The first decade of the 2000s at SNL produced some incredible talents. Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Will Forte, Amy Poehler and many more were singular comedy voices who have gone on to critically acclaimed TV shows and even Oscar nominations. I would argue, however, that as great as they all are (and I do adore Bill Hader), the greatest performer to come out of that generation was Maya Rudolph. It seemed whatever character she tried on SNL would be irresistibly funny, and when she left, she went on to show her range in 'Forever' and ‘Bridesmaids’. The former was a black comedy with some heartbreaking moments created by Matt Hubbard and Alan Yang, creators of this new Apple TV+ comedy, Loot.
Loot has a simple premise; Molly (Rudolph) is the wife of tech billionaire John Novak (Adam Scott in one of many casting flexes), who one day discovers he is having an affair and divorces him, only to be left with half of his fortune. A mere 87 billion dollars. Sound familiar? Lost in her new, single, lonely life, she discovers that she has a charitable trust, The Wells Foundation, set up without her knowledge. Realising she has no direction, she decides she wants to ‘make a difference’ (again, sound familiar?), and forces herself upon her foundation to the mixed reception of the employees. Heading up this foundation is Sofia (Pose's Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), who very much does not want a billionaire getting involved and messing up the important work she is doing. As well as Sofia, there is Molly's cousin Howard (the wonderful Ron Funches), finance geek Arthur (Nat Faxon) and her image-conscious assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster). Tada! A workplace sitcom.
A comparison you'll probably hear is Ted Lasso, but that show's second season went to some dark places that this show certainly won't. A better comparison would be Parks and Rec, which, unsurprisingly, Yang and Hubbard were also involved in. As with that show, most of the humour here comes from the characters, rather than the ratatat fire of jokes in others, such as that of another SNL alum, Tina Fey: 30 Rock. It also means that in the first couple of episodes, the humour seems a little flat. It's only after that early blush that you see it's because we don't know the characters well enough (again, Apple's tactic of releasing the first 3 episodes pays of well here). Once we get past that 'getting to know you' phase, it's easy to laugh along with this group of do-gooders. This is in no small part due to their charm, brought out immediately by an incredible cast, the show's greatest strength. Every single actor is immediately engaging, breaking out of some initially broadly drawn outlines to make their characters funny and likeable. Even Sofia, who, unlike the others, starts off being incredibly frosty, is brilliantly played by Rodriguez, who brings an immediately likeable sass to the role along with some well-delivered, disdainful barbs. It doesn't take many episodes for Sofia to loosen up, though, because this show is, at its core, a feel-good comedy.
I would be remiss here if I didn't also call out Ron Funches. Funches has been an outstanding voice on the standup scene for years now but despite some guest appearances and a ton of voice acting roles has yet to be given a regular starring performance in a tv show. Funches' delivery and utterly charming style are a joy to behold on Loot; his boundless enthusiasm for everything (particularly pop culture) makes him an instant favourite.
If it seems like the format of this show isn't very original, that's because it isn't. But I wouldn't say that's a bad thing. The loveable characters and often low-stakes storylines are what made shows like Parks and Rec so irresistible, and it's the same for Loot. A prime example is a plot late in the season when Molly tries to reconnect with a family member whose wedding she missed years previously. The beats of the plot are entirely predictable, yet in the hands of Rudolph, Funches and guest star Kym Whitely (again, great casting) it's so much fun.
The show also does a good job of showing that the quest for redemption and making a difference in others' lives and the world around you isn't as simple as writing a cheque. It's about putting in the work. To Molly's shock early on, even saying you're putting in the work shouldn't earn you plaudits. The proof is in the pudding. The show's depiction of the value of honesty and kindness over greed and self-centredness feels really genuine. Its diversity and representation are also excellent, yet presented in a very un-showy way. Just like the arc of Loot, the proof is in the doing, not the telling.
Another thing that should be highlighted is the soundtrack. An incredible mix of early 2000s bangers from the likes of P. Diddy, Mary J Blige, Boyz to Men, Eve and others are topped off with a theme tune that slaps so hard I hope they release a longer version for summer!
But the biggest draw of this show is Rudolph. It's hard to over-exaggerate how much of an amazingly watchable performer she is and, without a doubt, owns this show. She's breathlessly natural in this character, and her comedic timing is beyond reproach. Trust Rudolph to make someone who has such a ridiculously excessive lifestyle and who owns so much money seem as likeable as any regular person in the year 2022. Part of that likeability also comes from the journey she is going on as a character. A large part of the show is about her search for reconnection with the world and a purpose in life. This leads back to the foundation, regular friendships and even a flirtation with Arthur, the most ordinary person you will ever meet. While the character is less over the top than some roles she's played before or her iconic SNL characters, there are occasional spirals which allow Rudolph to completely let loose in a way only she can. A scene early on where Molly appears on the web series 'Hot Ones' and gradually loses her mind as she gets more and more flushed and drunker and drunker is a real highlight. If there's a criticism - outside of the early sea legs in the first couple of episodes - it's that there are not enough scenes like that. They're moments of true comic genius.
But it's hard to criticise a show that's so likeable, sweet and funny. In the same way that the Ted Lasso creators have stated they wanted to resist the nastiness that can appear in comedy, it seems Yang and Hubbard have wanted to do the same. They've brought along an incredible cast and even thrown in lots of great needle drops along the way to create something that warms the heart and brings a smile to the face. All while we admire the legend that is Maya Rudolph.
'Loot' premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday June 24th with the first 3 episodes and runs for 10 episodes.
Jonathan, ScreenTimes’ Contributing Editor has been lucky enough to work on Apple products his whole life, ever since his Dad brought home a Mac Performa aged 11 (him, not his Dad). Apple is just engrained in his life, especially nowadays, as a graphic designer. His nerdy enthusiasm for Apple is only matched by his love of TV and film. Whether a buzz-worthy new show or blockbuster, a small cult show or an indie film, he’ll watch it. So Apple TV meets right in the middle of that Venn diagram! He also writes on his personal site, smallbites.me. He lives in London and is writing his own bio in the third person.