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Tuesday TV: "Miss Guided," "The Riches"

By admin Published: March 18, 2008


ABC tries out another sitcom, FX brings back its troubled Travelers, after the jump ...

Do a winning actress and a decent line here and there offer enough satisfaction to tune into a TV comedy week or week? Probably not, and that's the basic problem with "Miss Guided."

The show, which gets a sneak preview at 10:30 tonight after "Dancing With the Stars" before moving to Thursdays, stars the charming Judy Greer as Becky Freeley, a guidance counselor at her old high school. Becky did not have a great time in HS and thinks all is better now -- and romance may even be possible. But as the show begins, she gains a rival, a former high school-mate who has apparently kept all her social-scene-dominating skills from her youth.

I kept expecting the show to be better than it actually is. Lines of dialogue would pop nicely, and Becky's deluded side is fun in small doses. Plus, an upcoming episode with Ashton Kutcher as a substitute teacher had several funny moments. But the cumulative effect of the show was still blah. And I don't really want to use DVR space for blah.

"The Riches," beginning its second season tonight, is a much better show than "Miss Guided" but covers some of the same thematic turf: the idea of breaking out of ruts, of changing unhappy lives. Just as Becky and her colleagues believe they have broken free (only to be reminded that it's not all that easy), most of the characters on "The Riches" want an escape from their humdrum existence.

For those of you tuning in late, the show involves the Malloys, a family of Travelers, or multigenerational con artists, who in the first season assumed the identities of the wealthy Riches after the Riches themselves were killed. As the first season ended, the Malloys' secret was dangerously close to being revealed, and the second begins with their trying to clean up the resulting mess.

Of course, being Travelers, one of their ways of cleaning up is to get as far away from the mess as possible. But over the course of the first two episodes, they find that something as simple as running away is not as easy as they thought. All of a sudden they have to figure out how to make money on the road, have to revive old cons, and have to deal with people who seem to have gotten a lot more suspicious while the Malloys/Riches were enjoying the high life.

Besides, there's the tug of that high life. Wayne (Eddie Izzard) in particular liked being a Rich -- and liked the idea of not being on the road and on the run. But being a Rich has complications of its own, as lives do generally. The Riches keep crossing paths with people who are unhappy in their own lives, and dreaming of a way they can get out, too.

FX sent out four episodes, and I've gotten through the first two, and I still like the show. In fact, I am wondering why I didn't pay more attention during the first season (when my viewing was sporadic). The characters are strong, the plotting capable of surprise. There's too much blood for some tastes, I am sure, but I can see why FX thought this might appeal to the audience for "The Shield," "Rescue Me" and "Dirt." It doesn't rank with the best work of "The Shield" and "Rescue Me," but it's better than the worst of "Rescue Me" and I would much rather watch "The Riches" than "Dirt." So I'll see how ensuing episodes look. But for now, it starts well -- with well including sad, funny and twisted.

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