Riches

brother and sister - Riches

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Ah, the holidays. A time when many of us gather with family for food, fun and, perhaps, friction.

But however much you argued over politics this Thanksgiving or look forward to bantering about religion this Christmas or just fighting over your favorite college football team on New Year’s Day, most of you can be thankful for this: Your family is less fractious than the Richards family.

The Young and the Reckless

Blended families can always be a challenge. But this one comes with a few extra levels of difficulty.

Stephen Richards headed one perfectly nice family once upon a time. Both he and his wife, Oyin, emigrated from Africa. They were raising two dynamite children, Nina and Simon.

But in 1993—about the time Nina was 7 years old—Stephen announced he was leaving them all to marry a new wife (Claudia) and start a new family.

That left Oyin with a whole bunch of bitterness, as you might imagine. And the two sides of Stephen Richards’ clan had nothing to do with each other. Not until Stephen died suddenly about 30 years later.

But Stephen had one more posthumous trick up his sleeve. He gave Flair and Glory—the Black-based beauty business he’d built into a self-care juggernaut—not to his second family, but to his first. Nina and Simon head the thing now, with Nina sitting uncomfortably in the CEO chair.

Meanwhile, Claudia and her three kids—club-hopping Gus, online beauty consultant Alesha and pouty youngest Wanda—are on the outside looking in. Sure, Stephen did give Claudia the house. Admittedly, he gave his kids roughly 6 million pounds apiece (which they can access when they each turn 40). But Flair and Glory? Well, the kids from Richard’s second family will need to wait in the lobby and make an appointment like anyone else.

But Claudia means to fight for the business. And that could mean plenty of awkward holiday meals from here on out.

Guiding Blight

While we don’t like fighting with our own families, we sure love watching other families fight on TV. In the 1950s, daytime television was awash in soap (operas, that is). In 1978, Dallas pushed the genre to prime time, inspiring a slew of imitators. And when Empire rolled to ratings glory on Fox in 2015, the world knew these tawdry, bawdy dramas still had plenty of kick.

It’s ironic that such shows are called soap operas (the first of which were sponsored by soap and detergent companies, eager to sell product to myriad housewives). After all, they’re built on the dirty deeds of the filthy rich.

But Riches just might kick the bar down to a new low.

Based in Britain and airing in the U.S. on Amazon’s Prime Video, Riches doesn’t have the broadcast television content restrictions of Empire or Fox’s new soap, Monarch. You’re liable to hear every swear word you can think of during any given episode, including the f-word. While the show seems to eschew nudity thus far, salacious bedroom scenes are frequent. Couplings, including same-sex ones, are all on the table (or, more accurately, under the covers).

And then, of course, you have a bevy of characters just behaving badly. Sure, the show does divvy its cast into heroes and villains, because that’s what soaps do. But let’s not kid ourselves: There’s plenty of backstabbing to go around.

Riches does make a feint at dealing with bigger issues. Most of the major characters are Black, and each has his or her own experience with race-related problems—and ways of dealing with them. But I don’t want to give the show too much credit. If you’d ask me, Riches is a poor investment of our ever-valuable time.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 2, 2022—S1, Ep1: “See Trouble Coming”

When Stephen dies suddenly in his London office, his children—two from his first marriage in New York, three from his second in London—react with varying degrees of grief. British-based Gus feels the weight of his family’s expectations. Alesha was one of the last to learn, because she didn’t want to take sister Wanda’s call. And Nina initially wants to ignore Stephen’s death completely. “He’s been dead to me for years,” she tells brother Simon. “The fact that he actually died doesn’t change anything.”

Turns out, it changes everything. When she and Simon arrive in London just in time for the reading of the will, Nina and the rest of the family learn that Stephen willed the family business to her and Simon—and locked the rest of the family out.

The level of hostility between the two sides of the family is pretty obvious from the get-go. Claudia, Stephen’s widow, rescheduled the funeral, which effectively kept Nina and Simon from attending. And when the will is read, she blames Gideon, Stephen’s white attorney and executor. “His white self always looking down on me,” she fumed earlier. She throws a bowl of fruit after the will is read—the most violent moment in the first episode outside Stephen’s death itself.

Nina has a one-night stand with someone the night her father dies. We see them engaged in intimacies (he’s shirtless, she’s straddling him in a flimsy nightgown). And when they’re done, she suggests that he leave. “Sharing a bed is a pretty intimate thing,” she says (without a trace of irony). “And we don’t know each other like that.” Claudia, meanwhile, is in the bedroom with her own illicit lover when her husband dies. Simon—an effeminate beauty consultant—talks with his male partner on the phone.

Gus is at a club when he learns the news—allowing his friends to buy “bowls” (presumably of marijuana) on his neverending tab. He dances sultrily with two scantily clad women as he approves of the purchase. (We see loads of people at the club dressed in revealing garments, drinking.)

People drink wine, champagne, whisky and other beverages. A pregnant friend of Nina’s admits she’d “kill for a shot of tequila,” but refrains.

We hear quite a bit about negative racial attitudes, and a police officer stops Gus when he’s on his way to the hospital. (Gus misses his father’s passing because of it.) Stephen’s funeral is a religious one, and the priest recites verses from Ecclesiastes. When Alesha receives a call from Wanda, she says, “Not today, Satan,” and ignores it. Wanda treats employees at Stephen’s funeral terribly. We hear loads of family members talk badly about each other—sometimes behind their backs, sometimes to their faces.

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paul-asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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