Tv Review: Black Monday Season 1 Episode 1

Showtime’s brand new comedy series starring Don Cheadle officially begins airing on January 20th but they’ve released the first episode early in the presumed hope that people will be hyping it up prior to it’s start date. Unfortunately this review won’t lead to folks rushing to their televisions on the twentieth, it’s an okay series but it’s the kind of thing that you’ve probably seen before if you’ve ever watched shows about insufferable rich types.

Set on October 19th 1987, the day of the worst stock market crash in the history of Wall Street, it starts with a suicide and a title card saying that to this day no knows what caused the crash. “Or who. Until now”, and then it cuts back to a year later. The episode is entitled “365” and the following one is “364” which given that it’s ten episodes per season suggests that the series is going to run for 36 years before we find out what caused the crash. That or they’re going to jump over some dates soon and I obviously hope it’s the latter, even three series of this sort of thing would be pretty tiring.

The main problem with it is that as with Scorsese’s recent film The Wolves Of Wall Street it’s hard to care about these rich shits and their desperation to be even richer than they already are, and that they don’t care who they have to screw over to do so. Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg of Preacher and This Is the End fame it suggests Rogen is a far better director than he is an actor, it’s impressively shot and looks really great, but the script lets it down, the characters aren’t likeable at all as they snort up what looks like a million dollars of cocaine per day and shriek in each other’s faces.

There are elements that do work, Ken Marino guest stars as both of the Lehman twins and he’s superb in the dual roles, he plays daft jerks too often and so it’s great to see him stretch himself for a change. The script has some decent lines, with “What do you get the guy who has everything?” / “More coke” being a highlight, but Cheadle calling himself as “The Billy Ocean of trading” made me smirk too, as did Marino’s reaction when he’s called a brother fucker. The cast all turn in pretty great performances as well, Cheadle’s a stand out, Paul Scheer in a dodgy wig is suitably smug and overbearing, Regina Hall adds some humanity as a trader who has occasional signs of kindness and affection and best of all is Andrew Rannells as Blair Pfaff, a young geeky type whose career Cheadle almost ruins but in a rare moment of decency he gives him a second chance. Until we discover that’s not what’s going on at all.

The ending does suggest that the show may have more depth than I’m giving it credit for, and perhaps these examples of the worst of humanity will become more watchable over time. I’ve no problem with despicable characters if they’re interesting enough and I’m certainly prepared to give the series at least one more go before giving up on it. But the second episode really does need to surprise me, and have a far more interesting script, if it’s to come even close to worth devoting time to the rest of the story.

Alex Finch.

Related Link:
If you’re based in the US (or have a vpn) you can watch the first episode here.

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