In new Apple TV+ comedy Loot, Maya Rudolph plays a billionaire playgirl who must grow up and discover a conscience when she realizes that her public behavior casts her charitable foundation in a bad light.
Surrounded by misfits, she must tailor her wild lifestyle to more humble settings. Otherwise, she risks turning the one good thing in her life into a joke.
Loot recap: Season 1 opener
Season 1, episodes 1 through 3: As Loot opens, Molly Novak (played by Rudolph) has it all. Her husband (Adam Scott, who you probably know from Parks and Recreation or Apple TV+ hit Severance) has given her mansions, yachts and sports cars. He’s thrown lavish parties for her, had personal dinners cooked by chef David Chang — even an appearance by Seal at her birthday party (which if I don’t miss my guess is a Popstar reference, in which Rudolph memorably co-stars).
But there are some things he can’t give her — like attention, or fidelity. When Molly discovers on her birthday that her husband has been sleeping with his assistant Haley (Dylan Gelula), she divorces him. And that makes her the third-richest woman in America. It also turns her reckless and wild.
One day while nursing a hangover, she gets a call from Sofia Salinas (Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez), who runs the charity organization Molly started years and years ago but completely forgot existed. She had so scrubbed the memory of the place from her mind that she didn’t remember giving a job to her cousin, Howard (Ron Funches).
Now that’s being charitable
Sofia wants Molly to check her ego and behavior. Every time Molly goes to a party, does ecstasy and falls in a pool, she makes the charity look like an integrity-laundering front for an overgrown child, not a committed organization doing real work for the unhoused in Southern California.
Molly promises to straighten up and fly right. However, this turn of events gets the wheels in her mind turning. Wouldn’t it be a better use of her time to try and help people?
Her first idea, to show up in a fleet of SUVs at the opening of a shelter, is exactly the kind of tone-deaf stunt Sofia was hoping to avoid. But she can’t exactly fire Molly, because technically Molly is her boss. She regrets Molly coming around immediately, as her plans mostly involve things like flying the team to Miami for a fragrance launch. But they’re stuck with each other, so Molly is going to have to get Sofia to lighten up. And Sofia is going to have to get Molly to calm down.
You made it happen
The pedigree of this show is impressive, if complicated. It’s the brainchild of Russian Doll producers Natasha Lyonne and Dave Becky (who was in trouble a little while back when his client Louis C.K. was outed for sexual misconduct), veteran sitcom writer/producer Matt Hubbard (Superstore, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock), popular director Alan Yang (Master of None, Tigertail, The Good Place) and producer Zeke Nicholson (simply one of the funniest people in America).
And Loot is good, for sure, but there’s some trouble in the coding, which is not uncommon for new sitcoms. Rodriguez can be very good on this show. However, she largely shines in situations where she’s called upon to be extremely emotional. And that’s not nearly enough of the time.
Granted, her role as the show’s core of emotional seriousness is not a very fun one to play. It doesn’t give her much wiggle room, so she mostly hits the same notes over and over.
Maya Rudolph does what Maya Rudolph does
Rudolph does the thing she does, playing a monster of id and ego with no sense of what anyone else wants or needs. She’s better at this than almost anyone. However, it’s a performance she’s assayed with more style and volume elsewhere. This feels like a character the show’s creators wrote, then slotted Rudolph in, knowing she could do it in her sleep. Then they forgot to tell her to do more with it.
Rudolph has great moments, like when she gives a pep talk to the foundation staff. (“If we all work together there is no problem that we can’t solve. Climate change, poverty, I mean fuck it, world peace.”). But the jokes they give her are too often rehashes of older bits (the Anchorman cologne bit is lifted wholesale, which is kind of inexcusable). Her moments in front of crowds are warmed-over covers of her Oprah impressions from SNL and later on the forgotten sitcom Up All Night, where she played an Oprah-esque talk show host.
The rest of the cast members seem well-suited to their parts, especially the ever-game Funches, a hugely valuable utility player in comedy. Yang directs with an eye toward cleanliness, verging on sterility. Consider how impressionistic his film Tigertail was, and it’s a little disappointing that he didn’t bring much more than proficiency to the director’s chair here. There’s an over-reliance on interstitial music and medium shots.
The satire of the rich and the famous feels a little aimless, too, and not at all as sharp as it ought to be. The bones for a solid comedy are here. However, the Loot creative team needs to dig in, experiment and have a lot more fun if they want the show to be as memorable as their previous work.
Watch Loot on Apple TV+
Loot premieres June 24 on Apple TV+. New episodes arrive on the following Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.