Neither I nor Jordan Cahan, one of the executive producers of the wonderfully deranged Showtime comedy Black Monday, could have known when we met to talk about Season 2 back in late February that just a few weeks later the stock market would actually have its worst day since the real Black Monday in 1987, in effect creating... well, Black Monday 2.
And I doubt Cahan and his creative partner, David Caspe, are at home right now watching the news and patting themselves on the back for Black Monday's prescience. But it's hard not to see our current global situation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic as confirmation from the universe that Black Monday, whose tone was hard to pin down in the first few episodes of Season 1 and whose comedy was so wacky it left many critics unsure WTF they'd seen, was smarter and more relevant than it ever got credit for. Now, the show's second season is arriving on a weekend in which we very much need a laugh. It's an escape, a trip somewhere carefree — and it's a little bit dumb (in the best possible way).
"The tone of the show is so wildly erratic, and that's what's fun about it," Cahan told me. "We want it to be like an '80s movie. Think about any of your favorite '80s movies — honestly, they're all over the place, and you love it."
He's right; Black Monday is an unapologetic melange of ideas and inspirations: a parody of the Wall Street culture of the '80s, a parody of '80s flicks in general, a murder mystery, a heist story, and a satire of race, sexuality, and gender politics. It's a lot, but it's a gift to unrepentant goofballs like myself who love Police Academy movies as equally as the Sunday New York Times. And the show only gets gets zanier and more outrageous in Season 2 as its jokes are cranked up in intensity and bigger set pieces set up even bigger payoffs.
"I think the fun of [our show] is keeping the audience on their toes. We just wanted to top ourselves," Cahan said. "So we tried to make more budget room for [it to be] bigger, crazier."
I swore not to spoil what I saw when Cahan invited me to watch footage from forthcoming episodes, but suffice it to say, what's to come will trigger transcendent, don't-care-who's-watching guffawing that's suddenly really important. Following the events of the Season 1 finale, Maurice Monroe (Emmy nominee Don Cheadle) is on the lam, not to be seen back in New York for a minute. Former flame and partner Dawn Darcy (Regina Hall) has taken his place, leading a mostly female firm, while Mo's protégé, Blair Pfaff (Andrew Rannells), has fully integrated high society with his wife, Tiff Georgina (Casey Wilson), beside him, climbing the strategic stairway to wealth.
(If you want an idea of just how perfectly inappropriate Black Monday remains, in the season's first episode, Georgina is seen schmoozing with some bigwigs at a swanky D.C. gala and blurts out, "It's ironic Nancy's partying with a bunch of Washington aides after spending so long ignoring AIDS.")
For reasons I can't explain, the show moves to Miami for a spell. Of course, Mo resurfaces, but then people you counted out or never thought you'd see again return, a gay cuckold situation emerges, and, my god, a musical number about racial disparity in the criminal justice system is so fantastic I went limp. Everything's ramped up, but especially in Episode 3, which features visual stunts more ambitious than anything Cahan and Caspe have ever tried or seen before.
"It has over 200 VFX shots. It's probably triple the budget of any other episode we've ever done," said Cahan. "It's really insane, but Episode 3 was something that David and I've been talking about for almost a decade. It's our "Teddy Perkins." It will never be that good, but people watching hopefully will be like, 'I cannot believe that they are doing this.'"
Black Monday isn't really the type of show one watches for mathematical, totally rational plot development, but if there's a unifying idea or jumping off point for Season 2, it is what happens to all the characters, and who is going to get burned for this?
Done with the whodunnit murder mystery of Season 1, Black Monday just lets its people move through its wild world in relatively sensible ways — paying back those who burned them and scheming to get more power, money, and ass. Bottom line: it's a lot of fun.
There's no telling how soon post-crash panic and fear will recede into the rearview, but in its second season, Black Monday achieves the minor miracle of being more extreme and more unbelievable than the currently unbelievable state of affairs. That it's also very funny seems like a luxury we don't entirely deserve — perfume on a dumpster fire that, in its special little way, reassures everybody that what goes down will eventually go back up.