Categories Billions Print Media Review

Fifty Billion Shades of Gray – Aug 24, 2018

Billions: Integrating Mental Health, Finance, Silicon Valley Industries and Law and Order, with a Little Yonkers-Secret-Recipe-Pizza

by Anna Kornbluh | Los Angeles Review of Books | August 24, 2018

Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global financial crisis of 2008. Democrats were eight years in power, and their failure to prosecute the corporate criminals behind the crisis surely ranks as their biggest legacy. That failure was the condition of possibility for the anti-elite narrative that inspired the white working class and the white upper class to support a genuinely fascist insurgency before and beyond November 2016. It was also the condition of possibility for Billions.

Across its three seasons on Showtime, Billions explores the aftermath of Lehman’s and Obama’s 2008 peaks, tracking the waning and waxing faculty of elite professionals to steer their careers and helm the most powerful country in the world. The show is built around an extended parallel between outer-borough upstart Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), principal of the wildly fruitful hedge fund Axe Capital, and Manhattan WASP Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), US Attorney for the New York Southern District and hero of a counterfactual recent past in which 81 bankers and traders were successfully prosecuted for their outlaw engineering of toxic asset slides. Rhoades fancies himself a just warrior, fighting against “[these] Teflon corporations that defraud the American people on a grand scale.” As the series opens he levels his gaze at Axe, the Moby-Dick of parkour finance.

Continue reading Fifty Billion Shades of Gray – Aug 24, 2018

Categories Billions Print Media Review

Billions: Confusion and Conflict in the World of Finance and Politics – March 18, 2018

“Every American Has a Little Bit of Bobby Axelrod in Them”

by Stuff | March 18, 2018

Source: Showtime

Damian Lewis has a simple way of explaining what drives the sexy, ego-driven world of high finance that is the SoHo show Billions.

“This is a show about compromise, about the desperation in people, and the lengths they are prepared to go to, to win,” he says.

Over the past two seasons, audiences have watched his Billions alter ego, the corrupt hedge-fund owner Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, regularly dabble in bribery, bullying, insider trading and more to achieve his own dubious ends. But season two ended with the sheriff/FBI agent, Axelrod’s nemesis, US Attorney Chuck Rhoades, outwitting him after a high-risk game of cat-and-mouse, albeit at considerable personal cost.

“There is a pending prosecution, Bobby’s assets have been frozen – he is a sort of Harry Lime character (the con-artist in The Third Man), living in the shadows,” says Lewis.

Continue reading Billions: Confusion and Conflict in the World of Finance and Politics – March 18, 2018

Categories Billions Print Media

Billions is a Cleverly Constructed Story of Big Money, High Stakes and S&M – May 12, 2016

Billions Starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti on Sky Atlantic

by Tim Glanfield – RadioTimes – May 12, 2016

Sky Atlantic’s new drama starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti creates a world you need to see more of, says Tim Glanfield.

Source: Showtime

Politics, power and high production values – you could be forgiven for thinking I’m describing the latest series of House of Cards on Netflix. Indeed, if you enjoy the glimpse behind the curtain of how the American elite live, love and lie that the poster child for streaming television offers, then you will love Billions.

The show revolves around a game of cat and mouse between billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and US Attorney Charles “Chuck” Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).

Publicly Axe is the personification of the American dream, a generous and charitable self-made man who has overcome adversity (all his colleagues died in the 9/11 attacks) to rise to the top of American business world. Privately, however, he is using insider trading, bullying and bribery to keep his hedge fund way ahead of the pack.

Chuck Rhoades has suspicions that Axe is bent and as a public prosecutor with a passion for high profile takedowns of bad guys begins to become interested in Axe capital and their practices. But – and there’s a quite a big but – Chuck’s wife Wendy (Maggie Siff, best known to many as department store heiress Rachel Katz in Mad Men) is in-house psychiatrist and life coach at Axe Capital and has been friends with Axe for 15 years. When you take into account Wendy earns “eight times” what Chuck takes home and she and her husband enjoy a rather hands-on S&M dominatrix relationship when the lights go out, you have the set up for a very intriguing power struggle.

Made by US premium cable network Showtime (Homeland, Dexter), this is a show that oozes quality from every pore. In look and feel it shares something with recent BBC/AMC co-pro The Night Manager and in atmosphere certainly has notes of Homeland, which is of course reinforced by the main man again being a two-faced Damian Lewis.

