Showtime's Black Monday: Grade It!TVLine — Rebecca Iannucci
Feeling a little nostalgic for the shoulder-padded days of the 1980s? Fortunately, Showtime’s Wall Street satire Black Monday has arrived to fill the perm-sized hole in your heart.
Created by David Caspe (Happy Endings) and Jordan Cahan (Marry Me), the half-hour comedy made its debut on Sunday night — though the subject matter at its heart is no laughing matter. Black Monday chronicles the (fictional) events leading up to Oct. 19, 1987, otherwise known as the day of the (non-fictional) worst stock market crash in Wall Street’s history, which gave the show its title.
Before you give us your reviews of Episode 1, here’s what went down in the premiere:
Black Monday opens in the immediate aftermath of the titular stock market crash, and the streets of New York are bleak as wealthy finance bros weep over their lost dough. A Lamborghini limousine pulls up outside the New York Stock Exchange building — and moments after the driver steps out of the car, a man suddenly crashes on top of the limo, having fallen from the top of the NYSE. We don’t learn the identity of this unfortunate soul, but we do glimpse an emerald pin on his tie and a Rolex watch on his wrist.
The episode then jumps back to one year earlier, and a few mysteries are quickly solved: That emerald tie pin belongs to recent business school grad Blair Pfaff (Girls‘ Andrew Rannells), though we can’t be sure he was the one who landed on top of the limo; and the limo, for that matter, belongs to stock whiz Maurice Monroe (House of Lies‘ Don Cheadle), known in the trading world as Mo the Marauder.
When we first meet the highly ambitious (and highly coked-up) Mo, he has his heart set on the designer jeans company Georgina, whose shares he wants to take from the formidable Lehman Brothers firm. Blair, meanwhile, is fielding offers from multiple financial services companies, thanks to a new-fangled trading algorithm that he developed for his MBA thesis.
Mo’s world collides with Blair’s, quite literally, when Blair crashes into Mo on the NYSE trading floor, sending Mo’s bag of cocaine flying in a cloud of white dust. Despite Blair’s apologies, Mo chews him out right there, in front of hundreds of traders, essentially ending Blair’s finance career before it even began. Later, at the urging of girlfriend Tiffany, Blair barges into Mo’s office and warns that he isn’t going to back down from his dream career without a fight — and Mo, impressed by Blair’s candor, gives him an opportunity to prove himself. Mo will set up an account with $50,000 in it, and if Blair can use his fancy algorithm to double that amount by the closing bell, he’ll have a job at Mo’s company. If not? He’s done.
At first, it seems Blair is easily going to hit the $100,000 goal by the end of the day; the more frantically he types, the quicker the money grows. But at the very last minute, when he’s only a few thousand dollars away from landing a job, the numbers start to slide backwards, and Blair is powerless to stop it. Just as the closing bell rings, the money in the account drops to a measly 84 cents — and Blair is out of luck. It isn’t until later, when Mo spots Blair moping on the sidewalk, that Blair learns he got the job anyway, despite his failure that day. At the very least, Mo is intrigued by Blair’s audacity: “You’ve got some balls underneath those pleats!” Blair, still a bit shocked by the day’s events, returns home and proposes to his girlfriend, much to her delight.
Meanwhile, Mo successfully procures the money he needs to trade with the Lehman Brothers, and he gets his hands on those Georgina shares before the half-hour is over. But the Lehmans have some unfortunate news for Mo upon giving him the shares: Despite his best efforts, he’ll never own a majority of the Georgina company. The Georgina family owns 51 percent of those shares, which are squirreled away in countless shell companies around the world — and it would take years for Mo to even begin untangling that financial web. At best, Mo will only own 49 percent of Georgina, and that number will never get higher.
At first, Mo seems alarmed by this information, as he should be. But in the final moments of the episode, it’s revealed that Blair’s now-fiancée, Tiffany, is the heiress to the Georgina fortune — and Mo knew that all along. In fact, Blair’s collision with Mo on the trading floor earlier that day? It was all part of Mo’s plan to meet Blair and get him involved in Mo’s business, in order to play the long game of taking over Georgina. And what better way for Mo to celebrate this small victory than by snorting cocaine with his robot butler?
OK, your turn. What did you think of Black Monday‘s debut? Grade the premiere in our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!