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THE RICHES
Season One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Shannon Marie Woodward, Noel Fisher, Aidan Mitchell, Todd Stashwick, Gregg Henry
Creator:  Dmitry Lipkin
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  628 Minutes
Release Date:  January 8, 2008

“The American dream…we’re gonna steal it!”

Show ***1/2

One of the great pleasures of DVD is when it affords you the ability to catch a terrific television show you might have otherwise missed.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my fiancée was a big fan of the FX Channel program The Riches.  For months, she begged me to snag the first season for us if it ever became available.

Now that I’ve been watching the show with her, I have to admit…she was right.  The Riches is an engaging series about a family of con artists on the lam who try to settle in to an exclusive rich neighborhood, assuming the identity of a couple who met with an untimely demise.

The family, the Malloys, is headed up by Wayne (the wonderful Izzard) and Dahlia (the inimitable Driver).  They are part of a clan known as Travelers (think gypsies), who get through life with a well placed dupe and a bit of larceny on the side.

As the show opens, Dahlia is getting out of jail, where she’s picked up a bit of a habit.  They return to the Travelers camp with their three kids, the resourceful Cael (Fisher), the beautiful Di Di (Woodward), and the youngest and smartest Sam (Mitchell), who, even at an early age, has an affinity for cross dressing.  But circumstances force them to swipe some money and escape.  When the family pursues, an accident leaves a couple dead.

That couple was the Riches, a man and wife on their way to a new home and life in an upper-class community called Edenfalls.  And though it seems crazy, the Malloys need a place to hide, so Wayne decides to play the hand that fate dealt them…they will move into the Riches’ new home and assume their identities.

It won’t be easy…after learning all they can about the late couple, Wayne discovers that Doug Rich was an attorney with a job interview, and Wayne had at best a 7th grade education.  But if the family is going to pull off the ultimate com, they will need income, and Wayne and crew will have to use every trick in their arsenal to make people believe they are something they’re not.

Over the course of the first year’s 13 episodes, we follow the newly christened Riches as they settle into a life of constant charade.  Wayne manages an in with a slightly off neighbor who runs a successful real estate investment company.  Dahlia learns to act like a dutiful homemaker.  And the kids have to (shudder) enroll in school for the first time in their lives.

Of course, there’s the little matter of the Travelers, led by a particularly nasty sociopath named Dale, who are determined to hunt down the Malloys, get their money back, and probably make a rather dark example of the family.  It’s a big challenge for any suburban family.  But the Malloys know how to think on their feet and make the unthinkable possible…but how long can they pull the wool over the eyes of the world?

I can’t say I’ve seen a show quite like The Riches, and truth be told, it was nothing like I was expecting.  I anticipated a farcical sitcom, and while the show is frequently funny, the drama and danger are equal ingredients.  Pretending to be straight and narrow while constantly nursing the crooked deals offers many scenarios, and not all of them are funny.  Some are poignant, some are frightening, and some are downright uncomfortable.  There may be more squirm factor for you dollar in an episode of The Riches than in Jackass…a different kind of squirming, to be sure, but squirming nonetheless.

The cast is wonderful and really anchors the sometimes hard-to-believe premises, starting with the superb chemistry between Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver.  The trio of kids also bring plenty of meat to the table.  And that’s the ingredient that makes it all work.  They may be a family of crooks and con artists, but they are a family.  They look out for each other, and they stand together when the going gets tough. 

And best of all, every last one of them is quite astute at “the game”.  Watching them try may make you cringe from time to time, but watching them succeed is a true guilty pleasure.

Video **1/2

The widescreen transfers are decent, but struck me as a little soft from time to time, particularly in darker settings.

Audio **

The 5.1 mix is more than suitable for a television broadcast presented on DVD, but the audio doesn’t make a lot of demands on your system.  Dialogue is clean and clear, and the frequently haunting Irish sounding scores come off well.

Features **1/2

The extras include selected episode commentary from star/executive producer Eddie Izzard and creator Dmitry Lipkin, plus the Fox Movie Channel specials on the casting and the world premiere, along with a gag reel and 7 webisodes.

Summary:

I’m glad I got the chance to catch The Riches, and I for one hope the family can continue the scam for many years to come.  This season one set is the perfect introduction to one of the most unusual and original shows on television.  Hey, would I con you?

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