Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Riches - May 5, 2007



American dreamers

The Riches is a dark drama series
about a family of con artists.
You just never know what's going on
with the folks next door.

By Eric Kohanik

Some call them “gypsies.” Others refer to them as “tinkers” or “travellers.”

Most of us would simply know them as con artists.

Meet Wayne and Dahlia Malloy. They’re an average-looking American couple (played by British actors Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver) with three wholesome-looking American kids. The Malloys are making their way across the countryside in a mobile home. But things aren’t always as they seem.

Actually, in the case of the Malloys, things are never as they seem. So, when Wayne shows up at a high-school reunion in the opening scene of The Riches, you soon realize he is up to no good.

The Riches is a difficult series to sum up. Just know that it’s dramatic. It’s dark. It’s deliciously good. And you should watch it.

As the opening episode progresses, there are some twists of fate that befall the Malloys. For starters, Dahlia has been in the slammer and is just getting out. She also has a nasty little crack habit, which doesn’t help. 

After a violent run-in on the road with members of Dahlia’s extended family, the Malloys narrowly escape a car crash with a couple named Doug and Cherie Rich – who, as it turns out, are moving to a new house they’ve bought in Louisiana. 

The Riches never make it because they die in the crash. So, the Malloys do what they do best. They rob the bodies of their belongings. They assume Doug and Cherie’s identities. And they try to escape their past and pursue a new American dream.

The Riches is the creative brainchild of Dmitry Lipkin, a Russian-born playwright who first pitched his idea a few years ago.

“I wanted to write a show about a family who pretends to be someone they’re not,” Lipkin recalled during a press conference in Los Angeles. “I always felt that’s sort of what I was doing in my own life.” 

Immigrating to the United States when he was 10, Lipkin’s family settled in Louisiana. His upbringing in the swampy South made him want to “capture that oddness and that kind of outside perspective on America.”

According to Lipkin, there are 20,000 to 30,000 known “travellers” in the U.S. Their existence intrigues him.

“It’s just a fascinating idea,” he says. “In a time where everybody’s ‘on the grid,’ these guys are off the grid completely.” 

The opening episode of The Riches does a good job of exploring the subculture of “travellers” and their sense of morality, while future episodes delve into the culture clash that arises between the Malloys – er, make that the Riches – and their unsuspecting neighbours.

“We know this exists,” Izzard says. “For year after year, you can be next door to someone, and you don’t know what’s going on with them.

“So, check your next-door neighbours.”

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