Film & Television

‘Loot’ and ‘God’s Favorite Idiot’:
Two Funny Ladies Who Deserve Better Vehicles
 

Subscription streaming services have already proven that they can and often do support women-led series. From dramas like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Crown, Big Little Lies, and Little Fires Everywhere, to comedies like One Day at a Time and Grace and Frankie, to the hybrid dramedies that seem to be a particularly sweet spot for the less advertiser-dependent networks, like Orange is the New Black, GLOW, and Roar.

The networks have also shown themselves to be particularly adept at creating vehicles for funny women, such as Hacks and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. So, I was surprised to find I was disappointed in two new series that star two of the funniest women around. The first, an Apple TV+ vehicle for SNL alumna, the brilliant Maya Rudolph, falls a little flat. The second, a Netflix showcase for versatile superstar Melissa McCarthy, falls on its face.

Loot, cocreated by Matt Hubbard (Forever, 30 Rock) and Alan Yang (Forever, Master of None) stars Rudolph as Molly Wells Novak. As the series starts, Molly is the spoiled wife of tech billionaire John (Adam Scott), celebrating her 45th birthday on a many-hundred-million-dollar yacht and in a many-hundred-million-dollar mansion with her countless servants, glamorous friends, and — it turns out — her husband’s mistress. In short order, Molly confronts her cheating spouse, demand a divorce, and crashes one of his luxury sportscars. What follows is a media circus as the two battle in court and Molly is eventually left with $87 billion and a hole in her heart that she fills with international partying.

“I feel so happy!” she tells her devoted assistant Nicholas (scene-stealer Joel Kim Booster) on a dancefloor in Ibiza, Cap Ferrat, Mykonos, or somewhere equally decadent.

“That’s the drugs!” he responds.

“No wonder they’re so popular,” she nods.

Molly’s chic but vacuous existence comes to a halt when Sofia (the excellent Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), the director of her foundation, asks her to stay out of the tabloids because her behavior is damaging the organization’s credibility. This presents Molly an opportunity for redemption — with a few (okay, many) caveats. She doesn’t know anything about running a foundation; truth be told, she didn’t even know the foundation existed. And, as the pampered wife of a billionaire high-tech megalomaniac, she’s not exactly in touch with the issues that confront L.A.’s homeless, the very population the Wells Foundation is there to help.

However, that doesn’t stop Molly from jumping in with horrifically misguided enthusiasm. She gives residents of a new women’s shelter gift bags with high-end designer candles. She takes the Foundation’s office staff to Miami on her private jet. She cancels interviews with MSNBC and Anderson Cooper and, instead, promotes the Foundation on a YouTube show called Hot Ones, on which she’s asked questions in between sampling hot sauces that bear names like “Holler Monkey,” “Dragon’s Breath,” and “Caribbean Scorch.”

If that last bit sounds familiar, it’s because it mirrors an SNL sketch from last year, in which Rudolph played Beyoncé appearing on the same exact program. Throughout Loot, Rudolph seems to be channeling her inner “Queen Bey.” And, that’s unfortunate because Rudolph’s range is much greater than that. Molly, who may be loosely based on Mackenzie Scott (the former Mrs. Jeff Bezos), is a bit of a caricature most of the time, overshadowing what could be moments of clarity and even pathos.

Besides, Molly’s journey from self-absorbed trophy wife to selfless (but still extraordinarily well heeled) philanthropist, Loot plays out as an office comedy. To date (three episodes in), we’ve met the aforementioned Sofia, dedicated but humorless; Howard (Ron Fuches), Molly’s affable cousin and Foundation IT guy who has jumped into a bromance with the disdainful Nicholas; Arthur (Nat Faxon), the divorced accountant who introduce Molly to the delights of Costco; Ainsley (Stephanie Styles), an earnest “Teach for America” do-gooder; and Rhonda (Meagan Faye), a dowdy bohemian who thinks hugs and massages will save the world.

While the characters could be more dimensional, Loot really misses an opportunity to shine a brighter light on some of the social issues the Wells Foundation is trying to solve. Homelessness is its main concern, but the only homeless people we’ve seen so far are the women who were confused by Molly’s tone-deaf gift bags. By fleshing out an unhoused character or two, Loot could do more than make us laugh.

At least Loot does make us laugh. In God’s Favorite Idiot, the new series starring Melissa McCarthy and costarring and created by her husband Ben Falcone, the laughs are few and far-between. The awkward eight-episode Netflix comedy tells the story of Clark (Falcone), a sweet everyman, who has been chosen by God to deliver Her message on Earth so that Heaven can win a war with Hell. Like Loot, God’s Favorite Idiot often plays as an office comedy, so Clark is aided by a motley crew of coworkers: Moshin (Usman Ally), Wendy (Ana Scotney), Tom (Chris Sandiford), and Frisbee (Steve Mallory). 

Then there’s Amily (McCarthy). At the start of the series, Amily, who changed her name Emily to be more like French cinema’s Amélie, is a trainwreck. She abuses drugs and alcohol; has a foul temper and a fouler mouth. She dresses in crazy shirt and tie combinations and rides a motorbike to work. It’s an off-color character we’ve seen McCarthy embody before, and unassuming Clark is enthralled. Soon the unlikely couple are involved, and suddenly McCarthy becomes a  kinder, gentler Amily. I much prefer the second characterization (I’ve always preferred Gilmore Girls’ Sookie over Bridesmaids’ Megan — and, yes, I’m aware that I’m the only person on Earth who hated that movie). But, regardless of which Amily most appeals to you, the two personalities are simply too different and no explanation for her dramatic attitude adjustment is provided.

God’s Favorite Idiot includes celestial appearances from angel Chamuel (Gilmore’s Yanic Truesdale), the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Yure Covich, Goran D. Kleut, Rahel Romatin, and Denise Roberts), Satan (Leslie Bibb), and God, Herself (Magda Szubanski). The otherworldly characters are mildly entertaining, but they pale compared to their counterparts in Amazon’s Good Omens. Nothing about God’s Favorite Idiot lives up to expectation.

It seems that Netflix had some reservations about the series as well. God’s Favorite Idiot was originally meant to have 16 episodes, but production was halted after eight.

Thank Heaven.

Loot is available on Apple TV+ with new episodes on Fridays.

God’s Favorite Idiot is available to stream on Netflix.



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