So, I'm watching TV last night when suddenly onscreen, to the shock of all those around her, a woman's prosthetic limb falls off and hits the ground. No, it wasn't Heather Mills on Dancing With the Stars. I wouldn't watch Dancing With the Stars if Pacman Jones made it rain in my family room. If I want to hate myself for watching amateurs of middling artistic talent prostrate themselves, I'll watch American Idol (tonight at 8:00 Eastern on FOX). No, this was a show called The Riches on the F/X Network, starring Minnie Driver and yet another rakish Brit, Eddie Izzard, as the parents in a family of "travelers" trying to go straight (sort of) in upper middle class America.
Oh, yes, this is modern television descended directly from Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Driver, forgettable in every role she's had since Good Will Hunting, plays the fiercely devoted, heroin-addicted mother who violates her parole at least three times every episode. Izzard is her Prince Deceptively Charming, a raffish rogue who is also remarkably accurate with a pistol and a three wood (oddly, in this show, golf clubs are actually used to smash golf balls, not crania). A pair of street-smart teens and a cross-dressing little boy round out the cozy nuclear family, and it's one laugh after another for these wacky misfits.
The premise is set in motion when the family refuses to acknowledge the authority of the violent but not quite smart enough leader of the larger traveler clan, who has arranged a marriage for their daughter. After a sequence of absurd coincidences, they find themselves in a gated community McMansion recently purchased by a recently deceased couple who were unknown to their new community and apparently completely disconnected from the rest of the world ... or so it seems at first.
We're supposed to like this family because they really care about one another, exemplified by their greatest fear: that the parents will end up in jail and the kids in foster homes (I know that's the one that keeps the Doc and me up nights). The bad guys are people like the uptight, feckless lawyers and the perky, blonde head of the homeowners association (she has the fake arm). Like other F/X dramas (Rescue Me, The Shield), The Riches tries to refract societal mores in order to convince us that what we perceive as extremely unusual circumstances happen all the time to people just like us or someone we know.
Pretty preposterous, but probably no more so than police procedurals that wrap up impossible cases every hour. Besides, what were my other options? NBC showed The Black Donnellys. I watched the first five minutes of this "Irish brothers in the New York underworld" saga; we open in a bar, at the wake of the patriarch, and a fight breaks out. Did I mention the skirling bagpipe soundtrack? And they say The Sopranos demeans Italian-Americans with unflattering stereotypes.
CBS had CSI:Miami, but I vowed a few years ago to live a CSI-free life. What About Brian was on ABC, but didn't Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss mine all the creative energy out of this title in What About Bob back in the 1990's? For suspense, I suppose I could've tuned in Kansas State-DePaul in the NIT, just to see if K-State coach Bob Huggins would have a heart attack, but I'll get enough basketball this weekend. The free movie channels had An American in Paris, which I might watch but not admit it, and Hero (with Dustin Hoffman, not Jet Li).
So, until Studio 60 returns, I think I am stuck with The Riches on Monday nights. Or, horror of horrors, I could read a book.