie Woodward and Noel Fisher strike just the right balance between joy and frustration, as a pair of cunning, off-the-grid teens who seem increasingly weary of parenting their outlaw parents. And Aidan Mitchell, as a bright little boy who prefers to dress like a girl, doesn’t overplay his part and turn him into a joke. He’s a young kid exploring a transgender identity through a barrette here and a painted toenail there. It’s as poignant and believable as his family’s easy embrace of who he is. And unlike “The Black Donnellys,” “The Riches” has plenty on its mind. It’s about freedom versus consumerism, societally sanctioned cons (like the legal profession, McMansions, prescription drugs and private schools) versus the outlaw kind, and, like “The Sopranos,” the ways in which a life of crime eats away at the sanctity of a family. It’s no masterpiece, but it’ll win you over in no time.




John Doyle, television critic for The Globe and Mail, wrote about The Riches, "The Riches begins in early March on F/X, a cable channel we don't get in Canada, and no Canadian carrier has been announced yet. Somebody better grab it soon, because The Riches is wonderful. A serious, smart drama, it features Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as grifters from rural Louisiana who flee their grifter clan and assume the identity of a wealthy, regular family.

The pilot is stunningly good - rich in humour but with a hard-bitten starkness, it has an extraordinary performance from Driver. As an exploration of a peculiar family and a brooding dissection of America today, The Riches could be as good as Six Feet Under." (thanks Anne)




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