Extremely topical, well acted and surprisingly touching, “Easy Money” is a promising new entry from Media Rights Capital. An off-beat dramedy penned by “Sopranos” and “Northern Exposure” writers Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, the series has that quirky, character-driven appeal that usually resonates well with viewers. Set in a fictional Southwestern town, the show revolves around the Buffkin family, which runs a dubious, quick-cash loan service in the bad part of town. The family of misfits and their oddball clients and friends provide a rich palette from which to draw stories.
All too realistically, the Prestige Payday Loans family business is booming — people need cash fast and are defaulting on their advances. As a result, the Buffkins live in a posh, “Dynasty”-like setting but retain trailer-park sensibilities, eating chicken out of a paper bucket on the good china. At the core of the family is matriarch Bobette (Laurie Metcalf), a preternaturally positive and frighteningly savvy businesswoman. In fact, the only thing brighter than her sunny disposition is her flaming red hair.
Bobette greets the degenerates and ne’er-do-wells who frequent the family business with the warmth and friendliness of a local diner waitress. It’s all a well-honed act, but also part of what appears to be a systematic state of denial. She tells her family, “Our wealth has got nothing to do with money,” preferring to see this dysfunctional clan as a model of pull-yourself-up-by-the-boot-straps success. Clearly, she enjoys the monetary trappings, and although her family does maintain a delicate peace, all is not really well.
The eldest Buffkin son Cooper (Jay R. Ferguson) is a man/child adept at computers but incompetent when it comes to business and life decisions. Daughter Brandy (Katie Lowes) is a lost soul, trying to find spirituality in either shopping or church to escape her dead-end marriage. Morgan (Jeff Hephner), the middle child, is Bobette’s main line of defense in business and against reality. Bobette can easily delude herself into believing she’s doing something good because she leaves the uglier side — the collections and repossessions — to Morgan. Morgan, however, has a nagging conscience and penchant for Camus and Sartre. In the midst of a burgeoning existential crisis, he finds out through a fluke that he is not really a Buffkin.
Like “The Sopranos,” Frolov and Schneider have created a cadre of intriguing characters out of traditionally unsavory types. This world is inhabited by every type of get-rich schemer, social pariah and general loser, but is given enough depth and emotion to draw viewers in. Director Alik Sakharov deftly reflects this strange dichotomy of the pursuit of life, love and money amidst the sunny but stark landscapes of strip malls, strip joints and McMansions.
Cast gives great perfs all around, especially Metcalf and Hephner, including a creepy guest spot by Judge Reinhold. It’s character actor Nick Searcy, however, as the standoffish daddy Buffkin, who so subtly and perfectly portrays the dissociation of a morally bereft life.