Leaving the Riviera behind

Published August 7, 2021

Riviera promotional poster

I’m not a huge art lover, so it’s a bit of a wonder that the Sky show Riviera appealed to me. The show initially followed the dramatic and over-the-top adventures of an art curator in the South of France, dealing with deception, murder, and rebellious families, all with high fashion and expensive paintings draped along the way. The main draw, if I’m honest, was the lovely Julia Stiles and actually it ended up being worth watching.

I can’t say that the first two series were super good, it was all so unbelievable (and worse, unrelatable), but they were somehow gripping. These delinquent but sharply dressed people causing each other heartache even from beyond the grave - it was just some compelling escapist TV.

The third series aired earlier this year, and I only just got around to watching it. I had heard that it was ditching the South of France location (making the title a bit of an oddity) and also releasing most of the existing characters from duty as well. It didn’t sound like it would be the same show at all, but hey, I could watch one episode and leave it at that.

Somehow, the production team managed to make it a completely different show, but just as unmissable - the eight-episode third series became an absolute binge-watch and I raced through it to the end. The only similarities to the first two series were our main character Georgina, and the fact that she always seems to be wearing the wrong footwear for any given situation. Otherwise, it was a step away from the family dramedy and towards, instead, the Bourne-style action adventure across the globe, foiling a plot against all the odds.

I know some shows do adapt and evolve as they go along - there’s so much made of The Office (US) being tied to the UK version for the first season before vastly veering off course and eclipsing its predecessor. And obviously there are successful spin-off shows where characters from an existing entity go off and have different adventures (Buffy & Angel spring to mind).

But how often does a show completely rewrite itself, change its focus and tone and be a completely different beast, but remain entertaining and enjoyable for completely different reasons?

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