Meet the poor rich entrepreneurs of Loaded – Channel 4’s very British take on new-found wealth

Ben Dowell speaks to the new sitcom’s writer Jon Brown and discovers that his show definitely has start-up potential

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A troubled love-sick beta male (Jim Howick’s Josh), flash boy Leon (Samuel Anderson), a guilt-ridden public schoolboy called Ewan (Jonny Sweet) and Nick Helm’s ex-junkie Watto have just made a cool £246 million from a video game starring a cat.

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But apart from sending Barber Shop quartets to insult their enemies or those who showed no faith in their brilliance, what are these poor lambs to do? Apart from sitting back, enjoying the lucre and buying lots of silly and expensive things, that is? Or having a bath filled with champagne (which they find to be surprisingly cold)?

Or being Watto – perhaps the most dysfunctional and certainly the most likeable of the four – what about establishing a permanent base in Centre Parcs and moving from resort to resort every five days to avoid what he believes to be the leisure giant’s rules about that sort of thing?

The immediate aftermath of a success story is an interesting place to start. And if you think that is not a very British idea – don’t we like people ending up millionaires, Del-Boy style? – you’d be wrong. It is may be based on an original Israeli series, Mesudarim, but Brown has stamped a downbeat Britishness onto Loaded.

“The Israeli series is very much a celebration of this success story in many ways,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “There is a really big start up scene in Tel Aviv and it’s a real hotbed of kind of start up culture. They call them exits over there. Those kinds of stories, they are fairly common in Israeli culture and in Tel Aviv they are really celebrated. And when people make those big exits over there they’re kind of like local heroes and everyone kind of bands together and celebrates them.

“My jumping off point was, well, if that happened in London no one would want to celebrate these people – in fact, everyone would hate them immediately.”

Damn right. Loaded is all about the guilt, pain and torment all that money brings our lead characters – the kind of things that wouldn’t happen to the same degree in any other country but ours.

Or as Brown adds: “If you were an American that came over to London and you’d found out that these people had just sold their startups and made like 50 million quid each you’d tell the whole bar to raise their drinks to these heroes. Try to do that in London and say ‘everyone raise your drinks there’s these people who’ve just made fifty million quid each basically’, people would throw things at you and you’d get sworn at, get shouted out.”

The British relationship with success and money is an incredibly fertile one – he believes (and he does know a bit about success, having won at the Bafta Craft Awards for breakthrough talent in 2011) that it says a lot about us too and the way our minds work.

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“I just think of money being the last taboo. With my friends, we talk about a lot of stuff, and when you’ve got kids in particular, you can really be very open with people. But in all that time I’ve never talked to any of my friends about anything to do with money and how much any of us make or how much any of us earn. I mean, one of the reasons I have an agent as a writer is I’d be too scared to ever ask anyone for money or how much I’m getting paid for it. I know a painter/decorator who doesn’t ask me to pay him – he has to post his bills anonymously though my letterbox.”

As well as being strangely profound, Loaded is also very good. The ensemble work well together and some of the set-pieces carry genuine imaginative spark, even if it still looks as if it still needs to warm up a bit. (Some of the scenarios feel a little comedy-by-numbers at times, a problem which needs to be ironed out).

But one supreme delight of this show is the fact that the permutations are endless. Both in terms of all the silly or terrible things that can happen – and the way viewers can project their own fantasies about obtaining sudden wealth.

There is an excellent episode later in the series where Leon buys a huge yacht for £50m and discovers that the owner shot himself in it. How could someone with all that money do that, he wonders?

At another point he decides to visit his old teacher – the one (many of us had) who was tough on him and said he wouldn’t amount to much. He doesn’t find quite what he was expecting, is all I’ll say.

And yes, the adage that money doesn’t buy you happiness is an old one but here it is brought to joyous, funny, painful life, no more so than with Jim Howick’s Josh and his persistent failure in love.

Forget the money – he just wants to get back his ex-girlfriend Abi (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) who has shacked up with someone who is far more charismatic and better-looking than him (though poorer, of course). And he’s torn up.

You want him to fall in love and be happy…but being British there’s probably a bit of you that will delight in the misery of all these super messed-up, super privileged people while still rooting for them all the way. What’s not to enjoy? What could possibly be more British?

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Loaded in On Channel 4 on Monday nights at 10pm