With just about every network television show hitting the season finale stretch and threatening to send us into a summer morass of reruns, rip-offs and reality shows, it's as good a time as any to recap what shows we thought were going to be good going into the year, and which ones pulled through, despite networks' unprecedented challenges against cable, the Web and the ever expanding world of media.
In the last TV season, my wife and I tried on a few new shows: "Andy Barker P.I.", "Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip", "Raines" and "The Riches". Of those four, Andy Barker died quickly, Studio 60 was put on hiatus, and I haven't heard much about Raines in a while. The only one left standing? FX's "The Riches", a show featuring the incomparable Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a family of travelers who in some unlikely circumstances, take on the American Dream by usurping the lives of a rich couple in a glitzy neighborhood, complete with spacious home and high paying jobs.
While at times the show can border on the ludicrous, as it is just about impossible to believe the missing couple wouldn't have enough ties to the past or the present for people to know they were gone, it has become a must see for us every week. Like Fox's "War At Home" the year before it, "The Riches" has taken a permanent place in our TiVo's season pass, and has us looking forward to each week's adventures.
Each of the family's main five characters brings a unique cross of near-psychosis and cautious pessimism to an unfamiliar world, yet somehow tries to blend in. What we learn is that despite their oddities, their very neighbors end up looking just as crazy, if not more so. The family's story is further complicated due to some serious ill will from the home they left behind, which threatens to expose them and possibly bring their lives in grave danger. As "The Riches" try to fake their way through legal briefs and dental hygenics, battling problems with drugs and teenagers, we end up rooting for them to continue in the charade and avoid falling victim to vengeance.
While the networks can't seem to find out how to deliver new shows with substance, FX, buried on cable, has taken a chance with a risk and found gold. If you're not already watching, see if you can pick it up during what will certainly be a slow summer for television.