A still from ‘Loaded’.
A still from ‘Loaded’.

British sitcom ‘Loaded’ mixes comedy with food for thought

The show follows the misadventures of four men with money to burn

You had Mossad follow my girlfriend?"

Leon is having his buddy Josh’s girlfriend spied upon. Josh is appalled by this breach, especially when he learns the security guy is a former Israeli agent. “Look, it was just when you got back together, and I must have forgotten to cancel it," rationalizes Leon. “You know, like when you subscribe to Netflix."

It sounds outrageous, but the Netflix analogy isn’t inaccurate. We all end up buying apps and subscriptions we don’t remember to cancel in time, and if we had far, far too much money, we too might forget to call off ex-Mossad agents we had hired to check out a hunch. That idea of what a few normal blokes would do with an obscene amount of money is at the heart of the British sitcom Loaded. After mortgages are paid and houses bought, come the irresponsibility and the impulses.

And why not? Here are four young(ish) men who have just come into many a million, and they don’t know what to do with these many zeroes: The cocky one fills a bathtub with Dom Pérignon, the nerdy one donates to a charity to impress a girl, the shy one can’t stop handing out £18,000 (around Rs16 lakh) bonuses, while the eccentric one stares at his vault full of cash and wonders what to do (“I read it a story once," he sighs. “Lemony Snicket. Didn’t do much.").

The fact that these millions have come from a mobile phone game—a vacuous time-killer called Cat Factory—might make Loaded sound a bit like HBO’s Silicon Valley, but it really isn’t. Don’t let characters who code keep you from this Channel 4 show that has just shown up on Netflix in India. Based on an Israeli show called Mesudarim, Loaded is written by the ever-funny Jon Brown (the man behind Fresh Meat, Misfits, and one episode of the legendary Peep Show) and it explores privilege and success in a clever, affectionate and unmistakably British way.

The British, they enjoy calling money vulgar. This we know from several years of watching Top Gear, where we were educated both in the lust for Lamborghinis as well as the shame of driving them around. Loaded embraces this ostentatiousness with unreal gusto, while in Silicon Valley, one guy buying a Tesla is wilting with guilt.

I kept pausing the first season of Loaded in order to laugh with appropriate uproariousness, and to replay particularly good lines. Of these there are many, like spies being referred to as “human malware", and the activity of speed-funding—a sort of speed-dating where investors meet developers for quick pitches—described by a girl as “corporate, non-sexy lap dancing". One character, the American boss towering over these silly British boys, describes herself as a “sexy Darth Vader", and, without a trace of irony, says she writes her own proverbs. At one point, Leon refers to himself as “a bearded Mandela", while Josh, stunned by his primitive sexism, describes him differently: “Thank you for a lesson in gender politics, Professor Robin Thicke."

It’s not all zingers, though. There are, slyly and subversively, some eye-openers here, and it is through Loaded that I learnt that the average gaming session for women on a mobile phone lasts 25% longer than for men, and that 60% of mobile gamers are parents. The cast is great, unfamiliar and interesting, decidedly more diverse than the average American show, with women calling the shots more effectively than these childish men. There are episodes about tokenism in the technology world, addiction, sexism and even communism, all dealt with via gags, but offering up food for thought when least expected. What would we do in their place? It might be easier not to wonder.

The characters are a treat. Watto is a recovering addict who keeps replacing his love for drugs and drinks with other fixes, like buying (a shop-full of) shoes. Ewan is the smartest, least visible one, a less assertive and diffident chap all too aware of how beige his aura is. Josh is the boring, dweeby one who drives the team and longs for romance. And then there’s Leon, played by Samuel Anderson, all swaggery and stupid and ambitious, and, importantly, not as suave as he would like to be. Played with silver-tongued flair by Samuel Anderson—a man so handsome he made my wife do a literal double-take as she passed the living room—Leon may not be the man he wants to be just yet, but watching him get there is a ride.

These sound like character types, and they are. Yet as we see in many British teams, the archetypes are merely a set-up. Paul McCartney started out as “the pretty one" but wrote Eleanor Rigby. If Loaded had been made in the US, Josh is just the sort of character to be made the Ted Mosby of the bunch, sweet and earnest and author-backed to find love against whiny odds. He would be the moral compass, except this is a British comedy, which—as I had written about here earlier—pooh-poohs the need for such a thing, as long as the laughs and the heart shine through.

It is, as a famous film once said about the US and Europe, all about the little differences. Americans still love Bono; the British can’t stand him. Loaded knows this, and is confident enough to say it out loud. Game on. These boys might have the money, but they still haven’t found what they’re looking for.

Stream of Stories is a column on what to watch online.

He tweets at @rajasen