Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Take Silicon Valley. Put it across the pond. Remove the scrappy underdog factor, along with the majority of the fast wit, biting cultural/technological satire and bruising mean-spiritedness laced with puppy-dog emotional sincerity and surprisingly accurate business know-how. Keep a majority of the dick jokes, only don’t make them quite as clever or funny. Give every main character more money and less individuality. Somewhere in that rubble, you’ll find AMC’s latest original import Loaded, a tech-based dramedy that rather desperately tries to recreate the success and sophomoric sophistication of HBO’s winning hit comedy while never earning enough personality or laughs to avoid easy comparisons. These characters might be “loaded,” but there’s no doubt that Mike Judge’s hilarious critical darling is far richer.
That’s not entirely fair, though. To its credit, Loaded is inspired heavily by the acclaimed, award-winning series Mesudarim, created by Muli Segev and Assaf Harel. Under the care of Veep writer Jon Brown, Loaded should be filled with crackling hilarity. Instead, it feels disappointingly undeveloped and annoyingly generic.
Following a gang of tech entrepreneurs and lifelong pals, including the nerdy brainchild Josh (Jim Howick), charismatic smooth-talker Leon (Samuel Anderson), flexible heavyweight (and punky alcoholic) Watto (Nick Helm) and gawky low-man-on-the-multi-millionaire stick Ewan (Jonny Sweet), Loaded finds our central group at the pique of their creative success, having sold their highly successful app game, Cat Factory, for $300 million. Now, they’re wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, but they pay the ultimate price, as they’re watched ruthlessly by their sternly unsympathizing new boss, Mary McCormack (The West Wing), a no-nonsense businesswoman who stresses the importance of making new games like Cat Factory 2, which the central creators hold no interest in making.
It’s not merely that Loaded is mediocre and fairly unimpressive. It’s that despite its game cast and appealing potential in inspired parts, it’s weirdly, almost surprisingly quite bland in its unremarkable execution. It never takes full advantage of its tech-based workplace scenario, opting instead to follow the recently rich pursuits of its bumbling central characters. Unlike Silicon Valley, we never see these once-hapless characters at their professional and personal low points, which therefore never lets us fully root for their immediate success. Hell, even Entourage — for all its inane bro-ness as it went along — at least tried to show its central ensemble savage their way through the Hollywood system in its early seasons.
By immediately finding our main leads in the world of millionaires, most viewers are instantly removed from any relatability to these goofy eccentricities, and their man-child personalities are generally more grating than charming — especially during sequences centered around their petty wish-fulfilling, overinflated bravado or general foolishness.
Watching a bunch of rich 30-somethings learn how to become “adults” and usually failing pretty hard isn’t necessarily appealing on its own. It also doesn’t help that these four characters are generally one-note and fairly unlikable. Refusing to let us know them during their plucky start-up days, and often relying on boastful characters telling us about their more humble early days during various moments of expositional dialogue, doesn’t do the trick. This new series could’ve been funny at face value, and it does earn a handful of chuckles during the first few episodes, but the laughs are few-and-far-between, and they’re not nearly consistent enough to earn your full affections.
Worst than that, Loaded tries to have its digital cake and eat it, too. It wants to show our leads as a bunch of aimless slackers who just want to have fun with a lot of money while also establishing some flimsy dramatic stakes by having them waste thousands upon millions of dollars failing to figure out what they should do with their impressively growing company. Some viewers might prefer the fast-spending, easy-living lifestyles of these characters compared to the awkward ongoing career stumbles of Silicon Valley‘s Pied Piper team, but after a few episodes, Loaded quickly becomes boring and fairly repetitive in its bawdy humor.
We never fully see the fundamental bond between our lead ensemble, which spoils a good bit of fun and any intended emotional investment, and it’s far too occupied on the material wealth of its leads without providing anything amusing to muse on. The jokes are strained and the premises are just a little too bombastic this early in the game. Loaded, quite simply, doesn’t earn your vote of confidence, and what little appeal it finds is too minimal to make it count.
It’s hard to call Loaded a bad series per se, but it’s a pretty un-involving one. There’s a reason why Silicon Valley is easily one of the best shows on television right now, and unfortunately Loaded found out the hard way why it’s so difficult to earn that high level of success. The work needs to be just as thrilling as the fun, the tech lingo needs to be as jaunty as it is authentic and the jokes at hand need to be funny while still letting us enjoy and appreciate these characters while we follow their pursuits. Loaded doesn’t earn that right of passage.
AMC's Channel 4 import Loaded definitely needs more time to process.