Riviera arrived on Sky Atlantic shrouded in perfectly orchestrated mystery. It was courtesy of the enigmatic teasers that have revealed precisely nothing about its plot over the past few weeks.
We learn little more before the opening credits, whose kaleidoscopic visuals and yearning theme tune are dangerously Bond-like (minus the naked ladies, given that this is Sky’s latest attempt to crack the lucrative American TV market).
One thing that we can be sure of is that the location scouts had a marvelous time - within the first 5 minutes. Riviera has already careened breathlessly between a clutch of exotic locales, zig zagging the Atlantic from London to New York - and roaming around the Mediterranean from the calm of the Cote d’Azur to the conspicuous wealth of Monaco.
Even if we learn nothing about the people or the plot, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: we’re in the land of the uber rich now. From auctions where billionaires bid millions with barely a twitch, to offering lifts on private jets and yacht parties teeming with staggeringly beautiful escorts. Riveria exudes effortlessly dizzying wealth in every scene.
There’s also a little less stunt casting than we’re used to seeing in with these tentpole TV productions, which often lure movie stars onto the small screen (see the entire cast of Big Little Lies for example). It rather gives the impression that in the battle for the production budget, set design handily beat out the casting agents.
It marks a return to the big time for Julia Stiles, whose career peaked with roles in some enjoyably mediocre 90s teen flicks and an increasingly diminished place in the Bourne franchise. She is wife to a financier husband played by Anthony Paglia, familiar only from a slew of decent but hardly stellar TV series and indie movies.
Padding out the rest of the cast are an interesting mix of Brits and more exotic Europeans. Headed up by Adrian Lester (perhaps the last successful black British actor not to have fled to the US) and Iwan Rheon (Misfits).
Among this eclectic cast, Stiles’ plays the second wife of a billionaire banker, whose sudden death sparks the mystery at Riviera’s core. Returning to her mansion of messed up step-children and a potentially scheming first wife, the plot rapidly starts to thicken. However this is where Riveria may lose a few viewers - the first episode is nearly all intro, with little in the way of substance and several of its plot twists clearly signposted, particularly the tantalising cliffhanger.
Still, there are stunning locations to distract, with European landscapes taking first prize as the camera swoops past dramatic cliff-sides and sumptuous villas that threaten to outshine the cast at every turn. For those with a little patience in reserve, there’s just enough mystery to get you hooked on this sleek, expensive and entertainingly glossy thriller.
- Aired on Sky Atlantic, June 15 2017 at 21:00.