As soon as it hit screens, Neil Jordan announced he was unhappy with how Riviera turned out, stating that he only wrote the first two episodes (along with John Banville) and those scripts were subsequently rewritten by unknown others once the producers decided to go in a different direction. I don’t know how much Riviera follows his original vision, but I can fully understand why the Irish filmmaker would want to distance himself from the project. The show (the brainchild of U2’s former manager Paul McGuinness) quickly ditches any Hitchcockian intrigue that it has in order to become a big budget soap opera. Think Dallas, with oil paintings, instead of oil.
Julia Styles is Georgina Clios, the trophy second wife of art collector and Clios paterfamilias Constantine (Anthony LaPaglia). However, when Constantine apparently bites the big-one in a yacht explosion, a can of expensive worms is opened and it appears that Constantine was a man with many secrets. Throw in Constatntine’s dysfunctional grown-up kids (Iwan Rheon, Dimitri Leonidas and Roxane Duran) along with a bitter ex-wife (Lena Olin) and you have a situation that would ruin anyone’s sun-drenched luxury holiday.
The main problem with Riviera is that it’s just so contrived – and all the characters are so damn unlikeable. You’re supposed to be rooting for Styles’ character, but every-time she was on-screen I was reminded that her continuously dour expression made her look like Grumpy Cat! She even looked depressed before her millionaire jet-setting lifestyle was interrupted by her dodgy husband’s death. Styles shares zero chemistry with an equally miscast Adrian Lester, who is left floundering as he has little to do for much of the ten-part show.
Riviera might look good – but watching the show is like looking at somebody else’s holiday video – a massive bore.