Third-episode verdict: Riviera (UK: Sky Atlantic)

Sky Atlantic's Riviera

In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

When Sky Atlantic started out making drama, it seemed like little more than an advert for the virtues of HD TV. While plots have improved since then, Riviera still feels like one of those early Sky Atlantic shows – all glossy locations, famous actors and glorious colours designed to show off what an improved Sky subscription package has to offer.

Since its first episode, Riviera has at least improved from merely giving us the likes of Julia Stiles, Lena Olin, Adrian Lester and Anthony LaPaglia marching from rich, plush location full of rich, plush people to another, with Amr Waked running around a lot and the occasional bit of sexy fun time thrown in for good measure. Episode two managed to up the IQ quotient a bit while adding the slightly less glamorous Phil Davis to the cast as an Interpol officer investigating financial dodginess in the family Stiles.

However, despite having a psychotic drowned prostitute going around murdering everyone she comes across, episode three has been light on thrills, intelligence or much else, preferring instead to have Stiles walking around gibbering to everyone she comes across while pointing a gun at them, whether they’re genuine crims, slightly poncy sculptors or innocent deer, which feels a bit of a cheap way to bring in even more excitement. Most scenes involve one or both of Stiles’ step-sons (Iwan Rheon and Dimitri Leonidas – the only cast member Greek enough to be a ‘Clios’)  being mean or nice to either Stiles or the other brother, or Stiles and Lester snapping at each other. And Davis only serves to make everything seem artificial and fake, rather than highlighting the differences between the very rich and the rest of us mere mortals.

There are precious few thrills in this thriller, but if you want to know how pretty HD can be or if Rheon can actually be anything other than a bit slimey, then Riviera is at least a break in watching Blue Planet on continual loop.

Barrometer rating: ‘4 or about as good as John Barrowman’s appearance in Shark Attack 3

The Barrometer for Riviera


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.