Riches review – prepare to be addicted to this Jackie Collins-esque drama

Soapy, slick and thoroughly enjoyable, this series about the battle to inherit a Black beauty brand is like Empire meets Dynasty meets Footballers’ Wives. It’s confident, escapist fun

There is a moment during a particularly climactic scene in the big, juicy melodrama that is Riches (ITVX) in which a scorned wife throws a bowl full of fruit across a boardroom table and screams, “You bitch!” It’s a good indication of the level of bombast this fantastically over-the-top series is going for, which seems to be Empire meets Dynasty meets Footballers’ Wives. So far, the new dramas launched by ITVX have been pretty straight and serious, but this is far more tongue-in-cheek. It is soapy, slick and thoroughly enjoyable.

Hugh Quarshie is Stephen Richards, the founder and boss of Flair and Glory, a Black hair and beauty brand so successful it has turned him into a titan of British industry. Riches begins with Stephen conveniently doing an interview with a journalist, allowing him to give us plenty of background on the story. Nobody would lend him the money to start the business, he explains. They said Black models don’t sell magazines. Nobody believed in his vision. But now look where he is. This is the kind of show that is built on buildings filled with framed magazine covers on the wall, big leather sofas and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Stephen has made it, and his family is filthy rich.

The most crucial fact, however, and the basis for all the action to come, emerges from a question about why his two eldest children, from his first marriage, are not involved in the business. He refuses to answer, but we’ve got our bait to keep watching. What is he hiding, and where are those children now? Roll credits, which are, incidentally, very similar to the credits of The Good Fight. Riches is about to put the two sides of Stephen’s family at war, and we are here for the fallout.

Over in New York, Stephen’s eldest children are living without their father’s involvement or financial support. Nina (Deborah Ayorinde) is a successful businesswoman whom we meet as she is celebrating a successful business thing. “I want you to take the rest of the day off,” her boss tells the office, which is a very un-New York thing to do. Nina is outwardly together, but she is also attracted to handsome men whom she abruptly discards after she gets what she wants from them, which suggests she has commitment issues. Her brother Si (Emmanuel Imani) is a hair and makeup artist with a handsome boyfriend and extremely tight trousers. They are estranged from Stephen; his first wife, their mother, maintains that he abandoned his young family and left them penniless and alone.

There’s a touch of the Jackie Collins to Riches, so without spoiling too much, let’s just say that events conspire to get Nina and Si over to London, where they must do battle for the future of Flair and Glory. Their half-siblings, Stephen’s younger children, by his current wife Claudia (Ted Lasso’s Sarah Niles, playing a very different kind of woman here), appear to have been far more indulged by their father’s wealth, and do not have it quite so together. Gus is the playboy son, who lets his fake friends rinse his credit cards in clubs so he has people to hang out with. He is the Kendall Roy of this operation, and he drives expensive fast cars. Alesha (Adeyinka Akinrinade) is a wannabe makeup influencer who really needs to check her phone more often. Wanda (Nneka Okoye) is the sensible one, though only by comparison, who has a boyfriend who may turn out to be nice or creepy; this show insists that you be suspicious of just about everyone’s motives, and, perhaps unfairly, he has shot to the top of my list.

After some surprising legal twists and turns, set into motion by unpopular family lawyer Gideon (Downton’s Brendan Coyle), the shit very much hits the fan, which I believe is the technical term for it. “We are at war!” roars a fabulously villainous Claudia, who is inevitably hiding a million secrets and who cannot keep her mouth shut at crucial moments, which of course leads to more huge reveals and harsh truths. “Whatever it takes, we are going to get back what’s ours!” she shouts. “We’re ready to fight!” Si calls her “stepmommy dearest”, and he’s not wrong. The battle for the soul of Flair and Glory will be a bloodthirsty and vicious one.

Riches joins the trend for looking at the gilded lives of rich people and uncovering the rotten roots beneath the surface. It is confident, escapist fun, and it looks set to be an indulgent and addictive treat.

Contributor

Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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