Loot premieres with the first three episodes on June 24 on Apple TV+, followed by one new episode every Friday.
In the last decade, Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard co-created two incredibly interesting and non-confirming comedies: Master of None and Forever. Both were experimental, unfraid of odd tonal shifts and unexpected structural choices. And each series featured versatile comedians as their leads who adapted to whatever was asked of them. All of that amped up my anticipation for their new Apple TV+ comedy, Loot, which reunites them with the prodigious talents of Maya Rudolph. But this new half-hour sitcom is nothing like their previous work and more like the outcome of a bet to see if they could make the most banal, broadcast-equivalent sitcom. And they sure did.
There’s so much head scratching when it comes to Loot because all of the pieces are here for the next Ted Lasso or hacks. Even the premise is rock solid: Molly Novak (née Wells) was married for 20 years to tech entrepreneur John (Adam Scott) until she catches him cheating, divorces him, and then starts her next chapter with half of his wealth. The black comedy potential practically drips off the page, but bizarrely Yang and Hubbard have fashioned the show into an incompatible fusion of Real Housewives meets workplace comedy.
After mourning her situation with an eight-month global party binge with her loyal assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster), they return to Molly’s mega mansion in Los Angeles still bereft but drowning in every luxury you could imagine, like a candy room and Chef David Chang making her meals on demand, with $90 billion to back it up. When she’s asked by the head of her seven-year-old foundation (that she didn’t know she had) to stop doing things that reflect badly on their mission to funnel her money into necessary community initiatives around Greater Los Angeles, Molly finally sees a possible “purpose” by getting involved. She renames it the Wells Foundation and is determined to make it her new mission. It’s in the office that Molly meets her staff/found family: Sofia Salinas (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), the hyper serious head of the foundation; Arthur (Nat Faxon), the sweet, nerdy accountant; Howard (Ron Funches), Molly’s geek IT cousin; Ainsley (Stephanie Styles), the perky office assistant; and Rhonda (Meagen Fay), the spacey hippy.
From the “Pilot” forward, Molly swirls into the office lavishly dressed, drops some conspicuous wealth on the staff like a modern-day Auntie Mame, distracts them from their jobs, does something dumb that impacts actual real-world people and then sorta fixes it; rinse/repeat. Meanwhile, Nicholas gets absorbed into the office schtick through his burgeoning friendship with Howard and Arthur. He becomes their gay BFF while they encourage him to follow his dream of being an actor, and urge him to show his heart more, which is buried underneath his front-first bitchiness. The cliches abound.
Molly is a sitcom character stuck in stasis, living in a bubble like she’s an updated Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) from Green Acres. She does no real harm and is perfectly pleasant despite her wealth-goggle cluelessness and lack of self-awareness. But there’s no bite to her, either, like we see in contemporary peer characters Rebecca Welton of Ted Lasso or Deborah Vance in Hacks. Molly just aimlessly exists and then laments when she’s slighted by other empty-headed people in her circle. Like in “Halsa,” she is hurt by the shallowness of her wealthy girlfriends showing no loyalty when they welcome John’s younger mistress into their circle. But she practically does the same thing to her staff/friends in another episode, when she finds a new lover in Jean-Pierre (Olivier Martinez), a wealthy French liquor mogul and eco-entrepreneur.
It’s also weirdly tone deaf to make Molly so entrenched in her wealth for the entire season like she’s fulfilling the position of the nicest member of a Real Housewives cast. Every episode is crammed with reminders of just how rich and pampered she is compared to her staff of passionate, average but engaged people whom she can’t help tempting with her exorbitant life. Those two realities don’t mesh at all and that conflict highlights how tough it is to rally around Molly as someone to root for when she’s got little to complain about and is so blind to the people who need help she can give. Without Rudolph’s inherent warmth and humor, Molly would be a straight-up unlikeable cartoon of a human being, not to mention reductive to actual women who were married to billionaires and came out of those failed marriages with true philanthropic purpose.
Circling back to Loot’s Apple TV+ cousin Ted Lasso, both shows have first season episodes that dive into exes having a confrontation at a charity event. In Lasso’s “For the Children,” Rebecca suffers the passive aggressive humiliation of her ex trying to one up her at her own event. But through her friends and her own self worth, she walks away triumphant. In Loot’s “The Philanthropic Humanitarian Awards,” the ex dynamic is much the same. But because of how Molly is shown with no real agency up to this point, when she says that she funded his early dreams until he made it big, and he counters that she sat at the pool for 20 years, there is a bite to that barb that the show’s writing doesn’t discount. Molly and her lack of agency make the insult land with some truth. But why would the show let a jerk like him be the instigator of her self worth when there are myriad ways she could have done that herself by meaningfully meeting the people the Foundation is helping, or just shedding the McQueen outfits and jewelry for an episode where she can connect to her own calling? The writers don’t seem bothered with giving Molly an inner voice or motivations, which is so strange when you have a titan like Rudolph leading the show.
On a more positive note, Rudolph is always worth watching. Her comedic timing is spot on when she’s given actual worthy scenarios. Ron Funches carries the actual punchlines with his signature line deliveries and Howard’s frequent comparative references to anime and Dragonball Z. He gets the laugh-out-loud moments in every episode. Nat Faxon is very sweet and Arthur has good chemistry with Molly as they discuss divorce and dating again, but the show is too fast and too on the nose about making them a potential couple. Michaela Jaé Rodriguez is also very strong as the buttoned-up oppositional character to Molly. She’s essentially the Good Angel on Molly’s shoulder, always there to ground her boss’ whims and bluntly lay down some truths about the perils of Molly’s money.
Unfortunately, Loot plays like one of those comfort sitcoms that you watch in the background while doing other things. And that’s fine, but the show had the potential to be so much more. The series finally gives Molly some agency in the season finale, “The Silver Moon Summit,” but by that time the season feels like an exercise in bland, wheel-spinning storytelling that was wasted time when it could have pushed up this episode to mid -season and really given the cast and characters some juicy stories to explore and play with. Instead, it dangles a second season with more promise than the first and that’s asking for a lot of patience it hasn’t earned.