black monday don cheadle episode 1
Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME

'Black Monday' Is More Than The Black Wolf of Wall Street: Episode 1 Recap

It’d be natural to think, “Oh, that’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, just with Jheri curl activator spray.”

Describing Showtime’s dramedy Black Monday as the black Wolf of Wall Street is lazy, yet inevitable. The show, set in the year leading up to the global stock market crash on October 19th, 1987, centers on Maurice “Mo” Monroe (Don Cheadle) and his investment firm the Jammer Group featuring star trader Dawn Darcy (Regina Hall). The show is as much of an unflinching look into the institutionalized debauchery of Wall Street as Martin Scorsese’s 2013 masterpiece. Especially if the first 34 minutes of the series is any indication.

In the first episode ("365"), a body falls through the hood of a Lamborghini Limousine (aka “Lambo Limo”), Mo is gifted cocaine for his birthday, and a coworker flops an uncircumcised penis on Wall Street newcomer Blair Pfaff’s (Andrew Rannells) shoulder while he’s working. Once you see how the show’s comedic appeal is powered by Mo, an abhorrent, predatorial capitalist who will gladly starve a child to fatten his pocket, it’d be natural to think, “Oh, that’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, just with Jheri curl activator spray.”

You’d be terribly wrong.

The Misdirection of Black Monday

The most appealing part of Black Monday’s premiere episode is undoubtedly its use of misdirection. The Wolf Of Wall Street is fundamentally based on one character, Jordan Belfort. Black Monday starts off as if it’s going to hone in on the singular character who caused the Wall Street crash, but eventually reveals that the crash itself is the main character of the show. Each episode is named after a number between 1 - 365, with the premiere titled “365,” the first day, and the first puzzle piece, leading to the collapse. If you blink at the wrong time you could miss out on a clue as to who and/or what caused the collapse; an enthralling mystery element that Wolf of Wall Street never had.

Mo also tricks viewers into thinking he’s blinded by his arrogance, when in fact he’s highly cerebral and sensitive. There’s an almost catatonic gaze that washes over his face when he sees his former love interest, Dawn, with her husband Spencer (Kadeem Hardison) and when he recollects the moments before he put his plan to snag Blair in motion without knowing it’ll work. Those brief moments of believable vulnerability are expertly acted by Cheadle and makes him a much more nuanced and relatable character than DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort.

The Partners in Crime

The cast of characters in the series' premiere helps distinguish the show from being simply a Black Wolf of Wall Street as there is an almost intentional avoidance of any concentration on race. Mo may jokingly say he’s going to put the “brother” in Lehman Brothers and get his Jheri curls moistened in the middle of the office by his chauffeur, but that’s as deep as the premiere episode delves into race. The closest the episode came to addressing Mo being one of the few black faces in a sea of white men on Wall Street is when Mo’s hilariously enraged by a newspaper calling him “the Billy Ocean of Wall Street,” referencing the legendary Trinidadian-British R&B singer.

Dawn’s blackness is never addressed in the premiere, but her performance is one of the episode’s best. She’s the best trader in the Jammer Group, and while she is the most level headed of the group, she isn’t the moral compass keeping the frat house on course to always do the right thing. She’s mounting male coworkers to thrust into their imaginary breasts and squeezing her imaginary set of balls to intimidate. She smokes while she does cardio, likes to order “regular cocaine” during lunch, and has enough intriguing, and as of yet untapped, facets of her character to potentially carry entire episodes by herself. Which is more than we can say for the rest of the characters.

On paper, the episode and series are well cast with former nominees and winners of Screen Actor Guild Awards, Tony Awards, Golden Globes Awards. However, we don’t watch TV shows on paper. Jammer Group trader Keith (Paul Scheer), and all of his unfunny, crude one-liners and insecurities with balding is basically Scheer’s Andre Nowzick character from FX’s The League, just on Wall Street in the 1980s. Blair is built as not only the hotshot new kid on Wall Street with a game-changing algorithm but also as the most important character to possibly cause the eventual Black Monday crash. Yet, he is one of the most boring characters in the premiere due to how forgetful his parts are in comparison to powerhouses like Hall and Cheadle.

Black Monday is more than a black Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a thrilling coke binge we’ll all be strung out on weekly.

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Samuel L. Jackson To Portray George Clinton In Forthcoming Biopic

Samuel L. Jackson is set to portray George Clinton in a forthcoming biopic on record executive Neil Bogart, Deadline reports. The film, Spinning Gold, will feature music from an array of artists on Bogart’s Casablanca Records imprint including The Isley Brothers, KISS, Parliament, Bill Withers, Gladys Knight and Curtis Mayfield.

