(photo credit: Courtesy)
You have to hand it to the folks at the FX network. Within the past few years they've developed more quality shows than just about any other channel with such hits as Rescue Me, The Shield, and Nip/Tuck. Now they've given us The Riches, a show more gripping and overwhelming than any we have seen in some time.
It stars Eddie Izzard, the incredible UK stand-up comedian, actor and sometimes cross-dresser and Minnie Driver, the consummate actress. They play the roles of Wayne and Dahlia Malloy respectively, the heads of a rather different kind of family.
We first meet the Malloys - sans mom - at a high school class reunion that's obviously not theirs. Wayne starts his con working the room as former classmate while his kids pilfer every wallet or handbag they can get their hands on. Wayne's in his element as he recalls classmates he never knew, "Some have cried, some have died; a botched gastric bypass operation, a bad case of the clap." The Malloys, who're part of a large, theiving Southern Irish family, steal, cheat and scam their way across America in a funky RV.
Next stop is mom, who's been released from jail. On the way there a cop pulls them over. No problem, one son fakes an epileptic seizure and they're back on the road. Meanwhile, Driver - who shines as the heroin-addicted mother torn between her her husband and her clan - waits alone outside the prison. The look shared by the couple when they finally meet after two years of separation is magical. And so is everything else about this show.
Heading back to the trailer park that the Malloys and their extended family call home, trouble lurks. Wayne's cousin Dale, who has taken over the clan of grifters, wants Wayne's older daughter to marry a relative described by Wayne as "a chromosome moron."
Instead the Malloys bolt, taking with them the clan's money. "Life's a river, kid - you gotta go where it takes you," Wayne tells his son of life on the road. In Mississippi, they run into another of the clan's families, also in an RV. An incredible RV chase ensues that ends with a third car destroyed and its passengers dead.
Dahlia administers CPR to the woman, who's already dead. Wayne watches the driver die slowly, a piece of tree impaled in his gut, when he realizes: there's an opportunity to be had. He searches the victims' car, finding an envelope holding the keys to a Florida condo where the couple was driving. The Malloys are reborn as the Riches.
Having arrived at the condo, not everyone's happy with the idea. Wayne's two older children are not happy with the new arrangement. "You people want to wake up with no soul, that's your problem," his son exclaims. Wayne, however, is delighted, watching the movers bring in all the couple's stuff and agreeing to play golf with one of the neighbors.
Dahlia is left morally confused after going through the dead couple's wedding album and video. Back on her heroin, she's ready to go home, calling Dale and offering to bring back the money. When Wayne refuses to leave, she takes off with three of the kids, but soon returns telling him that, "I don't need much, but I need you."
The next morning they announce that the family is going legit. "The American dream - we're gonna steal it," dad explains.
Headed to dinner at the complex's club, Wayne's all smiles. Life's looking good so long as no one finds out what went down on the highway. For now, as the Dylan song plays in the background, the family has found shelter from the storm.
The soundtrack is brilliant, bouncing from bluegrass to pop to whatever fits. Izzard is a revelation, his face darts in all directions in a marvelous performance, while Driver moves us to tears with her portrayal of a mother who went to jail to protect her husband, emerged a heroin addict, and is now forced to leave everything she knows behind. Going along for the ride with the Malloys is shattering, exhilarating and constantly fascinating. Just keep your hand on your wallets.
The Riches is being offered on YES Stars 2 Saturday nights at 10:55 p.m. and Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m.