"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Riches: Anything Hugh Can Do, I Can Do Better

I'm covering some familiar ground here. The Riches continues to be about a group of people who aren't sure "who they are anymore." However, not much is really happening. The show has begun running in place, and has removed much of the jeopardy that was setup early on in the season. It's still well acted, well produced and for the most part well written - but it's hard to argue that it's appointment television.

A few plot threads seem to have come to a crawl in this episode. Hugh is supposedly on a drug bender, but I find him in a spa, getting facials and wraps. Dale is hanging out at the neighbor's house, repeatedly scoping out the Malloy/Riches house, without ever actually doing anything. There's only so long you can be a "creeping menace" before you just start to seem foolish and as not much of a threat. Both guys are excellent actors giving good performances, but they've been asked to spin their wheels for far too long on this series. Hugh is always about to do something crazy, and Dale is always about to do something threatening - but they never really get around to it. It looked as though Hugh was headed there after falling off the wagon, but there's been little screen time for him since.

Once again Wayne's facing the dilemmas of being Doug Rich. The beat of "I don't want to be this man" has been hit many times. Starting with firing the man whose job he took, Wayne has repeatedly been faced with having to do things required of Doug Rich that he hates. And yet - he keeps doing them and I keep finding him having a similar dilemma. Even stranger, within this episode, Dahlia goes from wanting to keep their "buffer life" to wanting to scrap it - without any real catalyst for the switch. This just felt like lazy writing - as if something got left over between drafts.

Finally, the episode took an awkward turn into dealing with "issues." When Wayne finds out he has to go to court simply to keep a gay couple from moving onto Panco property, he has a crisis of conscience. Dahlia yells at him that it isn't right and "what if this were your son?!" She never acknowledges the reality of the situation, which is that if Wayne were to lose the case, it could bring the company down. This entire aspect of the story felt awkward and wedged into the episode. This could have been much more interesting, especially considering the possibility that Sam could be gay. Instead it's just another reason that Wayne feels guilt over being Doug.

With only a few episodes left, hopefully The Riches will pick up some steam and deliver a great finale. So much of the original promise of the series has been lost in uneven episodes and slow progression of the story over the season. Wayne has mostly found it too easy to pretend to be a high priced lawyer. While it's interesting that most of their conflicts have become internal, and about their feelings of lost identity - but it's not believable that this would be their primary issue.

How the next few episodes resolve these issues will largely determine whether or not I'll be interested in another season of The Riches.

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