Loot recap: Apple TV+ show needs spark to elevate it beyond the sitcom

Loot needs a spark to elevate it beyond the common sitcom [Apple TV+ recap]

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Loot recap: Someone needs a spa day!★★★☆☆
Someone needs a spa day!
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ comedy Loot takes a spa day today as Molly tries to relive her old lifestyle without her old life, and the rest of the office bonds over shared drinks and massages. Arthur and Molly think about each other more than friends do, but everywhere she goes reminds her of the life she lost to a younger model.

The show continues to make good inroads on character dynamics. However, Loot needs a little electricity in the writing to keep it from feeling like just another sitcom.

Loot recap: ‘Halsa’

Season 1, episode 5: In this week’s episode, entitled “Halsa,” Arthur (played by Nat Faxon) is in a panic. He’s hurt because Molly (Maya Rudolph) discouraged him from pursuing her romantically. Still, he’s touched that she bought him a painting just because he said he liked it. There’s tension between them at the office now, too. They can hardly stand to be in the same room without awkwardly flirting or pretending not to.

Meanwhile, Sofia (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez) is bent out of shape. Rhonda (Meagan Fay) and Ainsley (Stephanie Styles), her direct underlings, are not tack-sharp. So the charity overlooked the fact that a community college it supported stated in their contract that most of its money goes to executive salaries.

Molly doesn’t care about that but she does recognize that Sofia is working too hard and sleeping in the office. It’s time for a mental health day. So Molly takes all four of them to a spa called Halsa. Things go well until she runs into old friends who were just on vacation with Molly’s ex-husband’s new girlfriend, Haley (Dylan Gelula). Naturally, she attacks her friends.

With Molly and Sofia out of the office, Howard (Ron Funches) and Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster) go out to lunch, and Arthur tags along. He wants to learn more about their particular versions of game so that he can be less worried about how he’s interacting with Molly. They’re weirded out by the way he tries to ask about it, but they do agree to help him by making him a dating profile on an app. However, he becomes distracted when he meets a nice woman named Greta (Sarah Adina) at the bar.

Some nice directorial touches

TV vet Miguel Arteta directs this week’s episode of Loot. And while he’s got a more deep-set aesthetic than Alan Yang exhibited earlier in the season, there’s also a little more B-roll this time, which I don’t love.

Master shots should be outlawed, in my opinion. If someone walks into a spa, I’m reasonably sure everyone is going to get that they’re in a spa without a drone shot of the parking lot.

Viewers will feel Arteta’s touch in small ways. Take, for instance, the scene at the end of the episode after Molly hears about Arthur’s date. She feels jealous, and texts him from her dinner table. Arteta frames Molly and Arthur in their respective kitchens from the same depth of field, with the same alienating space around them as they text each other back. It’s a cute linking device and better than just showing repeated shots of the image of a phone — another deathly image that’s common in modern media.

But can good actors save formulaic writing?

Loot recap: Talented actors like Michaela Jaé Rodriguez suffer a bit from run-of-the-mill writing and sitcom setups.
Talented actors like Michaela Jaé Rodriguez suffer a bit from run-of-the-mill writing and sitcom setups.
Photo: Apple TV+

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez felt out of her element during the more obviously sitcomy elements of the show. In a way, it’s comforting that someone so charismatic can have areas where they don’t always excel. But Rodriguez got back on track for the emotional content in the back half when comforting Molly.

Even at this early stage, Loot is already getting a hair formulaic in its episode ideas. Still, it’s a joy to watch Rudolph and Funches every week, even if the writing isn’t always all there.

The idea of lying while making a dating app profile, or of Rudolph’s new co-workers embarrassing her at the spa in front of her rich friends … these are all antique set-pieces in comedy. And it’s only the performers who dust them off. There’s little in the writing thus far that you can’t find on many other TV comedies.

That’s unfortunate, because I’d like to have a reason to get excited about each new episode beyond the performers.

★★★☆☆

Watch Loot on Apple TV+

New episodes of Loot arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.