Monday, March 10, 2008

My Current Televisual Obsession

When it comes to my favorite shows on TV, I am largely a fickle bitch. My favorite shows one year get...well, not tossed aside exactly but de-emphasized in favor of the new, shiny thing. Doesn't mean I don't love Friday Night Lights and Big Love and Brothers & Sisters anymore, but they're not as surprising to me as they used to be. (Of course, the exceptions to this rule -- Battlestar Galactica! Returns April 4! -- are all the more impressive.)

Anyway, the show I'm currently freaking out over is FX's The Riches, which everyone told me I would love but I waited for the DVDs to come out rather than picking up the first season in mid-stream. Anyway, if you've seen or read about the show, you know it's about Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a pair of Travellers (American gypsies, essentially) who take their family, flee from the Traveller fold, and assume the identities of a recently-killed and fabulously wealthy family (the Riches).

The show reminds me of Big Love in the ways that it reveals a family unit whose roots are in a subculture completely hidden from mainstream America, and also in the ways that comedy and drama blend within the show. Instead of the constant jockeying for power that takes place on Big Love, however, The Riches concerns itself with its characters seeking to define and redefine themselves while their environment is constantly fluctuating around them. Eddie Izzard's a good fit for Wayne Malloy/Doug Rich, as he always seems to be putting you on even when he's ostensibly playing it straight. But the real thrill of the show, for me, is watching Minnie Driver thrive in the role of Dahlia/Cherien. There is a certain stratum of actors and actresses who sort of bounce around Hollywood waiting for that one perfect role that's going to let them shine. One of the great benefits of living in this so-called Golden Age of television is that actresses are finding these kinds of roles more and more -- Jeanne Tripplehorn on Big Love, Elizabeth Perkins on Weeds -- and Minnie Driver has absolutely found that role on The Riches.

There are a billion things I love about the show, from the trio of rather excellent young actors playing Wayne and Dahlia's kids (and the fact that they're all pretty well fleshed-out as characters), to Margo Martindale tearing shit up as the joint-smoking, gay-husband-abiding, doesn't-miss-a-trick Nina, to Kaitlin Olson stepping out of her It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia shell to play a one-armed snooty bitch. But Dahlia's the emotional center of the show for me, and Driver has never failed to bring every piece of her -- angry, loving, funny, ignorant, protective, overmatched -- to the forefront, every episode. She's shockingly good.

Anyway, The Riches comes back for a (strike-shortened) second season on March 18. Can't recommend it highly enough.

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