Maya Rudolph & Joel Kim Booster in Apple TV+ Comedy – The Hollywood Reporter

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Maya Rudolph & Joel Kim Booster in Apple TV+ Comedy - The Hollywood Reporter

The last time Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard collaborated with Maya Rudolph on a streaming comedy, it was Amazon’s Forever, an ambitiously odd and formally original exploration of love and the afterlife. Other streaming credits for Yang have included Apple TV+ Little Americaan anything goes anthological exploration of the immigrant experience and the latest season of Netflix master of nothingwhich boldly (if not always successfully) expanded the popular, Emmy-winning series with new characters and a new tone.

No strangers to using the ever-expanding landscape of television to tell often experimental stories, Yang and Hubbard are back with a new streaming comedy, Apple TV+ prey. The most unusual thing about it preyturns out will be broadcast there.

prey

The final result

A good premise and a great ensemble, but oddly conventional.

prey is a low-rated NBC comedy that’s transported to a place where the creators at least never need to know if it’s low-rated, which will certainly provide some support for the veterans of the bubble dwellers Parks & Recreation and 30 rocks. Episodes definitely run a hair longer than sitcoms are allowed to air, and there are a few four-letter words scattered throughout. But other than that, this is a broadcast sitcom, down to its general accessibility and feel that its characters and tone are still a work in progress.

at his best, prey is in the vein of Parks & Recreation or The good place – an ensemble built around fundamentally decent characters who try very hard to do the right thing, or at least try to understand what it would be like to do the right thing in our complicated modern world. In the worst case prey is in the vein of Mr. Mayor – an ensemble about dumbheads who are tasked with doing the right thing but are drawn into a series of ill-defined workplace hijinks without a hit-miss ratio that’s consistent enough to live up to the cast’s potential.

There’s a lot to enjoy prey, beginning with its timely narrative and solid presentation of some of Maya Rudolph’s myriad abilities. At the same time, it’s a show you’ll watch more for its potential than its instant execution.

Rudolph plays Molly Novak, wife of tech mogul John Novak (Adam Scott, in a role that’s not exactly a cameo, but isn’t big enough for ongoing investment either). It’s Molly’s 45th birthday, so he buys her a yacht with four pools and throws an over-the-top party at her over-the-top mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Everything is going well until Molly finds out that John is having an affair with his assistant. She is asking for a divorce and walks away with $87 billion because they weren’t married. This is all established 10 minutes into the pilot, but I might as well mention Melinda Gates or Mackenzie Scott and you’ll get the shape of things.

Molly and her assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster) must figure out how to fill their time and spend money when Molly is called into the offices of her charitable foundation by Sofia (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), who has no patience with Molly’s drunken oats- Sowing affects the brand of the foundation. Molly is intrigued by the straight forward Sofia and decides to help the charity, which has a particular focus on Southern California’s economic inequality, to help do good. She and Nicholas soon work hand-in-hand with Sofia, Molly’s cheerful cousin Howard (Ron Funches), and accountant Arthur (Nat Faxon), who bonds with Molly because of their shared status as the newly divorced.

At the end of the first season with 10 episodes prey begins to settle into something resembling a perspective on whether or not the solution to systemic inequality is grotesquely wealthy people giving more donations, but for most of the season Molly positions herself in a way that’s aggressively harmless. Rudolph, with her razor-sharp, comical timing and cadences unlike any of her contemporaries, is very hard to dislike, no matter what you think about the food of the rich. That’s not exactly a problem, just a broadcast-friendly treatment of the character as clueless but basically and harmlessly benign. Molly is flippant when it comes to her money, but in no way that suggests she has serious lessons to learn, and indeed Molly has little room to grow and little need from episode to episode. It’s like A Christmas song if Scrooge started giving his employees a long weekend at Christmas and, after being visited by three ghosts, would plan in an extra half day. See also Ted Danson’s character in Mr. Mayor.

With minimal need for a visible arc, Molly takes no time to adjust to her charitable routine, with complications only the easiest to resolve. Somehow even stranger is the ease with which Nicholas goes from wildly superficial and fabulous majordomo to half-satisfied cabin drone, which only makes sense because he actually wants to be an actor. Apparently. It doesn’t matter if those character traits make sense, because Booster is Rudolph’s equal when it comes to brilliant comic reactions and wacky one-liners.

Molly’s wealth and isolation should at least make her a distinctive character. But once she’s squeezed into a workplace comedy structure where only Sofia has demonstrable job responsibilities, she’s just a slightly wealthier but otherwise replaceable member of a team that starts doing replaceable sitcom workplace things like an abrupt spa- day for the ladies and a drink at lunchtime for the men. All would benefit from a clearer definition of Molly’s personality and the foundation’s goals, which include lip service from building boards and city council meetings (again, shades of Mr. Mayorwhere Danson’s character and staff advanced the policy without any justification).

I use this review to think out loud about the aspects of prey which keep the series from coming together in its first season because the reasons you want to keep watching are so easy to see.

Rudolph and Kim are fun together and they can easily deliver touches of drama when the scripts, peppered with sharp one-liners, ask them to. I hate to say, “Get serious about season two,” but when you’ve got leads who can bring gravity, why not let them? Kim has an easy pal’s with Funches, whose praises I’ve repeatedly sung as a smiley scene thief, and Rudolph has a sweet will-they-or-won’t chemistry with Faxon and benefits from an all-too-rare character opportunity to play, who could emerge as the series’ rom-com lead.

Comes from an Emmy nominee pose Twist that had humor but definitely wasn’t focused in that direction, Rodriguez may not look immediately comfortable in this format, but that passes quickly. In the second episode, her dry performance earns her laughs, some of them big, while Sofia finds amusement from a strict boss at the excesses that Molly’s status offers.

The room to grow is great, and Yang and Hubbard have both worked on aired sitcoms that have gone from bumpy first seasons to masterpieces. Maybe it’s just the semantics that make a streaming series that could have aired on TV seem a little underwhelming, or maybe it’s a decade past believing Rudolph was worthy of a classic series that uses all of its talents . prey isn’t that the series yet— Forever was getting closer, but maybe too elaborate and unpredictable to survive – but it could be. Just adjust your early expectations. Heck, there’s been some really solid network comedy this year – Abbott Elementary School, ghosts, The Wonderful Years, Big team – so let’s assume Apple TV+ wanted to get involved in this promotion.

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