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Sunday, March 11, 2007

"The Riches": Rich In Melodrama

The first five minutes of “The Riches” are highly entertaining with Eddie Izzard at his charming best.

But then the show sinks into a melodramatic muck that it never works its way out of.

Izzard and Minnie Driver star as Wayne and Dahlia Malloy. They have three children: Cael (Noel Fisher), Delilah (Shannon Woodward) and Sam (Aiden Mitchell). The Malloys are a family of Irish “travelers” who make their living by conning others. In the opener, Dahlia is paroled from prison after two years and returns to her husband and kids and the clan she calls family. But the new head of the clan, Dale (Todd Stashwick) declares that Delilah must marry one of the other clan members. Realizing the new sheriff in town is going to make trouble, Wayne decides to leave, but not before he takes some of the clan’s money with him.

Wayne resigns himself to a life on the run, but after a tragic turn of events, he finds a way for his family to “steal the American dream” by living another family’s lives.

It’s a good premise with a lot of potential, but the episode makes the mistake of not allowing Izzard to play to his strengths. The opening of the show features Wayne conning an entire high school reunion while his kids pickpocket the guests. It would have been nice to have seen more of that side of him.

Instead we see him arguing and fighting. And we see Dahlia shooting up heroin and arguing and fighting, and having so many breakdowns I lost count. And it didn’t make sense to me that Dahlia was willing to turn her back on her husband just to please Dale, even though he wanted her daughter to marry someone she didn’t love.

There’s a good chance that the show could lighten up as the Malloys try to adjust to being someone else. But it’s also possible the show will stay in the melodramatic and quite frankly, boring doldrums.

Since I’m such a fan of Izzard, I really hope for that first one.

“The Riches” premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on FX…