Series deemed ‘best cable… you’re not watching’

POOR LITTLE RICH SHOW: “We're going seven seasons," Eddie Izzard said, as he introduced the first episode of the second season of The Riches at an event in Los Angeles last Sunday. Like most of what Eddie Izzard says, it’s a statement so richly laced with irony and pointed insincerity that no one listening could believe it, especially since he’s talking about a show that’s considered one of the misbegotten underdogs of the cable universe.

The Riches returned to the air last night on FX, one of those stations whose part time job is to be the new HBO – a role it shares with Showtime, AMC and Bravo, depending on the day and the hour. Thanks to the writers’ strike, it’s returning with only seven completed episodes, which end on a cliffhanger that might be the finale if the show doesn’t pick up more viewers and pronto.

(The show’s first season aired on Showcase up here, but there’s no news on their website about when – or if – they’re running the second season up here. A sudden influx of Canadian viewers probably won’t affect its fortunes at FX, and let’s be honest, if you’re a Canuck fan dying to get a look at the second season, I don’t need to tell you where bittorent is, do I?)


“We went the extra mile to give both of these shows a second season, and now they will have to show us something,” said FX president John Landgraf, with a tone that sounds suspiciously like what the farmer tells the kids just before he gets ready to drown the runty pigs in the new litter.

“I really do feel great about what we've been able to do, and we certainly do hope to be able to tell our story," said series creator Dmitry Lipkin. "I feel so proud of all the seven we've done, but I think it would be a disservice to our fans if everything ended with a cliffhanger. It would be good to perform well, and if we do, we'll be back.”

Critical reaction to the series about a family of gypsy “Travelers” who assume the identity of a dead family in a new gated community has been generally positive, but nothing like the groundswell tremor necessary to push over one more intriguing offering in the abundant menu of quality cable. The premise is great, and the writing up to the premise, but the real joy of The Riches is the performances, particularly those of Izzard and Minnie Driver as the pater- and materfamilias of the family.

The Riches may be “the best cable show you're not watching,” according to Joanne Weintraub, TV critic for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It may be “one of those very rare series on television where the journey to brilliance is worth every bump on the way,” wrote Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle; “Do you invest the time, knowing the risk?” asks Goodman, as the truncated second season begins. “Of course you do.” Well, yeah – if you’re watching south of the border. For the rest of us, it’s all about good thoughts – and a download or three.

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