Many of our favorite sitcoms kick off with a pilot episode in which the main character is starting a new and scary but potentially life-changing chapter in their lives:
- A young woman moves to Minneapolis after a failed relationship and winds up working as a news producer at WJM-TV.
- A grad student stops with her fiancé at a Boston bar called Cheers, and when he leaves her in the lurch, the bar’s owner takes pity on her and offers her a waitressing gig.
- A street-smart kid from Philadelphia is sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel-Air.
- An American football coach is hired by a wealthy divorcée to coach the English soccer team she owns.
A series premiering with three episodes available now on Apple TV+. Another of the 10 episodes will premiere each Friday.
The formula is put to terrific use once again in the Apple TV+ series “Loot,” with the invaluable Maya Rudolph giving a sparkling, nomination-worthy performance as one Molly Novak, the pampered wife of a billionaire who is living a life that would have the Kardashians green with envy when her world is turned upside down after her husband leaves her for his much younger mistress.(Any resemblance to real-world high-profile kazillionaire couple break-ups is purely fictional, I’m quite sure.)
Left with $87 billion and not a clue as to what to do with her life, Molly decides she’ll try to re-enter the real world and get involved on a hands-on level with the charitable foundation she barely remembered she had founded — and just like that, we’re plunged into the classic workplace sitcom setup, à la “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” and “The Mindy Project” and “30 Rock.”
In the pilot episode of this well-written, beautifully shot series with some spectacular locations, the obscenely wealthy and insufferably smug billionaire John Novak (Adam Scott in an extended cameo), the kind of guy who says, “Drinks are on me, I own four soccer teams,” has given his wife Molly an obscenely huge yacht for her 45th birthday followed by a lavish party at their monstrously huge estate in Hollywood Hills — but when Molly discovers John has been having an affair with the 25ish Hailey (Dylan Gelula), she reads John the riot act in front of the crowd (including Seal, who has been hired to sing a birthday song), telling him: “I have been by your side for 20 years. … I had sex with you when you had your weird body, before you fixed it with MONEY. I want a divorce, don’t ever speak to me again.”
Molly embarks on a globe-trotting party binge, accompanied by her snobby and materialistic assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster), who introduces Molly to the party scene. (“I feel so happy!” says Molly. “That’s the drugs!” replies Nicholas. “I see why they’re so popular!” exclaims Molly.) With the tabloids chronicling every rotation of Molly’s downward spin, she’s called on the carpet by the no-nonsense Sofia Salinas (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), who reminds Molly she started a Southern California-based charitable foundation years ago (of which Sofia is the director), and this kind of publicity is NOT helping their efforts to bring about real change.
Molly’s solution? She’ll get all hands-on with the foundation and find her purpose in life and re-connect with “real” people. Not that Molly really cares about the disenfranchised and the poor and the oppressed, at least not at first. This is all about Molly having a reason to get up in the morning and feel better about herself. As Molly settles in (it’s not like anyone can tell her she can’t hang out at her own foundation), we’re introduced to a colorful array of supporting players, most notably Molly’s genial cousin Howard (Ron Funches), who runs the IT side of things, and the likable Arthur (Nat Faxon), an accountant who like Molly is a recently divorced and tells Molly about the benefits of having a Costco membership.
Much of “Loot” is about Molly’s clueless but heartfelt attempts to help the foundation, which usually end in disaster, whether she’s handing out fancy-schmancy gift bags at the grand opening for a shelter for unhoused women or falling on her face in a couple of gastronomic-related public moments that have mild echoes of the infamous “Bridesmaids” food-poisoning scene.
There’s not much of a deep dive into the real-life problems faced by those who benefit from the foundation — after all, the story is told from Molly’s point of view — but “Loot” pulls us in thanks to the crisp writing and the endearing characters. (Even the snippy Nicholas, who has a penchant for saying things like, “You are the living embodiment of an Olive Garden breadstick,” shows a kinder side, mostly because Howard practically wills Nicholas into becoming his friend.)
Michaela Jaé Rodriguez makes for a perfect deadpan comedic foil in the vein of Andre Braugher’s Capt. Holt on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and Nat Faxon’s Arthur just might be the down-to-earth romantic antidote Molly needs, somewhere down the line. Mostly, though, this is Maya Rudolph’s showcase, and to the surprise of nobody who has watched and admired Rudolph’s career, she’s a masterful comedic actor who can also carry off the more contemplative and serious material. Like Molly herself, “Loot” has real potential to be something special.