5.8

Maya Rudolph Shines, but Apple TV+'s Loot Can't Overcome a Lackluster Premise

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Maya Rudolph Shines, but Apple TV+'s <i>Loot</i> Can't Overcome a Lackluster Premise

There’s no getting around the obvious: Loot was destined to be a tough sell. A heartfelt comedy about a benevolent billionaire was always likely to raise some eyebrows, but amidst skyrocketing costs of living, it risks sounding completely obtuse to the current moment. Perhaps for good reason. While the affable cast pulls off some touching moments and laughs, Loot never justifies its pleasant but toothless existence.

The Apple TV+ series comes from Emmy-winning writers Matt Hubbard and Alan Yang. The pair previously collaborated with Maya Rudolph for their 2018 show Forever, and it’s a real treat to see her now helm Loot after consistently bringing her comedic gold touch to every project she’s involved in. Rudolph stars as Molly Wells, formerly Molly Novak, a recent divorcee still reeling after her former husband John (Adam Scott) cheated on her. She’s also now the third wealthiest woman in the country with $87 billion to her name, thanks to John’s tech empire and no prenup.

Wrapped up in her luxurious life, Molly never even knew she owned a charity foundation bearing her name that does locally focused work in Los Angeles. That changes when she receives a call from the foundation’s no-nonsense Sofia Salinas (the always wonderful Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), who’s concerned over Molly causing bad optics with her public spiral. She really just wants Molly to lie low until the bad press blows over, but Molly hopes this could be the answer to her crisis. Maybe philanthropy can give her purpose again. Or, at the very least, a way to fill her time.

Hubbard and Yang know their way around a workplace comedy, with combined credits that include 30 Rock, Superstore, and Parks and Recreation. Loot especially emulates the latter’s feel-good vibes and efficiently draws up endearing characters. The Wells Foundation’s two powerhouse women get rounded out by Arthur (Nat Faxon), a mild-mannered accountant and fellow divorcee, as well as Molly’s Dragon Ball-obsessed cousin, Howard (Ron Funches), who has a heart of gold. She also brings along her pampered assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster, having a moment), who doesn’t really understand why Molly wants to leave behind their leisurely lifestyle.

Additional characters deliver good one-liners, but it’s a smart choice to keep the core ensemble small. This allows for them to have distinct, individual relationships with each of their coworkers. The show’s biggest strength is in its odd-pairing dynamics, like Molly and Arthur’s tender flirtationship and Nicholas and Howard’s burgeoning friendship. The latter especially becomes a series highlight. As Nicholas explains, he’s hot because he’s emotionally unavailable. His walls seem at odds with Howard’s goofy exterior, but he can’t help being won over into a lovely, supportive bond.

Also fascinating is Molly’s prickly but warm relationship with Sofia, who she encourages to loosen up. There are some tricky power dynamics here considering Molly often defers to Sofia’s judgment while still technically being the boss. Both operate on the fine line of knowing Molly always has the ultimate final call. But played delightfully by Rodriguez, Sofia makes for a compelling character. She has enough interiority to feel like more than the “tough boss” trope, priding herself on being intimidating but also worrying her charm won’t come across on Zoom. Sofia dedicates her life to bettering her community and morally opposes billionaires. But in spite of herself, she can’t help being impressed by Molly nor help rooting for her—even when that confidence doesn’t feel entirely earned.

Here lies Loot’s inescapable problem. The show wants you to always be rooting for Molly so badly that it sacrifices every opportunity to wrestle with her status in more intriguing ways.

She’s self-centered and makes mistakes, sure, but she consistently gets let off the hook too quickly by other characters, lest she cease to be sympathetic. In some ways, this feels accurate. With her $87 billion dollars, Loot understands that Molly will never struggle the way her coworkers do. “You gotta stop saying you could kill everyone and get away with it,” Sofia tells her after an early drunken rant. “Let’s make that a rule going forward.” The moment gets a laugh, as do the other times the show mines humor from rich person foibles. But any actual harm related to Molly’s inordinate wealth gets framed as a product of her naive negligence, not ill will. Edges get sanded down. Even her supposed walking-disaster behavior that had Sofia worried in the first place gets summarized by a montage of her partying around the globe and one tipsy fall into a pool. It all feels rather perfunctory.

Rudolph’s undeniable charisma goes a long way to earning Molly some goodwill, both within the show’s world and for viewers; it’s hard to envision the show working at all without her strong performance. She grounds Molly’s cheerful chaos by portraying her as someone overcompensating the tiniest bit too much. When John was still building his company out of their garage, Molly helped with operations and paid the rent. She built her entire adult identity around John: his ideas, his work, his success, his wealth. Now, after two decades, he replaces her with a much younger woman. “Is it because I didn’t get preventative botox?” she wonders, not really joking. Her divorce offers the chance to figure out who she is on her own, but right now, she stands on shaky ground. This thread offers a potential chance to interrogate her complicity as she tries to pave a positive path forward.

But the framing of the show fundamentally limits how far Molly gets pushed out of her comfort zone. Even as Loot starts to more seriously consider the tension between her self-perception and billionaire status, some key steps get missed along the way in her growth. The resulting ideas feel too surface level. Her learning moments can veer toward corniness. Given the obvious real-life inspiration of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Mackenzie Scott’s divorce, Loot sometimes feels like billionaire fanfiction, fantasizing about a world where the 1% simply decide to act in our best interest despite all evidence to the contrary.

So who exactly is Loot for?

There are a deluge of shows about rich people right now and the ways that wealth corrupts, but many of the comedic offerings skew more caustic and satirical. It’s a novel experiment to go against this lens and instead craft a sincere, lighthearted look at self-betterment. The talented cast, glossy production sheen, and pop culture savvy jokes make the ten 30-minute episodes an easy watch. Unfortunately, Loot can’t stop the glimmer from fading.

The first three episodes of Loot premiere Friday, June 24 on Apple TV+, with further batches of episodes dropping weekly.



Annie Lyons is a culture writer from Austin, Texas who loves all things coming-of-age and romantic comedy. You can find her on Twitter @anniexlyons probably debating another Moonstruck rewatch.

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