THE RICHES created by Dmitry Lipkin, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. Premieres Wednesday (May 9), 10 pm, on Showcase. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Until now, the presence of Minnie Driver was an unlikely reason to watch a TV show, comparable to eating an ice cream cone to get to the girder-like wafer structure at the bottom.
But if British comedian Eddie Izzard is the crowd-pleasing scoop of Chunky Monkey aping for the audience, Driver has found in The Riches an opportunity to be the much cooler Cherry Garcia that drives this dark comedy along its sometimes rocky road.
Driver and Izzard play Dahlia and Wayne Malloy, husband-and-wife thieves who, along with their three kids, roam the American South in a Winnebago looking for their next unsuspecting victim rather like Borat, except they're more interested in larceny than laughter and there's no bear along for the ride.
Indeed, The Riches plays best as an indictment of the modern (dysfunctional) family, a smarting send-up of the American dream and a nibbling satire of a country gullible enough to elect Dubya its leader.
The first episode has Wayne robbing a high school reunion. There's more than a little of Chevy Chase's overtly insincere Fletch in Izzard's uber-confidant con artist, who becomes the class of 81's most popular alum.
But the tone smoothly shifts from screwball to solemn when we meet Dahlia, newly paroled and waiting outside the prison gate dressed in cornrows, sweats and flip-flops and exhibiting the slight twitch of a junkie in need of a fix.
Nothing on Driver's resumé not her boy-toy turns in Good Will Hunting or Grosse Point Blank or her six-episode stint on Will & Grace suggests the comedic and dramatic reach and depth she achieves here in just a few well-sketched scenes as a wife, mother, thief and drug addict strung out by chance, circumstance and a few wrong choices.
And just when you think the show is headed toward a My Name Is Earl-style send-up of redneck stereotypes, it takes a sharp detour onto Wisteria Lane when the Malloys assume the identities of a rich couple named the Riches (hence the show's title), whom they killed when they accidentally ran them off the road.
Ridiculous? Certainly. But completely forgivable given that it allows Izzard and Driver to play around in upper-class America's immaculately manicured bourgeois backyard.
ADVENTURES IN HOLLYHOOD with Juicy J and DJ Paul (aka Three 6 Mafia). Premieres tonight (Thursday, May 3), 10 pm, on MTV Canada. Rating: NNN
Thanks to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Boat Trip and Halle Berry's Catwoman, the bar's set pretty low when it comes to post-Oscar career choices. But how many would consider starring in their own reality series?
Granted, Memphis rappers Three 6 Mafia are hardly Hollywood heavyweights, having won best song in 2006 for It's Hard Out There For A Pimp from Hustle & Flow. So the decision to build a reality series around their move to L.A. to capitalize on their success is about as shocking as a Paris Hilton sex tape.
What is surprising is what a guilty pleasure the series is, and not in a sleazy Flavor Of Love kind of way.
There's a definite Entourage vibe in how Three 6 Mafia members Juicy J and DJ Paul pack their Caddy with pals Project Pat, Computer and Big Triece and move into a swank California crib. Toss in a pushy agent and some celebrity cameos (they meet with Johnny Knoxville after they're asked to write a song for Jackass 2) and the similarities are even more obvious.
Thankfully, these are no foul-mouthed gangsta rappers. DJ Paul, for example, comes across like Bernie Mac, with a smartass remark for every situation. When Juicy J's preacher father suggests they throw a barbecue to introduce themselves to their new neighbours, only one guest, a middle-aged white woman named Fern, shows up. (Listening to their Slob On My Knob, she suggests they rap more slowly so people can understand the lyrics and wear suits so they look more professional.)
I've only seen the first episode, but I'm already looking forward to the second, when we find out what happens after Big Triece takes a piss in Jennifer Love Hewitt's yard. (Come on, it's not like you haven't thought about it!)
What to watch this week
MONDAY, MAY 7
DURHAM COUNTY (miniseries) This six-part thriller stars Hugh Dillon as a detective on the trail of a serial killer, who may live across the street. Dark, moody and emotionally taut, this whydunnit strays far from the standard Seven/Silence Of The Lambs scenario. But it is one of the best Canadian shows this year.
9 pm on TMN