A brilliant opening scene for a failed streaming comedy

Molly Wells (Maya Rudolph), one of the richest women on the planet after divorcing her husband, opens the doors of her new house, her “little beach cottage” that “only has five” pools.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 17:35
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A brilliant opening scene for a failed streaming comedy

Molly Wells (Maya Rudolph), one of the richest women on the planet after divorcing her husband, opens the doors of her new house, her “little beach cottage” that “only has five” pools. In the 73-question interview she reveals details of her personal life as pretentious and falsely natural as the viral Vogue videos she parodies.

He follows the Pompeian diet, which consists of eating the last thing the inhabitants of the ancient Roman city ate before dying with the eruption of Vesuvius. He has a sloth as an emotional support animal, which he clearly loathes. And, as her dress moves with a fluidity that attempts to mimic her arms, she confesses that his current look is intended to evoke “Tibetan monk chic.”

The opening scene of the second season of Loot, which arrives this Wednesday on Apple TV, is brilliant. It seems like a well-written Saturday Night Live sketch without straining the comedy machine, which today can be considered a miracle. It shows just how much Maya Rudolph is one of television's great comedy actresses with Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne competing with her on the same platform with Palm Royale and Platonic respectively. What mastery of diction, of the body.

And, with one question after another, the series gives a glimpse of the talent of Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, the creators, who wrote the script for the episode. It's a shame, therefore, when the episode continues and a reality is confirmed: Loot never lives up to expectations.

We would have to ask ourselves to what extent the streaming production system is to blame. When Apple greenlit the first season, Yang and Hubbard had to write and shoot a full ten-episode season, which aired weekly in summer 2022.

The audience's feedback had no impact on the treatment of the plots, characters and comic dynamics as the weeks progressed after a clear starting point: Molly, after getting rich post-divorce, wanted to prove that she was more than just a guy's ex. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, starting to work in the day-to-day life of his foundation to improve society although his millionaire and histrionic lifestyle is contradictory to the charitable vocation of his company.

The elements cannot be said to have not been there. The premise. A fun protagonist but without being so cartoonish that it prevented the series from anchoring. A gallery of secondary characters with Michaela Jaé Rodriguez as the uptight director of the foundation, Joel Kim Booster as Molly's personal assistant or Nat Faxon as the nondescript accountant who has natural chemistry with the millionaire.

The production allowed us to believe the eccentric premise based on mansions, spacious offices and a proper dressing room. And, from time to time, there were good jokes. The problem? That, despite the efforts, there was a latent tension in Loot derived from Yang and Hubbard's inability to reconcile the most strident aspect of the series with their intention of turning the foundation team into a close and pleasant family for the public. .

And, honestly, Loot would probably be better if it were broadcast open-air. It would have less budget to recreate Molly's luxury, of course, but the creators would be forced to cut gags and adjust timings. As it was produced with a short time frame with respect to the broadcast, they would still be in the middle of the season when they would see the audience's comments, what dynamics worked best for them beyond their perception as authors, what characters should be eliminated or redefined.

Having more than twenty episodes per season, there would be time to write filler episodes a priori to explore situations, dynamics, allowing the public and themselves to get to know their television family better. Friends, Frasier or Parks and Recreation were not only good series because they had scriptwriters and actors in a state of grace but because they had time to test, tweak, refine, rectify, exploit, discard and improve.

With Loot, however, it is noted that streaming offers protection with respect to the audience that can be counterproductive for humor (and here I am referring to pure comedy, not to the hybrid models that appeared with the emergence of cable and consolidated in streaming).

Let's see if, now that the platforms produce thrillers, medical dramas and political series with the aim of being like the usual television, they are looking for a way to produce good comedies: those that aim to make us laugh constantly and recurrently. That, unfortunately, streaming underestimates the power of the sitcom and laughter.