With the tech industry dominating headlines on a daily basis, satirical takes on the world of app-creating billionaires were inevitable. New versions of basically the same story are hitting the airwaves, however, and it's becoming necessary for tech-based shows to branch off and try something new. That's exactly what AMC's new dramedy Loaded -- inspired by Muli Segev and Assaf Harel's award-winning series Mesudarim -- intends to do. But while the freshman series toys with legitimately interesting takes on New Wealth, offering a few laughs along the way, Loaded sadly never reaches the level of depth or humor that will likely convince mainstream audiences to stick with it in droves.
We enter Loaded on the eve of a massive success. British developers Leon (Samuel Anderson), Ewan (Jonny Sweet), and Watto (Nick Helm) party the night away to honor the sale of their Cat-themed video game app, while the perpetually skittish Josh (Jim Howick) vomits with anxiety. Everything appears to go well when the deal goes through (turning each of them into overnight millionaires), but they soon realize their real work has just begun when their new boss Casey (The West Wing's Mary McCormack) shows up and demands further success. From there, this foursome of longtime pals is forced into facing more stressors, setbacks, and obstacles than they ever could've imagined on their trip to the top.
Unlike other shows of a similar ilk, Loaded does stand out for its decidedly bitter attitude towards success. Where shows like Silicon Valley or Halt and Catch Fire chronicle the rise to power for their respective tech companies, as well as the subsequent bumps along the way, Loaded's decision to open on an already successful business thrusts it into a noticeably different thematic realm. For this particular group of ambitious friends, money is arguably their greatest antagonist, and Loaded goes to painstaking lengths to highlight that their hard fought success -- which is all implied in the years leading up to the show's events -- doesn't result in happiness. Most series make money the end goal and a grand prize, but Loaded serves as an indictment of wealth and a cautionary tale.
In concept alone, that is actually a fascinating direction to take a show like this. There's no question about it, Loaded and its writer/developer Jon Brown definitely deserves praise for bringing a fresh approach to the increasingly worn "tech bro comedy" subgenre. Having said that, a solid concept can only carry a series so far, and another way Loaded falls short of its potential is by not being populated with characters that we want to root for on a weekly, long-term basis. After all, we can only watch a guy hire a barbershop quartet to sing "suck my balls" so many times in a single show before it's no longer funny. Believe it or not, that actually gets old.
All this isn't to say there are zero performances and sequences worth watching out for, if you choose to give Loaded your time. Jonny Sweet's adorably neurotic Ewan and Nick Helm's punk rocker Watto both deliver laughs whenever they are on camera, but the problem is that they're generally treated as the more ancillary personalities on the series. Loaded leans far more heavily on Josh and Leon to carry its story forward, and neither of them is particularly engaging in a protagonist role. They have their moments, sure, but at a certain point their excesses, character flaws, and mistakes become more grating than entertaining.
Don't get me wrong; their financial ineptitude sometimes works on a satirical level, but the show just doesn't provide enough of an emotional through-line to really care about these guys. More often than not, the show resorts to clichés and tired tropes to convey the struggles of success. There's even a slow-motion, Office Space-esque sequence in which they destroy all of the newly purchased items in their new mansion, which is the first lesson in "Visually Conveying the Bittersweet Side of Success 101."
That inconsistent emotional depth often feels compounded by the fact that an overwhelming amount of jokes in the first four episodes of Loaded fall as flat as the dollar bill. There are a few solid one-liners here and there, but Loaded's scripts feel very self-important instead of self-aware. I hesitate to draw too many comparisons between Loaded and Mike Judge's similarly designed HBO series, but the fact of the matter is that the former just lacks the kinetic energy and sharp sense of humor that's made the latter's satire pop for four seasons. We're always hoping for AMC to land another major hit to punch up its non-Walking Dead schedule, but it looks like Loaded isn't it.