The public seemingly has collectively sighed and given up the notion that there is an ongoing pandemic, a common dissenting opinion is that a lot of people do not want to physically go to work. As reported in The New York Times, Zoom saw an increase of 290 million daily users in April 2020 when compared to the statistics compiled in December 2019. Remote work might be here to stay permanently, allowing those privileged enough to have these kinds of job opportunities to work from wherever they want in the world, effectively avoiding the classic workplace politics and drama that organically thrives in competitive or toxic environments. Some have thrived in the new environments covering the new, digitized world that the pandemic thrust upon most people, but if there is one winner out of the switch to technology, it is streaming platforms.
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These streaming platforms seem to have caught onto these ideological shifts caused by the pandemic as the number of workplace shows is increasing. Whether it is Apple TV+’s Severance or the new Netflix comedy God’s Favorite Idiot, the workplace has once again crossed over into the territory in which it exists within a tightly woven fantasy on small screens. This is not new territory at all in television and film—The Office remains a beloved favorite for many looking for a humorous show to binge-watch. But, with the release of Loot on Apple TV+, these shows are a reminder of a culture that may eventually become a distant past, memorialized by mundane concepts like sitcoms. While one-day humans might not remember what an office in 2022 looks like, television keeps it alive in the relevant cultural memories of communities.
Loot premiered on Apple TV+ starting on June 24, 2022, and its executive producers include Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Big Mouth) and Alan Yang (Master of None, Parks and Recreation). Yang’s previous experience as a writer for Parks and Recreation bleeds through in this series, as the humor and situations tend to resemble some of those seen on Loot. Yang created the series with Matt Hubbard, another Parks and Recreation alumni. Rudolph was cast in the leading role upon the announcement of the series’ existence, then-unnamed at the time, and other key cast members were revealed as they were cast. Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez (Pose), Joel Kim Booster (Fire Island, Big Mouth), Nat Faxon (Our Flag Means Death), and Ron Funches (Harley Quinn) round out the remainder of this group of immense talent, setting the bar high for what could potentially be expected on the show.
Divorce, Billionaires, and Self-Discovery
In Loot, Molly Novak (Rudolph) is the main protagonist. She has the life that everyone might have wished for at some point in their lives: she is a billionaire with a massive yacht, her private planes, and a mansion. What else could she want? Well, as it turns out, money really cannot buy you everything, as her marriage of twenty years crumbles after her husband betrays her, thus leading to a series of unfortunate events. Or, in this case, public meltdowns, mimicking real-life celebrity culture eerily close as the tabloids and press begin to spin their narratives and thoughts about what her marriage and divorce were like. When Molly realizes that a charity was founded in her name, she decides it is time for her to do something with her life, bringing in her perspective that is a tad out of touch with reality due to the vast wealth gap.
At first, the show appears to be hollow and flashy, reminiscent of certain reality television stars and the level of wealth that could only be flaunted by the world’s elite. If the show did not take the route it did, it could have potentially come across as a bit insensitive considering the rates of inflation steadily increasing around the world, making everyday necessities like food and shelter a lot more expensive than they were three years ago. It is this context that may turn some off of a show like this, as it can serve either as a form of escapism or an unwanted reminder of the bitter, deep class divides present almost everywhere. If this show was something other than a comedy, it would not have worked as well as it did. The comedic elements riff on the underlying messages about class and privilege, not missing a beat even if it is a subtle, nuanced interpretation one walks away with after watching the show.
Most divorced women do not have the budget that Rudolph’s Molly has, a whopping eighty-seven billion dollars after the divorce, making this show lean more into the territory of comedic escapism after the first episode frames the fact she is filthy rich. Her version of getting over a divorce consists of partying around the world, and when she finally decides to clean up her act and do something better with her life, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez’s character, Sofia, enters as a specific foil for Molly. Sofia is the head of the charity’s foundation, doing a lot of the grunt work to try and keep its doors open and serve the communities that its mission sets out to help. Molly may bring out the celebrity name and lure in the big donors and fundraising opportunities through the fact she is well-known, especially after her divorce, but people like Sofia act as the voice of reason to balance out the eccentrics of those out-of-touch with what life is like for that are outside of the bubble of wealth.
Is It A Workplace Comedy?
While Loot may present itself in its premise as a story about Molly, its charm lies in the cast and supporting characters brought together alongside her journey. Its pitch is about a billionaire woman trying to change and learn how to be more empathetic towards other people’s struggles amidst her crisis. Modeled after the real-life marriage of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his former wife MacKenzie Scott and the impending downfall of it as their divorce proceedings became public, Loot may be an unattainable fantasy for the average viewer watching it after a long day at work or on a weekend, but it gives agency to a woman whose entire identity previously revolved around her husband and his reputation. It is not easy to be a now-single woman who divorced when in their forties due to the stigma around it, but Molly steps away from that stereotype and creates something completely new for herself, even if in the beginning she is not good at it at all.
Maya Rudolph is the glue keeping the show together. Her take on Molly manages to come across as ignorant and steers away from the inoffensive territory, keeping the comedy alive and swinging for familiar territory for many viewers. Whether one does not like billionaires, when placed in Molly’s world, it seems almost impossible to not like her after stepping in her shoes for a bit. However, it becomes abundantly clearer as the show goes on that the workplace comedy aspect of it might not be fully realized or tapped into its maximum potential due to Molly’s status. Sofia is the only one who does anything when it comes to the charity side of things, while Molly’s work consists of making speeches and funneling money into something that she had suddenly become passionate about after kind of forgetting that she even had a charity until it suddenly served her narrative a purpose.
And maybe that is just another humorous element to add into the mix: this billionaire wants to have a change of heart but helps in the only way that she knows how to. Molly has not worked in a long time for a blue-collar job, nor does she seem aware of what it is like in the real world outside of her bubble. If there is a second season, if the show wants to make a statement about wealth inequality and the notion of should billionaires even exist, it may need to be expanded upon to drive that point home. The first season misses the mark in that regard. In sharp contrast, Kim, fresh off his appearance in Fire Island, and Rodriguez, who previously could be seen on Pose, help bring this together with sarcasm and one-liners that land well. The cast is one of the main highlights of Loot, and while it might be best to view it solely as a comedy instead of a workplace comedy, it still manages to be quite entertaining by the time the finish line is in sight.
Loot initially premiered on Apple TV+ on June 24, 2022. New episodes will be released weekly every Friday.
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