Infighting family dynasties make for great television. We’ll check out any series that features estranged relatives going at it for chunks of the family fortune, be they Roys, Lyonses, Greenleafs, or Gemstones. Enter Prime Video’s Riches, which introduces a new succession battle, as Nigerian-British beauty tycoons go head-to-head after their patriarch exits the picture. The show is a welcome addition to a popular sub-genre, with a cultural twist that gives the formula an exciting boost.
Riches begins with the death of Nigerian businessman Stephen Richards (Hugh Quarshie), who rose from humble beginnings to create a multi-million-pound heritage hair care line called Flair & Glory. He leaves behind a complicated family. He remarried soon after the company’s founding, and his first two children, Nina (Deborah Ayorinde) and Simon (Emmanuel Imani), grew up without him. Meanwhile, his second family—comprised of scheming Claudia (Sarah Niles), influencer Alesha (Adeyinka Akinrinade), striving Gus (Ola Orebiyi), and youngest Wanda (Nneka Okoye)—seem like the spoiled brats set to inherit a fortune. However, everything changes when the will reveals that Stephen has left the entire company to Nina and Simon. The two sides of the family will have to duke it out for control through board meetings and backdoor bargaining (if they can keep the troubled business afloat that long).
That premise sets up a season of riveting family drama and accessible business intrigue. Fans of shows like Succession and Industry will find that the issues plaguing Flair & Glory are fairly easy to understand, although you might need to Google occasionally once the show gets deeper into the house of cards that is this dynasty. As for the family itself, these characters who could have been diminished to caricatures are well-formed, with layers that are slowly revealed over the course of the season. And often, what’s logical and good for the company gets pushed to the wayside when there’s a new twist in the family feud, making for some memorable story beats.
Nina and Claudia are at the center of the succession battle, forming the two opposing sides fighting to lead Flair & Glory (or, for Claudia, to get the most money out of leading Flair & Glory). Despite the massive chip on her shoulder—when Simon tells her of Stephen’s death, she informs him that their father was “already dead to her”—she becomes an impressive businessperson in her own right. Ayorinde, who was previously the only bright spot in the brutal Prime Video series Them, imbues the character with a measured capability, making her the kind of person who can think two steps ahead. Meanwhile, Niles is having the most fun as the evil stepmother, and though her mouth and naked greed will get her in trouble, she cannot be written off as a fool. She refuses to hear a “no,” and her affair with financial whiz Andre (C.J. Beckford) gives her an advantage against an outsider like Nina.
Creator Abby Ajayi previously wrote for How To Get Away With Murder and Inventing Anna, and the family at the center of Riches is just as engrossing as any of the Shondaland favorites, albeit with a bit more dramatic depth. (This is largely thanks to Stephen’s children reckoning with the damaging choices he made during their childhoods.) Though Nina and Simon have the most baggage as the forgotten first family, Alesha, Gus, and Wanda have their own compelling dramas going on too. And Alesha especially becomes a scene stealer, showing off a creative acumen that Stephen had ignored.
In the landscape of family soaps, Riches’ place on the spectrum is closer to Dynasty than Empire. The costuming and settings are as lush as the story demands, and there are several poignant cultural details within this fictional dynasty of Black business. Even as storylines touch on topics like colorism within the beauty industry and white-owned conglomerates taking over minority-owned businesses, the drama never falters and the pure fun of the family war never becomes uninteresting. Not every show can balance culturally focused topics and keep them from coming off as corny or misplaced, and it’s refreshing to see these plotlines land.
The twists and turns in this six-episode offering are also very well-paced, and the show gives us a nice cliffhanger that sets up a potential second season. It’s a fun binge-watch that meets the promise of its premise—and is thoughtfully crafted and well-acted to boot.
Riches premieres December 2 on Prime Video.