Sunday, January 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Black Monday' - Mo Plots a Ridiculous Plan that May Only Work for Him in the Moment in '365'

Showtime's Black Monday - Episode 1.01 "365"

Wide-eyed Blair is thrust into the insane world of '80s Wall Street. Mo enacts his master plan to take over the Georgina Jeans Company.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Showtime's Black Monday.

"365" was written by Jordan Cahan & David Caspe and directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Showtime's new '80s period comedy Black Monday opens with the confirmation that all of this is bound to end in tragedy. It's depicting the true story behind the worst stock market crash in Wall Street history - on October 19, 1987. It's a tale that has gone uncovered until now. It's a journey that will end with someone dying from suicide by jumping from a building and landing on Mo's Lamborghini limo. The identity of the person is shrouded in mystery though. The only clues are that he is wearing the tie pin that belongs to Blair and the watch that belongs to Mo. As such, it may be an ongoing back-and-forth as to which of the leading men is bound to die because of their actions this season. It becomes clear that this is a space where the people are constantly making fun of each other and making bets that could ultimately cost so much. However, it's also a carefully calculated world. And yet, the show is simply more entertaining when it just gets to be a rambunctious '80s comedy depicting the insane world of Wall Street. This is a world that lives in extreme excesses. There is so much sex, drugs, bold colors, wild fashions and '80s jams on display here. That lends a wild and extreme energy to the entire proceedings. That could make it difficult to find a solid through-line that could explain the actions taken by any individual. That could become such a dangerous structural problem with the show because the audience ultimately has to trust in the characters and the choices they are making given their situations. This premiere likes to go back-and-forth on whether Mo is a brilliant trader. He sees potential in a hostile takeover of the Georgina Jeans Company. The rest of his staff doesn't see it. However, they still pump him as he goes in for the negotiations with Larry and Lenny Lehman - both impressively played by Ken Marino. Mo may be upcharged for these stocks but he's still determined to take over this company. It's only after he signs the deal that the Lehman brothers warn him that he will never be able to acquire a 51 percent controlling interest because of the family stronghold over the company. They have destroyed the careers of many people in the past who have tried. In that moment, it seems like Mo is absolutely defeated. He is used to losing thousands of dollars in a single day. That doesn't change his overall life though. This now may have the potential to do so. And then, the concluding moments of the premiere reveal that he knows exactly what he's doing. In fact, he actually destroyed Blair's ability to work anywhere else on Wall Street just so he could play a role in this specific deal. Blair immediately presents as this wunderkind who doesn't understand how the trading world actually works. He believes everyone is making him exciting offers because of the algorithm he developed. Instead, he gets the wind knocked out of him by losing the arrangement he made with Mo. He still ends up with this job though. That's entirely because he just proposed to the daughter of the Georgina family. That's crazy that Mo had all of this seemingly planned out. He's the kind of guy who impulsively refuses to attend his own lavish birthday party because his office crush happens to bring her husband with her. That's so petty. It shows the wild mood swings that will be common in this environment. But again, the audience has to have some layer of trust in order to go along with everything that happens in this very specific world.