Empty10-11 p.m., Monday, March 12
Traveling with this family is fun, but the real party starts when they settle down. The FX show -- an odd concoction of elements from "My Name Is Earl," "Big Love" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" -- is uniquely American, though it was conceived by a Russian Jewish immigrant to Louisiana and boasts English co-stars. Or maybe it's because of that.
"The Riches" is about a family of con artists who work and travel with a larger clan, like gypsies only of Irish descent and with a rural Southern background. They call themselves Travelers, and they contemptuously refer to their duped victims and everyone else as Buffers. Wayne Malloy (Eddie Izzard), his wife, Dahlia (Minnie Driver), and their three kids are first-class grifters, but Wayne in particular has begun to chafe under the authority of the clan's new self-declared leader, Dale Malloy (Todd Stashwick).
Then fate enters the picture. Wayne robs the clan treasury and flees. While pursued by another clan family, a car gets run off the road, its occupants killed. In an instant, Wayne decides he and Dahlia will assume the identity of the victims, Doug and Cherien Rich. The ticket to a better life for his family has fallen into his lap, and Wayne, despite Dahlia's protests, is determined to seize it. In that moment, Wayne, a street-smart seventh-grade dropout, becomes a securities lawyer, and he and Dahlia become owners of a mini-mansion in an exclusive community in Baton Rouge, La.
The rest of the premiere and subsequent episodes tell how the one-for-all, all-for-one Riches carve a place for themselves in their new environment while trying to elude detection by the revenge-minded Travelers. Wayne, a gifted charlatan, has a chameleon's talent for adapting to upper-class pretensions. Dahlia, on the other hand, is a spitfire cut from the same cloth as Joy, the Jaime Pressly character on "My Name Is Earl." She will stand up to her neighbors and a snooty school principal (Episode 3) with the temper and boldness that's worked so well for her in the past.
Their kids are remarkably resilient. Cael (Noel Fisher) misses his girlfriend, an attachment that will threaten family security in the future. Middle child Dehliah (Shannon Woodward) is something of a daddy's girl in intellect and temperament. The youngest, adorable Sam (Aidan Mitchell), has a penchant for dressing as a girl, which the family indulges. Izzard, despite his famous comedy performance in drag in "Dress to Kill," swears this element was in place before he joined the series.
"The Riches" should only enhance FX's reputation for shows that look at a traditional genre -- in this case, family drama -- in an untraditional way. Izzard and Driver, who often have made daring acting choices, do so again, and with zest and style. Creator and writer Dmitry Lipkin demonstrates a keen eye for nuances of class and social structure and a unique perspective on how to attain the American dream.
FX Prods. and Fox Television Studios
Executive producers: Dmitry Lipkin, Dawn Prestwich, Nicole Yorkin, Eddie Izzard, Michael Rosenberg, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary
Co-executive producers: Peter O'Fallon
Consulting producers: Lydia Woodward, Ellie Herman
Producers: Paul Kurta, Iain Paterson
Directors: Carl Franklin, Peter O'Fallon
Creator-teleplay: Dmitry Lipkin
Story: Dmitry Lipkin, Eddie Izzard
Director of photography: Michael Negrin
Production designer: Devorah Herbert
Editors: Anthony Redman, Kevin Ross
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Set decorator: Jeffrey Kushon
Casting: Wendy Weidman, Rebecca Mangieri, Barbara Fiorentino
Wayne Malloy: Eddie Izzard
Dahlia Malloy: Minnie Driver
Dehliah Malloy: Shannon Woodward
Cael Malloy: Noel Fisher
Sam Malloy: Aidan Mitchell
Dale Malloy: Todd Stashwick
Nina Burns: Margo Martindale
Hugh Panetta: Gregg Henry
Jim Burns: Bruce French