The average episode of The Riches barely delves below the surface of the series' premise, in which a family of traveling con artists has assumed the identity of a recently deceased upper-class couple, and are now living in a gated community in Baton Rouge. The con-ers keep getting plunged into absurd situations that resolve implausibly, relying on a ridiculous level of gullibility and stupidity on the part of the con-ees. And yet at least once an episode, the family patriarch played by Eddie Izzard stands in front of people and speaks extemporaneously, thinking on his feet in order to persuade everyone that he knows what he's doing. In the process, he usually convinces those viewing at home, too.
Over the course of The Riches: Season 1's 13 episodes, Izzard and his family get increasingly enmeshed in their new on-the-grid "buffer" lifestyle. Izzard pretends to be a real-estate lawyer, while his kids struggle through prep school and his wife (arrestingly portrayed by Minnie Driver) shares her narcotics addiction with her depressed next-door neighbor (the ever-excellent Margo Martindale). And in a plot development that should be familiar to fans of Big Love, Izzard and company also deal with the feelings of entitlement expressed by their kinfolk, who've left their woodland compound and come to the city, demands at the ready.
The Riches' story isn't as well-conceived as Big Love's, but character-wise and performance-wise, it's frequently as good as anything on TV. Creator Dmitry Lipkin and his team of writers have found a profitable vein to explore in the idea of what it means to be a "traveler" and what it means to be a "buffer," as well as the question of whether people who reach a certain level of wealth are all pretenders anyway. To that end, Lipkin is aided immeasurably by Izzard, a likeable performer playing a character who makes his living being liked, even as he stops just short of letting anyone get too close. The only people he really trusts are his family, who love being crooks so much that they won't ask the question that chews up Izzard's insides: Once we've taken what we want, why are we never satisfied?
Key features: A funny gag reel, two pointlessly puffy featurettes, and two sharp commentary tracks by Izzard and Lipkin.