Maya Rudolph Deserves Better Than Loot‘s Toothless Billionaire Satire

4 minute read

Maya Rudolph is the kind of star you build a show around. A warm, charismatic performer who has jokingly described herself as a “2 3⁄4 threat,” the SNL alum has pipes that can belt out “Purple Rain” and win Emmys for voicing Big Mouth’s Connie the Hormone Monstress. She also has a gift for physical comedy. Who could forget her Bridesmaids character sinking into the street, frothy white gown billowing around her, face registering every phase of humiliation as a wave of food poisoning hit?

Yet it’s still bafflingly rare to see Rudolph, a household name who played a God-like figure in The Good Place and an Oprah-like figure in Up All Night, in leading roles. One notable exception was 2018’s Forever, a philosophically ambitious afterlife dramedy that cast her and Fred Armisen as dead spouses working through unfinished business in the Great Beyond. Now, Rudolph has re-teamed with its creators, Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, on Loot, an Apple TV+ comedy premiering June 24, about the jilted wife of a multibillionaire. Unfortunately, it’s a much safer and more conventional show than its predecessor.

When we meet Rudolph’s Molly Wells, she’s swanning around on her new megayacht with her tech-mogul husband, John Novak (Adam Scott in toxic-nerd mode). That same day, she discovers he’s cheating with a woman half his age (Dylan Gelula). “I have been by your side for 20 years,” Molly screeches at him, incandescent with rage, in front of a crowd at her own birthday party. “I had sex with you when you had your weird body—before you fixed it with money!”

The divorce leaves her with $87 billion, and after a rebound tour that’s more dance-drink-drugs than eat-pray-love, she’s summoned to the offices of her foundation by its executive director, Sofia Salinas (Pose star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez). “I have an office?” Molly marvels. Sofia just wants her to stop embarrassing the charity with the kind of intoxicated shenanigans that fuel tabloid headlines. But Molly sees a chance to give her life purpose—or at least clap back at her selfish ex—by throwing herself into work with the foundation.

Michaela Jae Rodriguez, left, and Maya Rudolph in 'Loot'Apple TV+

By the end of the premiere, Loot has become an upbeat workplace sitcom in the mold of Parks and Recreation (where Yang got his start) and Apple’s megahit Ted Lasso. The ensemble is strong: Fire Island breakout Joel Kim Booster, as Molly’s loyal, emotionally numb assistant, pairs nicely with the hilarious Ron Funches, as a gregarious cousin of Molly’s who parlayed his family connection into a job. The ubiquitous Nat Faxon (whose recent credits include Gaslit, Our Flag Means Death, and The Conners), as kind, divorced-dad milquetoast Arthur, makes a fine will-they-or-won’t-they for Molly—though an eventual love-triangle plot immediately feels trite.

The show struggles most in its attempts to set up a central tension between Molly’s high-spirited, spoiled naiveté and Sofia’s stern, mission-driven pragmatism. The parts are cast well; while Rodriguez sometimes appeared stiff in Pose, her uptight vibe contrasts well with Rudolph’s easy charm. But both are underwritten, in scripts that thoughtlessly deem Sofia’s prickliness as worthy of criticism as Molly’s blithe profligacy. Not every show about the ultra-wealthy needs to be as biting as Succession, but Loot too often comes off as entirely toothless.

A satire so clearly inspired by real people—Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife, the prolific philanthropist MacKenzie Scott—should have something substantive to say about a world where they play outsize roles. Loot takes that risk too late in the season, without earning it through insight into who Molly was before she became Mrs.John Novak. Scott is a novelist; if Molly ever had talents or dreams or convictions of her own, we don’t find out about them. That the show is still intermittently amusing is a credit to Rudolph’s generous portrayal of an overindulged woman flailing. Thanks to her and her castmates, it may well find its way in subsequent seasons, should Yang and Hubbard get a chance to right the megayacht.

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