AMC is investing in the Channel 4 series Loaded, a British Silicon Valley except it’s a successful startup. Four friends become millionaires overnight when they sell their mobile game Cat Factory to an American company. The dissimilar personalities each have a different functions some less than other.
Samuel Anderson (Doctor Who) plays Leon, who describes himself as the face of the company when asked to explain exactly what he does. He’s desperate to prove himself by showing off his newfound success. Leon hires a barber shop quartet to mock anyone who has ever doubted him. In contrast, Ewan (Jonny Sweet) is the unsung MVP. His official title is “code-wrangling monkey boy” according to his business card made by Leon. He’s such a wallflower that he appears in none of the company’s publicity photos. Watto (Nick Helm) is the team’s artist s well as an anarchist and recovering addict. He sublimates drugs with possessions. He has the epiphany that money just magnifies things. Josh (Jim Howick) is the lead designer but like Ewan lacks confidence both professionally and in his personal life. The dynamic between Josh and Leon is not unlike odd couple in Peep Show. Josh even has a quirky girlfriend, Abi (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), who he inevitably drives away with his paranoia and jealousy. Throw in some family drama courtesy of Josh’s parents getting divorced and he’d normally be the main protagonist but each episode tends to focus on a different character.
The dark side of success
The boys have a rude awaking when they meet their new boss, Casey (Mary McCormack), who wants to milk the franchise for all its worth.
“I want you to think of me as a sexy Darth Vader cause yesterday you got bought out by the Empire and behind me there’s an emperor,” she explains.
McCormack nails the performance of the overbearing boss and she isn’t afraid to poke fun of herself either. She needs someone to hold her straw after scene plastic surgery despite no real visible difference. Casey is walking caricature of a type A personality but her stress is entirely self-inflicted.
The Emperor, Leslie (Michael Brandon), is a blasé boss complete with a visible eccentricity of sucking on spoons. He appears only once to blow off a meeting with his newly acquired company. Even Casey is too busy to work onsite and only surfaces to chew out the team. Her assistant Naomi (Lolly Adefope) serves as her eyes and ears but more importantly she is an outsider much like R2-D2 and C-3PO. She’s the one character everyone can relate to in a sea of crazy.
The series is full of self-deprecating humor about gaming industry. Josh questions the meaningfulness of making games “moms play on toilet.” He even shows contempt for his investor when they prepare to pitch their latest game.
“Any random selection of words sounds like a plausible iPhone game,” Josh insists.
The scene reiterates the meaningless of mobile games but also underscores that many investors are clueless about the tech companies they invest in. Silicon Valley had a similar episode about the willingness of investors to jump on the virtual reality (VR) bandwagon regardless of the actual product behind it.
The business culture is further lampooned when Watto’s drug dealer sues for copyright infringement based on his tattoo of a Maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, which has been a symbol of good luck for 150 years in Japan. The lawsuit clearly would stand no chance in the real world yet they agree to settle as undoubtedly many companies do.
None of this is laugh out loud humor but will be humorously relatable for those in the industry or gamers in general.
Ewan is only character who shows any real development throughout the series. He starts off as a shy creep and ends as a slightly less shy creep. Sweet is perfectly choice for this role.
“Leon says that I’ve got a quote ‘deadening brown aura,’ Sweet explains his character. “It’s all quite close to home actually.”
You’re not quite sure if Ewan is harmless or very dangerous. In fact, he’s mistaken for a kidnapper when he accidentally picks up the wrong woman up at the airport. He ultimately finds his backbone thanks to a rebellious boyfriend, who urges him to stickup for himself. Ewan is unexpectedly the last man standing as the friends split up and subsequently lose their hefty bonuses.
The band eventually gets back together and Leon informs them that they’re going to start making AAA games for Playstation, Xbox and PC. Channel 4 & AMC would be smart to invest in a second season.
Loaded airs Monday 10PM on AMC