by Scott Oakes
Is Channel 4’s Loaded the British answer to HBO’s Silicon Valley?
Similarly to the HBO series, Loaded focuses on a group of coders, in this scenario the developers of a mobile game called Cat Factory. This story, however, picks up at an entirely different stage, where the coders are bought out by an American company and each receive payouts of over fourteen million pounds. In the opening scenes we see Josh eagerly checking his mobile banking in a dark and dreary room, being £791 overdrawn. This guy has it tough right? No. Within a minute his bank balance refreshes and shoots up to £14.5m.
Writing wealthy characters in a privileged situation, particularly in comedy initially appears difficult. Typically sitcoms are about those whom initially have the rough end of the deal. Take The Inbetweeners and their hilarious attempts at losing their virginities and attempting to gain popularity. Even Friends with the central characters initially in entry level jobs and Phoebe attempting to pursue her singing career. It initially appears that any problem encountered by the Loaded characters can be solved by money and it’s easy to let this initial feeling of disappointment set in.
What may be the most interesting aspect of this series is it’s main downfall. Protagonists achieving success is something we instinctively strive for, but the primary requirement for us wishing them that success is to first see them struggle. Only Fools and Horses captured the rags to riches story effectively. As the audience we were witness to Del Boy’s countless schemes before he and Rodney found wealth with an antique pocket watch and this story was years in the making. In the case of Loaded we barely see the struggle that led to them into making a fortune.
With all that said, the writing impressively compensates for the questionable jumping on point of the story and the casting compliments this delightfully. As the series progresses we learn that all their problems cannot be solved by throwing wads of cash into the mix. Watto (Nick Helm) projects this in a fascinating but tragic way when he desperately tries to secure a stable family home by attempting to ground his ‘career driven’ mother who left when he was young. All the money he has fails to benefit his cause in the end and in the episodes that follow we see the repercussions of her leaving once again.
Watto is the stand out character of the series; quickly admitting he has an addiction to buying things and is the first to see that what people really want in life does not have a price tag. As he puts it “Money just makes your problems bigger”. We see him risk losing all his money in the most questionable of moves whilst simultaneously speaks wisely of his recent wealth.
We see antagonism in the form of their American boss Casey (Mary McCormack) and she is much like Ewan’s old boss, as he describes as “a bit of a shit, actually”. She expresses worrying rage at times and at the end of each episode, you’re certainly glad she isn’t your boss when you take a step back to reality.
While the characters are not relatable to a mainstream audience, they do not have to be. As sitcoms stand, Loaded does the job and responds as a British answer to Silicon Valley, a series receiving critical acclaim in the U.S and being very similar in tone. The characters are likable and the writers have done fine work in ensuring the characters weren’t spoiled by their fortune. It was a fine line to tread and was handled with care throughout. The series ends with hope of bigger and better projects on the horizon for our protagonists. If a second series was to happen, it would be hoped that certain cast members such as Scarlett Alice Johnson (Pramface) are utilised further in the central story and a bigger struggle needs to be encountered moving forward.
The first season of Loaded is out now on DVD courtesy of Acorn Media International