Maya Rudolph is overdue for a star vehicle production. She’s so enmeshed in the fabric of American entertainment that we feel at home when we see her on our screens. A fusion of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, Rudolph seems like she was engineered in a lab, designed to make us laugh with her rubber face and an impressive roster of voices and impressions. Performers as reliable and familiar as Rudolph get taken for granted, too often just carted in to buoy a movie or television show with a few wisecracks and a pratfall or two (see also: Zach Galifinakis; Melissa McCarthy).
Rudolph long ago proved she has the ability and charisma to star in just about anything. Her turn in 2009’s Away We Go as Verona, a mother-to-be on a jet-setting search for the perfect place to raise her baby with partner Burt (John Krasinski) is at once hilarious and heart-wrenching. The Maya Rudolph Show, Rudolph’s one-night-only variety show from 2014, is a showcase of the star’s wide range of talents, from song and dance to broad comedy and back again. She’s in the ranks of actors like Emma Thompson, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Sandler with the right material: Maya Rudolph walks deftly along the tightrope of laugh-out-loud antics and genuine pathos, usually within a single scene.
Apple TV’s Loot is a worthy home for Rudolph’s immense talent. The half-hour series, created by Parks and Recreation alumni Matt Hubbard and Alan Yang, follows Molly Novak (Rudolph), the wife of tech billionaire John Novak (Adam Scott) as she leaves her unfaithful husband and basks in the $87 billion windfall of their divorce. At first, Molly tries to find her purpose as a newly single billionaire by traveling the world and bleaching her hair. Eventually, she settles at the charity foundation she’d had forgotten she had, called in by director Sofia (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), a no-nonsense foil to Molly’s wealth and blasé attitude about owning a Ferrari in every color of the rainbow.
Despite her heart being in the right place, Molly quickly realizes that it isn’t enough to just throw her billions at a random charitable cause about which she knows nothing. Inspired by Sofia and her rag-tag group of new co-workers, including a harried-but-adorable accountant Arthur (Nat Faxon) and Molly’s goofy, pop culture-loving cousin Howard (the always-game Ron Funches), Molly shifts her efforts from being just a board member to becoming a direct participant in the charity’s altruism. We can only assume that doing this will be how Molly eventually finds herself.
It’s interesting to have a television show entirely devoted to showing the “good side” of a billionaire. Our era of late-stage capitalism is so absurd that CEOs are funding private space travel for themselves and contemplating buying Twitter just because they can. Loot tries to keep up. The pilot begins with John bringing Molly his birthday gift to her: a mega-yacht already bobbing in the ocean. Later, to dull the pain of her divorce, Molly sits on the floor of a room designed solely for all of her favorite kinds of candy, looking glamorous and sad as she self-medicates with jawbreakers while wearing an ostrich-feather ensemble. Apple TV’s always-glossy and refined-looking programming helps embellish this portrayal of a charmed, untouchable life.
And it should be even more interesting to see how Loot – which seems self-aware enough – will tackle Molly’s exorbitant wealth while, in the real world, Americans brace for what feels like another inevitable recession. It’s fun to watch Succession‘s fictional rich people be terrible and conniving; rooting actively for Loot‘s terribly wealthy main character doesn’t feel quite as satisfying. More likely, Loot will be yet another piece of escapist fluff for us to consume as the gears of final-stage capitalism continue their screeching grind. My heart tells me to expect this; whether my brain likes that or not, I welcome it.
Whispers of Parks and Recreation echo throughout Loot‘s first three episodes, and will surely lure fans of the beloved sitcom over to Loot land. Molly’s new co-workers (and friends) all vary in age and personality, and they bounce off of one another in a manner reminiscent of the staff at Pawnee City Hall. Molly’s assistant Nicholas (Fire Island breakout Joel Kim Booster) is a stand-out among the show’s bursting ensemble, providing the right balance of heart and hilarity in the most absurd circumstances.
However, much like Parks and Recreation, Loot‘s ensemble ultimately takes a back seat to its leading lady. Whether improvising some unfortunate Beyoncé parody lyrics at a ribbon-cutting or mixing her milk with beer on a laugh-out-loud Hot Ones appearance, Molly is a lovable kind of inept that only has room to grow and flourish. With a performer like Rudolph at the helm, she’s sure to do so while we laugh along all the way.
Apple TV’s Loot is available to stream beginning June 24th.