“Riviera” has an oozing, vicious heart full of ridicule, contempt, and…loyalty. One of the most stunning shows of 2017, this Sky production is worth watching. Only its fixation on the uberwealthy and their well-off pawns is what holds it back from unseating “The Knick” as the top show to watch. If they had Run The Jewels produce the soundtrack, and therefore influence the editing, it very well could have supplanted “The Knick.” But no cigar. “Riviera” is officially CATV’s #2 show to watch…ever.
Idiots will feel compelled to mention the showrunner, Julia Stiles. And yes, she is at the top of her game. Playing a recent widow, and art broker extraordinaire, of a mogul worth bombing an entire yacht full of partiers to assassinate, Stiles (Georgina Marjorie Clios) is a worthy frontrunner who does not become *interesting* until the final episode. And boy, is it deadly.
To be blunt, the strength throughout most of the series are the complexities that plague the dead mogul’s family. There is the cynical, controlling ex-wife (Lina Olin), her oldest effete and antisocial son (Iwan Rheon) forever writing his first novel, her second son (Dimitri Leonidas), a junky who fronts the mogul’s business, and her only daughter (Roxane Duran), a self-harming borderline with a frustrated sexuality and an inferiority complex the size of her nose. All are admirably portrayed by masters, and budding masters, of their craft. Describing any more would give everything away, squandering the suspense and farce that defines their lives.
There are other plots lines involving police, crooks, and intelligence officers, yes. Each story thread is interesting, but a tad generic. Luckily, each also ties into the family in a manner that is both unsettling and realistic.
“Riviera” does one thing perfectly: subvert the glory of rare art. Of Picasso. Of every asshole who thought differently, had the skill to show that, and was glorified by the bourgeois. Of those artists’ gross overvaluation and, therefore, their new use as assets rather than images on the wall. Of how they are reduced to objects of trade rather than, as their creators intended, statements of abstract reality. Of their simultaneous degradation and forever rising value for no other reason than cred. If Picasso knew his collective work was worth more than all the anti-malarial nets in Africa he’d probably laugh, vomit, and then laugh again. “Riviera” makes that clear while also highlighting the desperation of forgers and poseurs and everything rich that confuses fulfillment with narcissistic gratification.
Themes aside, near everyone will find something to enjoy in “Riviera.” Every actor is worthwhile. The dialogue is believable, if lacking the academic hyperbabble that characterizes so many niche asset circles. The production values are top notch. Every bruise, every bullet hole, every self-indulgent pout is convincing. Nonetheless, near all pretentious jackasses from finishing school or its financial equivalent will find this show threatening. And that’s the point. That’s why it succeeds. Watch “Riviera” before everything but “The Knick.”