Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Loaded with talent, Bajillion Dollar Properties has strong curb appeal

(Tawny Newsome, Ryan Gaul, Drew Tarver, Mandell Maughan, Dan Ahdoot, Tim Baltz) (Photo: Seeso)
Tawny Newsome, Ryan Gaul, Drew Tarver, Mandell Maughan, Dan Ahdoot, Tim Baltz (Photo: Seeso)
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Bajillion Dollar Properties takes its core concept from luxury-realty reality shows like Million Dollar Listing (an obvious inspiration for its title). But it plays out as a broader skewering of the reality genre, as the agents of Beverly Hills’ Platinum Realty vie for clients and commissions. The show has immediate curb appeal for improv comedy fans, and especially for Earwolf listeners and devotees of reality-show parodies. Created and executive-produced by Kulap Vilaysack with fellow executive producers Tom Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Scott Aukerman, and David Jargowsky, the faux-reality show is crowded with snappy improvisational talent, including Paul F. Tompkins as a string-pulling mogul.

Each agent boasts—this show buoys itself along on a flood of arrogance—a signature style of ruthlessness, and they all introduce themselves as “the top broker at Platinum Realty.” In the first episode, tension heightens as Dean Rosedragon (Tompkins), Platinum’s bombastic founder, reveals an eight-week competition to decide who will become his new partner. Victoria King (Mandell Maughan) takes her victory for granted: “After all, every King needs her crown.” Chelsea Leight-Leigh (Tawny Newsome) leverages her social-media savvy to boost her reputation and bury her rivals. Amir Yaghoob (Dan Ahdoot) combines flattery and intimidation to get his way. Business partners, roomies, and best friends Baxter Reynolds (Drew Tarver) and Andrew Wright (Ryan Gaul) are by turns shamelessly sycophantic and backstabbing. Newcomer Glenn Bouchard (Tim Baltz), hired by Dean as office manager, seems innocuous by comparison, but even he has secrets and a hidden agenda.

Lording over all of them, Dean Rosedragon is so vain, he credits himself with inventing the very notion of “buying and selling bits of the earth.” His office is appointed with ostentatious, empty trappings of power: a tiger’s head, a golden telescope, an oversized chessboard. On the last, he has the pawns refashioned into likenesses of all his brokers, and he paws and plays with them as he describes his scheme. Tompkins conveys both the vanity and the ennui of this bombastic tycoon, adding dimensions of Machiavellian pleasure to the seemingly simple challenge he’s devised.

Bajillion Dollar Properties speaks the language of reality TV with uncanny ease, not just in the histrionics of the ensemble as they’re pitted against each other, but in the pitch-perfect deployment of effects that depict the dynamics at play. When Victoria snakes a big commission from under Chelsea’s nose, a rattlesnake sound effect punctuates the moment of discovery. After a series of slick segments where each broker establishes their brand with practiced aplomb, Glenn introduces himself with an awkward wave. His initial chyron doesn’t bother to include a last name; he’s an afterthought even to the production crew. The loose, improvisational tone of the series lends an air of faux-authenticity familiar from reality shows of every ilk, where competitors cloak the truth in stagey bravado even as their words prove unintentionally revealing. Here, what’s revealed is invariably ugly.

The show’s impressive accuracy is also its most exhausting aspect. With its devotion to lampooning the conventions of reality shows, and to making every character equally (if distinctively) awful, Bajillion Dollar Properties’ denizens are as hard to stomach as they are hilarious. Spending more than 30 minutes with these cutthroat manipulators could get tiresome. With their connivances, petty rivalries, and cheerful lapses into racism, the brokers of Platinum Realty are mortgaging their souls to this business, and they’re thrilled to do it.