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

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Riches: Waiting for Doug (Season Finale)

The Riches had the kind of season that had its ups and downs and left me on the fence about whether or not I wanted to keep watching next season. At this point, it was really up to the finale to win me over. Now that the final episode has aired, wrapping up the inaugural season it's unfortunate to report that The Riches simply didn't amount to much.

One of the major problems with The Riches was an apparent unwillingness to commit to a tone, a direction or an overriding narrative drive. The show lacked focus, wavered from being a drama with comedy to a comedy with dramatic elements until ultimately it was difficult to be that invested in either the story or the characters. This was all the more frustrating because so many of the elements worked.

It's a great idea, Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver formed a very strong core for the cast, and the show often hinted that interesting developments were coming. They never really arrived however, and The Riches ended up being mostly setup with very little payoff. Dale remains menacing without posing any real threat for the entire series. Doug's relationship with Hugh seemed to get relegated into the background towards the end. The small bits that occur in the one-off episodes, such as Doug's ex-wife, the Clancy Brown sting, and the ever growing sense that Doug's paralegal, Audrey, was catching on to him. None of this bore any fruit and the series seems to end with a shrug of the shoulders more than a jaw-dropping cliffhanger.

The introduction of Pete worked okay last episode, but he just comes off as a fool here. He buys every lame line and excuse from Wayne and Dahlia. It's hard to tell if this is because the writers are trying to make Wayne seem clever or Pete seem pathetic. The latter is more believable, and Wayne stopped seeming too clever several episodes ago. The writers tend to dumb down the Malloy's marks, rather than craft well thought out cons. Which is a shame, because the pilot held far more promise of what the Malloys were capable of; back then, Izzard played a small time crook with natural talent who dreamed big.

The series also promised a bit more from the kids, Didi, Cal and Sam. All of these roles were very well cast with great young actors. While some interesting things popped up at school with Cal working for rich kids, Didi dating a "buffer" and Sam painting their life story on the wall - much of this material was dropped halfway through. The rest never came of anything. What did happen to Didi's boyfriend? Whatever happened to the rich prep school kids that Cal seemed to be befriending? In the finale we see very little of them and their individual storylines are forgotten.

FX has already renewed The Riches for another season, so it seems they have confidence that the producers are taking it somewhere. The show and cast are interesting enough to see what happens next season. However, a very uneven season and a lackluster finale doesn't exactly have me chomping at the bit for more Riches

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