Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Gives His Verdict on Damian Lewis in the Contemporary Hedge Fund Drama Billions

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Gives His Verdict on Damian Lewis in the Contemporary Hedge Fund Drama Billions

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

NO ONE ever got wealthy by underestimating the entertainment value of the super-rich. In Billions (Sky On Demand), Damian Lewis, an actor whose career is built on his role in the sledgehammer-subtle Homeland, where he was an all-American terrorist war hero, now finds himself playing the nearest thing popular fiction has to the devil: an insider-dealing hedge fund manager.

Actually, he may not be a hedge-fund manager, as only hedge-fund managers understand what it is that hedge-fund managers do. But in pop fiction, hedgefund managers take a Black and Decker cordless to society's topiary. They cut corners. They strim the edges of ethical dilemmas. They do what the hell they want and reap the rewards with unstinting vulgarity because everyone wants money and everyone hates the undeserving rich.

Reality is more nuanced than that. But nuances are conspicuous by their absence in Billions. It starts with Lewis, whose name is Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, walkie-talking about money and being ordered to keep everything low-key. "Who's more low-key than me?" he asks, stepping into a private helicopter.

Let's cut to the chase. Axe, the moral lumberjack, is being pursued by US attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) who is so upstanding that he spends his workdays eating take-out noodles and his evenings being urinated on by a Catwoman lookalike who may also be his wife. Her name is Wendy, which may be a super-rich joke, but she is known as Dr Mojo.

The hardworking Dr Mojo (Maggie Siff) is a corporate psychologist/ cheerleader/analyst who specialises in flirtation and Grade-A motivational psychobabble. "Go get 'em," she says to her babbling psycho clients, "I want you to go back to your Bloomberg and cut bait on your losers" (who even knows what that means?).

There is a lot of conspicuous writing in Billions. …

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