I saw the premiere of The Riches, a new series starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. The show revolves around the Molloys, a family of consummate con artists, headed up by Izzard and Driver. The Molloys are Travelers, and in the premiere Driver’s character has just gotten out of jail. While on the run after a misunderstanding with the new head of the clan, they happen upon a lawyer and his wife who have died in a tragic car accident and decide to take their identities and “go straight.”
The premise and required framework require a suspension of disbelief that beggars the imagination, but the show manages to provide really interest human moments and conflicts that might be otherwise impossible in a conventional story. The Traveler/Gypsy community gets a lot of stereotyping in pop culture, and here they seem to provide a convenient mythos for the story that leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. What seems most interesting to me is the perspective the show can have by putting characters from the outside inside a gated community. Unlike a premise in which poor people win the lottery and move into the expensive neighborhood, shocking the neighbors, here the tension comes from avoiding being “found out.” At the end of the show Izzard quotes the last stanza of a poem by William Stafford:
A STORY THAT COULD BE TRUE
by William Stafford
If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.
He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
when the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand in some corner shivering.
The people who go by-
you wonder at their calm.
They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
“Who are you really wanderer?”-
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
“Maybe Im a king.”
“Maybe Im a queen.”
Perhaps this poem sums up the main tension in the show — the Molloys are trying to become the Riches to make the story true, but their choice is made deliberately and not a switch of the babies at birth. I have very little patience for TV shows in general, and I don’t know if I will continue to watch this one, but I’ll at least try and see the next one or two episodes, because I think the writing is smart and the acting smarter.