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Bogart, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, began his career as a singer in the 1960s before becoming a record executive at Cameo-Parkway Records and Buddha Records. Bogart founded Casablanca Records in 1973 and singed KISS to the imprint that same year. He became known for promoting funk and disco artists like Donna Summer, the Village People, and Clinton’s Parliament, whom he signed to the label in 1974.

Bogart died at age 39 from cancer and lymphoma.

Production on Spinning Gold, which is written and directed by Bogart’s son, Timothy Scott Bogart, will begin in Montreal on July 16.

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50 Cent Says 'Power' Will Not End After Season 6: "I Changed My Mind"

Fans were shook after Starz announced that its popular series, Power, would end after its sixth season.  Nearly two months after the initial announcement, however, 50 Cent suggested the hit series is far from over. In fact, in a post on Instagram on Tuesday (June 25), Fif said more seasons are on the way.

"I Changed my mind. POWER is not going to be over after season 6," 50 captioned a post of himself. "This sh*t is too good."

Although 50 as acted as an executive producer on the series, his statement likely comes as a shock to the cast as well as its co-creator, Courtney A. Kemp.  Carmi Zlotnik, Starz's president of programming, also released a statement in May 2019, confirming the show's end.

"Season 6 brings us to the end of what we know is just the first chapter of the 'Power' story. However, as one chapter comes to an end, another will begin," Zlotnik said in a statement. "Courtney Kemp and 50 Cent have created a world rich with complex and dynamic characters and there are a number of stories we plan to tell as we continue to explore and expand the 'Power' universe."

All things considered, this is probably just another one of 50 Cent's trolling stunts. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to dream.

 

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I Changed my mind POWER is not going to be over after season 6. This shit is to good 🤦‍♂️#lecheminduroi #bransoncognac #starzplay

A post shared by 50 Cent (@50cent) on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:44am PDT

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Swizz Beatz Brings Something Different To Mariott Bonvoy Amex Customers

Before becoming one of hip-hop's superproducers and graduating from Harvard Business School, Kasseem Dean was just a kid from The Bronx who gravitated to the art he saw. Whether it was the graffiti on the trains and the brick walls or the fashion of the late 80s and early 90s, Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz, digested it all.

Now, with a few hits and Grammy's under his belt, the 40-year-old multihyphenate's newest muse is the upliftment of other living artists by way of The Dean Collection. Collaborating with American Express and Marriott Bonvoy, a new travel program for Mariott International, Swizz Beatz, premiered his latest art installation "Deluxxe Fluxx" inside Manhattan's Skylight Studios.

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Before the night's activities began, VIBE caught up with  Mr. Dean to discuss the newest addition to the collection, what art has done for him and what he thinks art is supposed to do for the masses.

How are you, Mr. Dean? I'm good. I love that you call me Mr. Dean.

Well, that's how I was raised.  Respect. Blessings. My first question to you is: The Dean Collection began in 2014 and from my understanding, you started it because you wanted to support living artists. It's one of the reasons, yes.

So, what triggered the launch? The Dean Collection started as me and my wife's personal collection because we wanted to create a museum for our kids to run when we weren't here anymore. It was all about building a legacy. But then we realized shining a light on living artists with our star power, created more star power and more synergy, more education. More! More! More! This isn't something we should keep private. This is something the masses should know and we should help hundreds of thousands of artists around the world if possible with our gift. It's just been a blessing. What is it about FAILE that you took to? Well, I've been a fan of colors and vibrations for a long time and these guys have been killing it for a long time. They're such masters of their craft. I feel our culture needs to understand FAILE and we should support them and celebrate them as creatives. I just wanted to show the culture an amazing experience and different forms of art, not only canvasses on the wall but also an immersive experience. Even the music I'm going to play tonight is not going to be regular. "I want people to know I celebrate all artists. Whether you're African-American, white, Asian, you name it. We at The Dean Collection celebrate all artists."

What is it about this kind of art, like you said not just canvasses on the wall, that feeds you? Well, it's visually and sonically stimulating. Most of us are in our heads all day-- Superfacts. dealing with what we're dealing with, so if I can bring you into a world that can take you away from negatives and bring you into a positive and a creative state of mind, then we've done a good job and that's what art is supposed to do. Art is supposed to take you to another level. Although my next show might be canvasses, this particular one in New York City I felt that we needed this in the city right now just to shake this up.

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