Brow Beat

Excuse Me, Why Don’t You Watch Black Monday?

The Showtime series is a gaudy gift you deserve to receive.

A still from Black Monday picturing Regina Hall and Don Cheadle from the waist up, surrounded by greenery.
Regina Hall and Don Cheadle in Black Monday. Erin Simkin/Showtime

I get that there’s too much TV, I really do. Even so, I can’t understand why no one’s been talking about Black Monday, the Showtime comedy about Wall Street in the ’80s that stars Don Cheadle and Regina Hall. On some level I want to punish those of you who haven’t given the show a chance, but instead I’m going to politely ask that, seeing as the first season ended Sunday, you watch the whole thing: Now that it’s waiting for you in one bingeable chunk, you really have no excuse. Its co-creator David Caspe (of the fan favorite Happy Endings) suggested as much in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that doubled as a pitch for viewers to consider a bender: “A lot of times if you don’t break out right away in a crazy way, it’s between seasons one and two that people find stuff. The show is obviously written as incredibly serialized, and I think in some ways getting to watch a few in a row might be helpful for a viewer.” Indeed, if you have time to watch literally whatever Netflix puts in front of you, you have time for Black Monday.

Should you require a plot description for a show set on Wall Street in the ’80s that stars Don Cheadle and Regina Hall (if there was any justice in the world, you wouldn’t!), here you go: Cheadle plays the founder of down-and-dirty Wall Street trading firm the Jammer Group. His name is Maurice Monroe, but because important money guys on Showtime always have to be known by a one-syllable abbreviation (cf. Axe on Billions), he goes by “Mo.” Only one woman works at the Jammer Group, head trader Dawn, played by the luminescent Regina Hall. Paul Scheer, Horatio Sanz, and Yassir Lester fill out the supporting cast as knucklehead traders at the firm. In the first episode, Blair (Andrew Rannells) arrives on the scene, ready to land a plum job at one of the more traditional firms on the Street, until a run-in with Mo kills his shot at any of those companies. Casey Wilson plays his heinous fiancée, Tiffany. Oh, and the action starts in 1986, exactly a year before Black Monday, the 1987 Wall Street crash; the events of this season, we are led to believe, will help explain the cause of the crash.

But really, none of that plot stuff matters. Or it only kind of matters. When you’ve got a cast like Black Monday’s and dialogue like Black Monday’s and costumes like Black Monday’s, you should be able to forgive a story that isn’t quite as remarkable as it might think—but is, actually, still pretty good: There’s a mystery to follow (someone dies in the pilot, but we don’t know who), there’s double-crossing, there’s the Yakuza, there’s a shoot-the-moon deal involving a Jordache-like jean company called Georgina. What more could you want?

In any case, no one has been vocal enough about how great everything else is. Fans of Regina Hall in Support the Girls (or many, many other things) should be shouting about this show from pristine Wall Street rooftops: Here she plays easily the most admirable character on the show, who, even though she’s the heart of her office, also gets to be as raunchy as her co-workers. In the show’s pilot episode, Paul Scheer’s character makes a joke about B-cups, and we wait to see how Hall will react. She doesn’t miss a beat: She says that, actually, she has C’s and mock-mounts Scheer. I almost wept. Later, she pantomimes how big her balls are. It’s glorious.

And dear God, who wouldn’t want to listen to Don Cheadle suavely threatening people and inserting the F-word into everything he says all day: “You want something from Mo? You’re going to have to fuckin’ take it!” Rannells is also a delight as usual, hamming it up as a new New Yorker on a journey from big sweaty dork to big swinging dick, and Scheer, Sanz, and Lester lend a kooky 30 Rock–ishness to the proceedings.

Black Monday also summons an infectiously cartoonish vision of the ’80s, as best exemplified by Dawn’s ridiculous wardrobe. The only thing bigger than the poofs on her dresses is her enormous curly hair, and she never leaves the house without matching her eyeshadow with whatever wild getup she’s wearing. Everyone’s outfits and apartments are so loud you can practically hear them. The art direction is of a piece with the bigness of the whole show, which the New Yorker likened to “being bludgeoned by a Rubik’s Cube,” because it was so full of obvious references and on-the-nose jokes. This can all blend together to make the tone of the series pretty out there, I admit: How are you supposed to believe Dawn is having a serious moment when she’s dressed like Miss Piggy? But that really only makes it funnier—more evocative of the ’80s’ transcendent absurdity. Bludgeon away, I say.

Reviews in general were not very kind to Black Monday. It would appear jokes about how everyone did a ton of cocaine in the ’80s, robot butlers, and other markers of that decade’s excesses are not as hilarious to everyone else as they are to me. Variety pointed to the show’s “comic density”: “If you don’t like a punchline, just wait ten seconds — there’ll be another.” A New York Times piece noted that the show “will live or die on the strength of its jokes,” adding, “Aficionados of gleefully crass Apatowian one-liners will be delighted; others might be taxed.” Fine, it’s not for everyone, but if you do favor an Apatovian gag—note to the Times style desk, I believe the v is preferred—boy will you have a lot to laugh at here. Yet most critics seemed to take issue not with the show’s humor but with its lack of morality. Vulture wrote, “It’s as if someone said, ‘What if The Wolf of Wall Street was a TV show, without the satirical self-awareness?’ ” Um, let’s not get into another debate about whether The Wolf of Wall Street was self-aware, because not everyone thought so, but I’ll just say: Did you like the out-of-control party scenes in it? ’Cause if so, you’ll probably like Black Monday. I don’t think any of these critiques are wrong, per se—maybe the show could have tighter storytelling, or be a little more trenchant. It’s just that none of what they said interfered with my riotous laughter.

So, look, I know Netflix puts a new Friends From College in front of you every week and it’s so easy to succumb, but Black Monday is special. You already need to pay for Showtime for Billions and Desus & Mero. (I don’t make the rules, Axe does!) As Yassir says to cheer Mo on while he blows a line in the series’ pilot: “Get it!”