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Name: Adam Bernard
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Eddie Izzard Gets Rich
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Let me start this review by saying I am a huge fan of both Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, the stars of the new FX series The Riches. Izzard has been on my “must see” list since I first saw his Dressed To Kill stand up act on HBO back in 1999. Anyone who’s seen him perform knows he is both brilliant and wildly funny. When it comes to Minnie Driver, well I think all I really need to say is Grosse Pointe Blank. Small side note, she was also the voice of Brooke Shields in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which earns her even more cool points. Starring two actors I respect, and on a channel that has already proven to me it knows how to create a great series (yes, I’m still in love with Dirt), I had high expectations for The Riches when I turned on my TV Monday night at 10pm. After the hour-plus of episode one not only were all those expectations met, but I also ended up seeing a whole new side of Eddie Izzard.

The Riches opened with Izzard and his two youngest children, one of whom is a young boy who wears women’s clothing, a nice homage to Izzard’s own real life transvestism, going into a high school reunion that is clearly not his. His kids are quizzing him on the yearbook as he takes one of the few remaining names on the table, assuming that person has decided not to show. Once inside he sweet talks everyone, learns all sorts of things about them and even goes up on stage to give a speech where, after spouting numerous factoids about the entire class and what they’re up to, he hilariously gets the class year wrong. While he’s doing all of this his kids are picking everyone’s pockets and purses. This is their lifestyle. They steal and travel. They scam everyone.

At this point in the show I thought The Riches was going to revolve around this type of slightly dark humor, but it became much darker as the hour went on. From the ads everyone knows the plot of the show is that Izzard and his family take over a dead rich person’s life, but what we didn’t know from the ads is how close he would actually get to that person. After a car wreck leaves a man, Doug Rich, dying in his car, and his wife already dead, Izzard tires feebly to be nice, asking “do you have anything to say?” when he knows the man is going to die. Rich tells him to go to hell, at which point Izzard’s eyes and face change completely from being caring to downright evil, a stunning combination of dark and unfeeling. I was honestly impressed, as my main impressions of Izzard were from his standup and I had no idea he was such a talented actor. After Rich dies Izzard finds a letter with keys to the man’s new house that he was apparently going to move into that day. Izzard and his family push the car into the water, body and all, and take the Rich’s place in the house, taking over their lives.

Minnie Driver’s character isn’t a complete innocent either, she has her own set of issues. From a prison rap sheet, to a heroin addiction, to a family that’s trying to promise her children to marriage, she has quite a few things to deal with. The scene where she’s about to shoot up but is telling herself not to do it while putting the needle to her skin was excellent. She also managed to portray the emotions of loneliness and abandonment beautifully without saying a word at the start of the show when she was released from prison and her family wasn’t there to pick her up yet.

Overall The Riches is probably not going to be able to fully harness Izzard’s intellect (honestly, other than his standup, what can?), but his sense of humor is on display, you just have to be ready to adjust to the darkness of it all as this isn’t the type of humor fans of his standup might be used to. There’s also a whole new Eddie Izzard on display here, the Eddie Izzard that’s a phenomenally talented actor.

With Izzard and Driver off to a great start with The Riches, and Courteney Cox and Ian Hart giving fantastic performances on Dirt, FX looks to be giving HBO its stiffest competition in years for the title of best original programming on television (speaking of which, Entourage is back on April 8th!).
posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:58 AM  
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