Rich people have problems too, or at least that’s what TV shows like Big Little Lies, Gossip Girl, Sex And The City, 90210, Revenge and the popular 1980s soap operas Dynasty, as well as Dallas, tell us.
But the trouble with shows revolving around wealthy people is that most of us can’t sympathise with the characters, even if we do enjoy watching some of the above shows for its high drama.
Despite struggling with failed relationships or having addiction problems, they somehow still manage to squeeze in soirees, fabulous holidays … all these while wearing luxurious threads and using the most expensive gadgets to upload their Instagram posts.
So, excuse us for not being able to relate.
In moments like this, it seems like their worries are not as monumental as that of someone with a waning bank account … although this is an unfair assumption. After all, as the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness.
Sure, all these series have a not-so-rich character – as a way in for the audience to this world – but, pretty soon, these so-called poor people are also living the life of luxury thanks to their rich friends.
Riviera is such a show. Rich people with first world problems.
The show is part soap opera, part drama with some mystery thrown in. It revolves around the super-rich Clios family.
They are so rich that they have their own private jet allowing them to be in two countries on the same day. Without, apparently, having to go through the immigration hassle.
They wake up in France, and attend an auction in New York in the same afternoon to bid on a painting for US$30mil.
Before you can say “hate them”, we are shown a teenage Clio girl cutting herself, probably to get a teeny bit of attention from her busy, busy, busy, parents.
Later we also learn that the Clio sons are not all together either, although they try to present strong personas. The eldest is definitely hiding something, while the second son is addicted to heroin and suffers from low self-esteem issues. (Boo-hoo?)
Then there is the little matter of the older, divorced, ex-wife (Lena Olin) who is resentful of the younger Mrs Georgina Clio (Julia Stiles).
Georgina, we learn, didn’t actually grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her father is serving a prison sentence (a fact none of the Clios knows).
She has been married to Constantine for a year, which means she doesn’t know much about her husband. She has a trusting nature, so it makes her come across as naive.
But you wonder how can that be? For someone who had to fend for herself most of the time, growing up poor, shouldn’t Georgina be more street savvy and be able to read people better?
Anyway, as she tries to uncover her husband’s secrets, she realises she does not know anything about the family she’s married to. Except probably how filthy rich they are.
This show has good stock: it is created, written and produced by Neil Jordan (who gave us films like The Crying Game, Michael Collins and The End Of The Affair) and stars capable actors like Stiles, Olin, Adrian Lester, Iwan Rheon and Anthony LaPaglia.
Riviera also wins with its beautiful locations in France, all captured in cinematography perfection, with every character dressed oh-so-stylishly, especially Stiles and Olin, who look fabulous in every scene. Stiles, too, manoeuvres her character to become more curious and less naive believably. Some of the best scenes are between Stiles and Olin with their characters in heated arguments.
While the first two episodes are promising – starting with the death of Constantine Clios on board a luxury yacht on the waters of Monaco, setting off the mystery – later episodes become a drag as the show keeps introducing new twists, which serve to irk more than intrigue the audience.
Like the fact that Clios’ wealth is actually ill-gained, with possible association to a gangster who runs a casino and a brothel … and one of the prostitutes may be an assassin! Meanwhile, another prostitute is murdered, putting her twin – who also works at the same place – in danger. How does this fit into Clios’ story?
Another subplot revolves around an elaborate art theft/fraud that leads back to Constantine and the other billionaire who was killed alongside him on the same boat.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is why Constantine has an American accent, while his children have British accents when their mother has an European accent?
It doesn’t help that none of the characters here are remotely likeable.
In the end, Riviera is like the rich people it portrays. On the surface, Riviera is enviably beautiful, but, on closer inspection, everything just falls apart.