From the classy acting to the tight scripts and beautiful photography, Billions quickly takes you inside a world that could easily be boring, but through gripping personal stories and punchy dialogue keeps you hooked even when people are talking in legalese or financialese.

Like all the best dramas (especially of this ilk from America), it creates a world that you want to inhabit. Yes, at times there is melodrama, and the glossy edges are occasionally a tiny bit too bright, but you can forgive any of that because you want to be there; a fly on the wall in the public prosecutor’s office and enjoying the opulent surroundings at the top of the financial pile.

At a time when big business and the uber-wealthy are increasingly under public scrutiny, it is no wonder that this show got commissioned. However, the creators have taken the simple zeitgeist and cleverly woven it into a really interesting show that often sees you gunning for the “dirty” billionaires whilst questioning the motives of those people purporting to uphold the law.

Will this change the way you think about the richest people in our society? Probably not. But will you keep tuning in to find out what happens next? I think so…

Billions begins in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Thursday at 9pm. All episodes are also available on Sky Box Sets 

Read the rest of the article at RadioTimes
Categories Billions Media Print Media

‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money – Jan 8, 2016

‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money

by David Zurawik – The Baltimore Sun – January 8, 2016

Great TV always scratches some deeper itch in the culture. And, in the last three decades at least, that itch has often been connected to money.

“The Sopranos” explored the gangster soul of capitalism and the profound emptiness even in its winner’s circle. “The Wire” showed how the drug trade in Baltimore was not that different from the business done on Wall Street. “Breaking Bad” started from the premise of a middle-class teacher who turned to making illegal drugs to provide for his family after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Given that history and the six hours I have seen of Showtime’s new Sunday-night series “Billions,” which premieres Jan. 17, I’m feeling like we might be looking at greatness here.

The drama about a ferociously ambitious U.S. attorney and a high-flying, regulation-breaking hedge fund king features two great actors in Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. Giamatti plays the attorney, Chuck Rhoades, who sees the prosecution of Lewis’ character, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, as his ticket to higher office.

As the chief federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, Rhoades has enormous power over the great financial institutions of American life. And while he speaks in the high-minded rhetoric of civic reform and “servant of the people,” he comes from a world of privilege and lives a life of compromises, contradictions and look-the-other-way lies.

His arrogance in the workplace is unbounded. If he’s the good guy here, he’s not a very likable one.

“When I bring an action, it’s not some county or even state,” he warns. “It’s the United States versus. Don’t give me a reason.”

Or how about this lovely quote: “My father always taught me ‘mercy’ was a word p—— used when they couldn’t take the pain.”

He revels in his power, except in the bedroom, where he’s the “M” partner in an S&M marriage.

The series opens on one of the most intense and graphic S&M scenes I’ve ever seen on mainstream TV — even premium cable. But in its exploration of sex as power, it is artistically righteous. I was rooting for “Billions” from the opening bell for going there so fearlessly.

Rhoades’ wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), is just as complex a character. She works as an in-house performance coach at Axelrod’s Axe Capital firm. She goes way back with Axelrod and is one of the few people in his uber-competitive boiler room in whom he seems able to confide.

Siff is superb as an ambitious professional using her psychological training to carve out her own territory of control as she navigates between these two male combatants. You might remember her as Rachel Menken, the department store heiress and Don Draper love interest in “Mad Men,” another great drama that was all about money, power and desire.

“Knowing isn’t enough,” Wendy Rhoades says. “You’ve got to exercise control.”

And she does.

In the hands of lesser dramatists, the obvious conflicts of interests involving this marriage might derail the series.

I can imagine someone reading this and saying, “Wouldn’t she have to quit her job?” Or, perhaps, “Given her job, wouldn’t Rhoades have to recuse himself from the case his office is trying to build against Axelrod?”

Both questions are valid. There are wisely scripted and convincingly played scenes in which those questions are raised, debated, worried over, and raged against at work and home. This being a very, very contemporary marriage, Mr. and Ms. Rhoades throw the conflict in each other’s face when it suits them.

It’s great stuff. But Bobby Axelrod is the character you can’t take your eyes off of.

“Axe is no ordinary billionaire,” Rhoades says. “He’s an icon of the wealth of our age. And he’s a fraud. So when he falls, he’ll hit the ground hard.”

Given the anger that remains over how few of the men and women who drove the economy off the cliff in 2008 were ever prosecuted, it would have been easy for the producers to make Axelrod the target of all that enmity.

But that would make for a polemic, not drama.

Continue reading ‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money – Jan 8, 2016