Money prob­lems: Four friends strike it rich in AMC’s ‘Loaded’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COVER STORY - By Kyla Brewer

Ever since Jed Clam­pett (Buddy Eb­sen) struck oil in the clas­sic se­ries “The Beverly Hill­bil­lies,” tele­vi­sion view­ers have imag­ined go­ing from rags to riches in style. Swim­ming pools. Fancy cars. Lav­ish va­ca­tions. Just about ev­ery­one dreams about what they’d spend money on if they sud­denly found them­selves rich, but a new com­edy is serv­ing as a cau­tion­ary tale for those who think money can buy hap­pi­ness.

Four friends strug­gle with their new sta­tus as mul­ti­mil­lion­aires af­ter they sell their hit iPhone game and video game com­pany in “Loaded,” air­ing Mon­day, Aug. 14, on AMC. Un­for­tu­nately, the thir­tysome­things have more money than sense and end up spend­ing their for­tune on friv­o­lous toys, va­ca­tions and other non­sen­si­cal things as they try to im­press those around them.

Based on the Keshet In­ter­na­tional award-win­ning Is­raeli se­ries “Me­su­darim” by Muli Segev (“Hayom BaLayla,” 2015) and As­saf Harel (“Shote­tut,” 2001), the Bri­tish com­edy was co-pro­duced by Keshet UK, AMC, Chan­nel 4 and Hill­billy Tele­vi­sion. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Kate Nor­rish (“The Level”) and Polly Leys (“The Full Monty,” 1997) had high praise for the se­ries when the eight-episode deal for the English-lan­guage ver­sion was an­nounced.

“It is a fresh, funny and per­ti­nent take on four friends try­ing to cling on to the slats of their friend­ship in the eye of a hur­ri­cane of money and ex­cess,” Nor­rish and Leys said.

Eight episodes is a pretty short run, even for a sum­mer se­ries, but the ta­lented cast has man­aged to pack a lot of laughs, and even a lit­tle so­cial com­men­tary, into “Loaded.” Jim How­ick (“Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries”) stars as Josh, the leader and moral com­pass of the group, who al­most seems to suf­fer un­der the weight of his new wealth.

“No one de­serves mil­lions for a cat game that mums play on the toi­let,” Josh quips in a trailer for the se­ries.

Still, he hopes to im­press ex-girl­friend Abi (Aimee Ffion-Ed­wards, “Peaky Blin­ders”) with fancy din­ners and char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions.

His best friend, Leon, played by Sa­muel An­der­son (“Doc­tor Who”), is a charis­matic snappy dresser who en­listed the help of a bar­ber­shop quar­tet to mock all of the peo­ple who re­fused to in­vest in the game be­fore the guys hit it big. As the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor, Leon re­wards him­self for his suc­cess with a Fer­rari and other ex­pen­sive toys.

Jonny Sweet (“To­gether”) por­trays tech­ni­cal whiz Ewan, a sweet and sen­si­tive soul who is in charge of the cod­ing team at Idyl Hands. A stereo­typ­i­cal nerd, Ewan is a tad awk­ward and feels un­rec­og­nized for his con­tri­bu­tions.

In con­trast, Nick Helm’s (“Un­cle”) char­ac­ter, Watto, is a re­cently sober, over-the-top per­son­al­ity whose art­work graces the team’s hit game Cat Fac­tory. He en­joys the thrill of spend­ing his money flam­boy­antly, but quickly re­al­izes the things he buys leave him feel­ing empty.

The main cast also in­cludes Amer­i­can ac­tress Mary McCor­mack (“The West Wing”) as the guys’ new high­pow­ered boss, Casey, a self-pro­claimed “sexy Darth Vader.” The seem­ingly heart­less vice pres­i­dent boasts some of the most mem­o­rable lines in the se­ries, in­clud­ing: “There’s only one way to climb to the top: tread­ing on peo­ple’s faces.” Scar­lett Alice John­son (“East­End­ers”) and Lolly Ade­fope (“Rovers”) round out the cast.

With peo­ple spend­ing more and more time on their phones and tablets, the app and video game busi­ness has be­come a hugely im­por­tant global in­dus­try, and “Loaded” isn’t the first se­ries to take a look at the rise of startup tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. Since its North Amer­i­can pre­miere on AMC Mon­day, July 17, the com­edy has been com­pared to HBO’s “Sil­i­con Val­ley,” which also fol­lows friends strug­gling to de­velop a prod­uct that will make them rich. Cre­ated by Mike Judge (“King of the Hill”), John Altschuler (“The Goode Fam­ily”) and Dave Krin­sky (“Lopez”), the show has been a big hit for HBO, earn­ing a 100 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing on pop­u­lar re­view ag­gre­ga­tor web­site rot­ten­toma­ for sea­sons 2, 3 and 4. Sea­son 4 wrapped up at the end of June, and sea­son 5 is slated to pre­miere in 2018.

AMC also of­fers view­ers a look at life in the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try in “Halt and Catch Fire,” a drama set in the 1980s that presents a fic­tional ac­count of the be­gin­ning of the per­sonal com­puter revo­lu­tion. Star­ring Lee Pace (“The Fall,” 2006), Scoot McNairy (“Mon­sters,” 2010) and Macken­zie Davis (“The Mar­tian,” 2015), the pe­riod piece is sched­uled to re­turn to AMC’s prime-time lineup Sat­ur­day, Aug. 19.

The “Loaded” col­lab­o­ra­tion isn’t the first time AMC has part­nered with Chan­nel 4. The two net­works also worked to­gether on “Hu­mans,” a fu­tur­is­tic sci­ence fic­tion se­ries about an­thro­po­mor­phic robots known as synths. While “Hu­mans” has been a hit on both sides of the At­lantic, it re­mains to be seen how the first sea­son of “Loaded” will fare with North Amer­i­can au­di­ences.

The guys from Idyl Hands prove that money may not be ev­ery­thing as they con­tinue to strug­gle in spite of — or per­haps be­cause of — their new­found wealth. Don’t miss their lat­est ad­ven­ture as Leon in­vites the gang on his lux­ury yacht in the hopes they’ll fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing a new game in a new episode of “Loaded,” air­ing Mon­day, Aug. 14, on AMC. What fol­lows is 24 hours of drugs, sex and mur­der.

Scar­lett Alice John­son in a scene from “Loaded”

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