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Reviewed by Will Harris
X is the basic cable network that all other basic cable networks strive to be. Well, at least, the ones who produce their own original dramas do, anyway. People will probably always hold up “The Shield” as the definitive proof of FX’s desire to step outside of the box a bit with their dramatic programming, but if you need four pieces of further verification within their current line-up, you need look no farther than “Damages,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Rescue Me” and “Sons of Anarchy.” Better yet, it’s rare for FX to only give a series a single season to take off; they know they’re pitching a unique product, and they allow the viewers the opportunity to get the hang of what they’re seeing.
In the case of “The Riches,” it’s fair to say that the reason the show’s first season was a pretty decent out-of-the-box hit was the fact that it featured two extremely high-profile performers as its leads: Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. Unfortunately, the show’s second season didn’t maintain that ratings momentum. It wasn’t that “The Riches” suffered any sort of creative slump, though. It’s probably more because viewers didn’t like the Rich Family.
The Riches, as you may recall, are a family of Travellers. Wayne and Dahlia Malloy (Izzard and Driver) and their children, DiDi (Shannon Marie Woodward), Sam (Aidan Mitchell), and Cael (Noel Fisher), left behind their larger “family” of nomads after Wayne grew disillusioned with such a lifestyle. Instead, they… well, if you really need the entire back story, then you can read our full review of the Season One set. The nutshell version, however, is that the Malloys took on the identities of the Rich family, and by the end of the season, the new life they’d attempted to con – erm, build for themselves – had started to collapse around them.
The writer’s strike destroyed series creator Dmitry Lipkin’s plans for a 13-episode second season, instead forcing him down to a mere seven installments in the life and times of the Riches. There’s every reason to believe that an additional six episodes wouldn’t have done a thing to bring viewers back to the show, but those who found themselves enthralled by the family’s goings-on no doubt felt cheated. Things started strong right out of the box, with Dahlia, the kids, and neighbor Nina (Margo Martindale) finding themselves caught up in a hostage situation after their attempted theft of a truck went horribly wrong. Meanwhile, Wayne’s fortunes weren’t going much better, as he had to deal with the fate of Pete (Ayre Gross), the continuing presence of Dale (Todd Stashwick), and the drunken whining of the ever-unstable Hugh Panetta (Gregg Henry.) The family soon reunited, but it didn’t last long. Soon enough, Cael had opted out of his father’s increasingly un-Traveler-like manner and had hit the road.
In our review of the show’s first season, we said, “You wouldn’t think that a premise built on such a house-of-cards premise would be able to hold up for longer than a season or two – one false move, and the whole thing comes tumbling down – but in the case of ‘The Riches,’ the unfolding story is always throwing you something new.” Unfortunately, as it stands right now, there’ll be nothing new added to the Riches’ story anytime soon – FX opted to pull the plug on the series after these seven episodes. That’s a damned shame, and not just because the show concluded with almost as many loose, unfinished plot threads than “Twin Peaks.”
Yes, the characters on “The Riches” were morally flawed, and you can understand why the average viewer would have serious trouble admitting that they could relate to them, but they were evolving and devolving in such a fascinating manner. For every step Wayne tried to take into a normal lifestyle, he was either cursed by an event that forced him to play his hand in a manner in which he hadn’t intended, or he was tempted by an opportunity that, while morally questionable, made him certain that he would be able to achieve the lifestyle he’d been seeking. Dahlia was suffering through similar battles, although hers were far more to do with attempts to go straight than Wayne’s; her struggle to live a good life was constantly stymied when telling the truth only seemed to get her into more trouble. Cael was caught between his parents’ actions and the Traveler lifestyle he’d already believed in, DiDi was on her way to finding love, and even Sam seemed to have found someone who appreciated his tendency toward transvestism.
Maybe Dmitry Lipkin and Eddie Izzard will yet be able to continue the story of “The Riches” in some other medium, be it a miniseries or a feature film. We can only hope this proves to be the case, as there are certainly many more stories yet to be told.
Special Features: There’s only one bit of bonus material, and it’s a disappointing one. Based on its title, “Eddie Izzard: Revealed” would appear to offer insight into the man who played Wayne Mallow, a.k.a. Doug Rich, but it’s actually just a six-minute fluff piece which seems to have originally been made to promote the premiere of Season Two. As such, there are no revelations about where the series might’ve or could’ve gone if it hadn’t been unjustly canceled by FX, and it closes rather ironically, with Izzard saying, “If it goes six or seven seasons, I’m fine about that.” Based on most reports, he was decidedly less fine about it having only lasted for two.