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Clockwise from top: Minnie Driver, Shannon Woodard, Noel Fisher, Eddie Izzard and Aidan Mitchell
L to R: Aidan Mitchell, Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Noel Fisher, Shannon Woodard

"The Ri¢hes" TV Comedy/Drama Series
A Review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

What's a cross-dressing British stand-up, cerebral comedian doing in a TV series (written by a Moscow-born playwright) that tells the story of a modern-day family of Irish gypsies in America? Would you believe: offering viewers something different and guaranteed not to bore them to death; that being at least for the first episode?

(Update, 4/2: Checking in on "The Riches" for the Monday evening, April 2nd episode on FX, I find the show holding up very well.

The Riches' humor is richer and the script continues to unfold in surprising ways. Izzard and Driver are really hitting their marks and the supporting cast is solid. I'm starting to hope for its renewal, but only time and ratings will tell. As I've been reading it, 8 episodes were put in the can. Mature audiences should give thought to tuning in. It rolls over Mondays, and repeated on some other evenings during the week. Googling would give more specifics, I imagine, for viewing in your neck of the woods.)

With some shades of HBO's "Carnivàle," "The Riches" stars Eddie Izzard (playing it straight) as Wayne Malloy, the gypsy husband and father of three who, unlike Willie Nelson, never gets off the road. Minnie Driver is his wife, Dahlia. In the pilot, she's just getting released after two big ones in the joint. Shannon Woodard is the teenaged daughter, Didi. The boys are Noel Fisher (Cael) and Aidan Mitchell (Sam). It premiered last night on the FX (cable) Networks.

The five travel and live mostly in a beat-up Winnebago that seems more reliable than that damned recalcitrant VW bus seen in "Little Miss Sunshine." The Malloys also take pause in a gypsy camp where a little coming-out party is thrown for Dahlia allowing some of the peripheral figures to be brought into the story.

"The Riches" is created by newcomer, Dmitry Lipkin who moved to Baton Rouge, LA in about 1977. The Moscow-born Lipkin also created it and, along with Izzard, is an executive producer. Lipkin learned English by watching American television and says the new series takes some inspiration from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and his own experiences living in the Soviet Union the first decade of his life. Now, I'd call that quite a mix. It must be why I found Monday evening's first episode holding my interest.

The Malloys assume the identity of a man and woman who die in a car accident. The dead couple are on their way to their just-purchased home in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the South as the wreck occurs. How all this comes to pass for the Malloys is worth seeing without the details, yet forecasts some pretty "fancy dancing" for the script to keep the ruse convincingly alive. Some of that is apparent already in the pilot.

Minnie Driver's Dahlia might prove to be the most complex character in "The Riches." She abuses drugs and seems to be the family member who carries the heaviest emotional burden. Driver looks gaunt, good and grounded in the role. Izzard's work as Wayne shows a conflicted man with a covert intellect who has allowed himself to become a modern-day nomadic family man. Maybe the program will give us the reasons for why Dahlia and Wayne are what they are...and why their children seem to be so loyal, yet disengaged from "normal" society. Then again, it may piddle off into just vignettes of the Malloys reacting and covering from their bourgeois neighbors, a little reminiscent of the bigamist Henricksons in HBO's "Big Love."

The overlaying of thieving gypsies smack dab in the middle of a bunch of upper-middle-class Southerners makes for some interesting possibilities, but ties into, I guess, some of the necessary formulas required for a successful TV series. I keep thinking "The Riches" could be called "Desperate Gypsies," but I do recommend this somewhat different TV fare for adults.

"The Riches" official site on FX Networks.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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