“Loaded,” the new AMC series about the wacky adventures of overnight British millionaires, is one of the rare comedies that’s better when no one’s laughing. Ostensibly a show about what happens when a group of four men luck into unfathomable riches, one of its frequent missteps is its runtime. Unlike the vast majority of comedies on American airwaves, “Loaded” runs in hourlong increments. Overstaffed, undercooked, and in constant search of a central focus, the series is one of the better arguments for keeping comedies as concise as possible.
A Channel 4 production airing stateside on AMC and based on a the Israeli series “Mesudarim,” “Loaded” follows the fortunes (literal and metaphorical) of a group of four friends who have recently made a mint from selling their app to an American corporation. Josh (Jim Howick) is the uptight brains of the outfit, Leon (Samuel Anderson) is the enigmatic boisterous public face of the company, Watto (Nick Helm) is the material possessions obsessed tinkerer and Ewan (Jonny Sweet) is the perpetually underestimated, socially awkward appendage of the central managing group.
Together they form Idyl Hands, a software company whose sole success is a cat-based iPhone game that even one of their girlfriends acknowledge is a consistent life-drainer. One of the major problems of “Loaded” is that the show ambles in search of purpose as much as its central four characters do. Developing a follow-up to their successful game, flaunting their riches to indifferent audiences, unsuccessfully pursuing romantic interests — these are all foibles of the show, but none of them seem to have enough heft to sustain more than a few episodes of their rich-guy hijinks.
One momentary respite comes in the form of Casey (Mary McCormack), an executive from their new parent company who, within minutes of her arrival in London, whips these aimless fellows into shape. The series’ third episode, which starts with a light company restructuring, feels like a more effective start of the show. Seeing these guys squirm when faced with the actual work needed to sustain their creation is a tension that the show’s early going rarely explores.
Like most of the series, “Loaded” struggles to come up with a clear picture of who these people are beyond their easily digestible character descriptions. That inability to hone in on what makes these characters worth pursuing also highlights why these hour-long episodes feel so shaggy. Charged with the dual responsibility of filling runtime and understanding who these people really are, “Loaded” sends its main quartet on loopy side adventures.
With the exception of one stark confrontation at the end of the series’ pilot, none of these detours from the Idyl Hands office feel like essential elements of the show. Few of them challenge what “Loaded” puts forward about these characters from the outset (though Anderson’s charisma and Sweet’s sheepishness do make extra time with Leon and Ewan occasionally worth it). There’s rarely a glimpse of what the greater industry thinks of what this group has accomplished, and there’s barely any sense that this story can be told in any other location but London.
That showdown from the first episode, where one character makes a significant threat via a ridiculously expensive sports car, seems like an excessive show of force, but it does illustrate that the show’s best moments come from real personal interactions and not from the lavish, goofy excesses of wealth that “Loaded” mistakes for punchlines. The occasional jokes thrown in for good measure never feel like the concise, insightful jabs between good friends that are the highlights of other workplace comedies. Here, the occasional offering is a tossed-off Brexit joke, an unnecessary Cosby reference, or an on-the-nose song cue.
The ultimate result is a series that feels like a loose collection of sketches in the lives of people who have come into extravagant wealth unexpectedly. Plenty of these characters have enough personality to bring out a couple of laughs: Casey’s assistant Naomi (Lolly Adefope) carrying out her duties with very specific relish is a series highlight. But without that restricted length forcing these character beats to serve a greater story purpose and integrate seamlessly into overall fabric of an episode, these tiny gags feel like gloss for an overall story that doesn’t really know where to turn its attention.
The added time per episode also reinforces that, even with more time spent with these characters, they face precious few consequences for their ineptitude and carelessness. The circumstances that keep them afloat are rarely the result of their own actions. Rather than taking that opportunity to comment on how these largely ineffective people have landed themselves in a position of power, “Loaded” is content to sit back and watch them wander through this new life they’ve created for themselves. The occasional parental figure slides through to fill in a little bit of these character gaps, but spending even more time with them makes the inevitable episode-by-episode reset feel like another missed opportunity.
If there’s one thing that “Loaded” does well, it’s infuse the often dreary and bland tech world with some color. Leon’s suits and the interior of the Idyl Hands offices are a flash of pastels and neons that help this story pop in ways the writing doesn’t always manage. But rather than those details being a handful of Skittles to follow a delicious meal, the series ends up feeling like eating an entire bag on empty stomach.
“Loaded” premieres July 17 at 10 p.m. on AMC.