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THE RICHES: SEASON TWO

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:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  Eddie Izzard Revealed
Length:  296 Minutes
Release Date:  March 24, 2009

“There’s things you WANT, and there’s things that ARE…you gotta know the difference.”

Shows ****

It’s sad when a truly great television program meets an early demise.  Many once-great shows falter toward the end and just kind of fade away from the public consciousness.  Others never get a chance to go wrong.  The Riches was one of the most unique, most intelligent, and most critically acclaimed program on the box.  Yet after one full season and one sadly short year truncated by the writers’ strike, it is now no more.

I fell in love with The Riches when my wife talked me into watching it.  The show, about a family of con artists rolling the dice and trying to claim a piece of the American dream by assuming the identity of an accidentally departed wealthy couple moving to a new town, was fresh, funny, suspenseful and brilliantly acted.  The characters were instantly memorable and endearing, and the show constantly found more and more dramatic and comedic gold in the simple premise.

The Riches: Season Two was never intended to be the swan song of the show, but the powers that decide such things chose to pull the plug.  The acclaim was universal, the awards recognitions impressive, and the fan base fiercely loyal…but apparently, just not big enough to suit.

When we last left the Malloy family, it appeared their carefully cultivated deception was coming to an abrupt end.  Wayne (Izzard) had managed to successfully fool the small town of Eden Falls into thinking he was indeed Doug Rich, lawyer and wealthy family man.  But the arrival of an old friend of Doug’s was something even the clever Wayne couldn’t quite circumvent.

But the dangerous Dale Malloy (Stashwick) intervenes with designs of his own.  He ends Wayne’s problem in a rather harsh way, and thinks Wayne now owes him a partnership in his con, which will now have to continue a little further thanks to boss Hugh Paneta (Henry) and a new multi-million dollar deal that will set the Malloy family up for life. 

In the meantime, while Wayne is arranging for loose ends to be tied up, his dutiful wife Dahlia (Driver), daughter Di Di (Woodward), son Cael (Fisher) and youngest Sam (Mitchell) are having to escape on their own, and relying on their con skills that have gotten a little rusty in suburbia.  Dahlia’s past, including her breaking of parole to rejoin Wayne, is always threatening to unravel everything the family has tried to piece together, and her methods of dealing with the problem might be worse than the problem itself.

The Malloys were always seemingly just a hair step away from disaster, but as Dahlia always pointed out, as long as they stayed together as a family, they could face anything.  One of the tragedies of the premature end of the show is that the final image is that of the family apart, making their futures as uncertain as they come, and now, sadly, permanently unresolved.

As if the undue cancellation wasn’t bad enough, the second season was unmercifully cut short by the writers’ strike, meaning all we get for year two is seven episodes.  It was more than enough to lay some powerfully promising seeds.

It’s just beyond sad that this show, one of the best on television alongside Mad Men, will never get to deliver on those promises.  You couldn’t have asked for a better cast, better writers, better directors or a more intriguing premise so fraught with dramatic and comedic possibilities.  There is rumor that Eddie Izzard, who was also a producer of the show, is planning a Riches movie.  I don’t know how many people would make an effort to see it, but I can assure you, my wife and I will be at least two.

Video ***

I think the anamorphic presentation was a little better this time around, or it could be just because between the releases of the first and second season, I acquired an HDTV.  There’s still some noticeable grain in darker scenes, but it’s not overpowering, and brighter scenes seem much more detailed and organized, with solid coloring and less softness than before.  I’m not sure why this seven episode season had to be spread out over three ‘flipper’ discs, but I guess considering the show’s demise, it’s not worth complaining about.

Audio **

The 5.1 soundtrack is solid, but not overly demanding.  I didn’t notice a lot of rear channel usage; just a bit here and there, but given that the show is more character and dialogue oriented, it’s not really an issue.  Dynamic range is fairly good, and spoken words come through cleanly and clearly.

Features *

On the second side of the third disc is a featurette on Eddie Izzard.  It’s short, but he discusses how much he loves the show and the character and how he’d enjoy doing it for six or seven seasons…oh, cruel irony.

Summary:

The Riches deserved better.  I implore fans of great television everywhere:  if you missed out on this FX series during its all-too-brief glory, please check out these DVD releases.  I’m not conning you…you won’t be sorry.

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