Travel back to October 19, 1987—aka Black Monday, the worst stock market crash in the history of Wall Street. To this day, no one knows who caused it … until now. This is the story of how a group of outsiders took on the blue-blood, old-boys club of Wall Street and ended up crashing the world’s largest financial system, a Lamborghini limousine and the glass ceiling. The outrageous comedy series stars Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells and Regina Hall.
The 10-episode first season premiered on Showtime on Sunday, Jan. 20
The premise: It’s 1986, and The Jammer Group is the wildest trading house on Wall Street. Fast-talking, fun-loving and willing to cross any line, this group’s antics would make the Lehman brothers blush. Leading the insanity is Maurice “Mo” Monroe (Don Cheadle), who loves sticking it to the establishment with risky deals and flair to spare.
Highs: The 1980s were an age of excess. Everything from that magical decade seemed to be bigger, louder and more extreme. It truly was a totally tubular time. “Black Monday” perfectly exemplifies the ’80s, with no better example than Mo Monroe.
Mo is a walking ’80s Wall Street stereotype — loud, opinionated and extremely confident. He’s driven around in a Lamborghini limousine, which he calls a limbo. Even though the car has neither the speed of a Lamborghini nor the comfort of a limo, Mo couldn’t care less. It’s all about appearances for the head of The Jammer Group, which couldn’t be a more appropriate take on the ’80s.
But the Wall Street star is more than a pop culture referencing, designer suit wearing trader. He’s also extremely bright, which is why he tricks nebbish Blair Pfaff (Andrew Rannells) into joining his group. Blair, as square as a metal “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchbox, seems an odd fit. An a cappella camp attendee, he’s out of place at Jammer, where traders snort cocaine while making $20,000 bets and playing the video game “Duck Hunt.” The glaring contrast between Mo and Blair, who has his own useful skills set, is a blast to watch.
Other colorful characters people The Jammer Group too. Keith (Paul Scheer) will do anything to keep his job, even if that means stealing a Nintendo from a hospital pediatric ward. Tiff (Casey Wilson), Blair’s wife, wants everything, even though her husband can’t provide it.
The true gem of “Black Monday” is Dawn (Regina Hall). As an African-American woman in a world dominated by white men, she puts up with a lot. But she gives as good as she gets and is the true brains behind The Jammer Group.
Lows: The first three episodes of “Black Monday” were hilarious with a sense of honest nostalgia. That said, it’s not for everyone. Many of the pop culture references will go over the heads of anyone younger than 30. When Mo makes a Detlef Schrempf joke or calls himself “The Billy Ocean of trading,” only a certain demographic will understand.
The content of “Black Monday” isn’t for the squeamish, either. This series isn’t a fond look at the past; it’s a humorous take on a decade of debauchery. If you’re easily offended by cursing, rampant drug use and questionable morals, you might be better off watching “I Love the 80s.” This new show provides a scathing commentary of the time period.
Grade — A: Some will view “Black Monday” as “The Wolf of Wall Street: The TV Series.” I liken it to “Veep,” but with more cursing and drug use. Intelligent, rapid-fire dialogue and brilliant performances from a stellar cast will leave you laughing and wanting more. The world of “Black Monday” can be harsh with a self-centered bent, but it certainly is entertaining. Much like the 1980s itself.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.
By Sho, the Gazette