Greed, ‘Game of Thrones’ and a gullible guy

This week on the small screen.

‘BILLIONS’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you enjoyed Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Adam Mckay’s Oscar-winning The Big Short, then you will love Billions, the new Showtime series that will air on YES Oh beginning March 31 at 10 p.m. and on YES VOD.
It’s a stylish, cat-and-mouse business-based story about Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis, who played Brody on Homeland), a billionaire hedge-fund manager, and the US attorney who is pursuing him for insider trading, Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti, who recently appeared as the malevolent therapist in Love & Mercy).
In business dramas, the bad guys – the morally ambiguous investors and entrepreneurs – are often the most interesting characters. Who remembers anyone but Gordon Gekko, the anti-hero who makes the “Greed is good” speech from the movie Wall Street? Here, too, the amoral Axelrod threatens to run away with the series. “When did it become a crime to succeed in this country?” asks Axelrod, who had a small investment firm with several partners, all of whom were killed on 9/11. A working-class guy, he went to Hofstra, a Long Island college, but runs rings around the Ivy League-educated analysts he hires. It would be easy to judge him, since, like all hugely successful businessmen, he cuts a few corners and is addicted to conspicuous consumption. The $80 million beachfront mansion he wants to buy breaks new ground in television real estate porn. But it’s more fun to live vicariously through him than to look down on him.
Rhoades is less charismatic and, due to a few personal quirks (this is premium cable, meaning there is lots of nudity and you do not want to watch it with your kids, no matter how old they are), is not particularly sympathetic. This isn’t anything like the typical drama where we root for those on the side of the law.
The character who bridges both of their worlds is Chuck’s wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff, the extraordinarily likable actress who played department store heiress Rachel Menken on Mad Men).
Although this strains credulity, she is an in-house psychologist for Axelrod’s firm, and has been since before her marriage. She knows everybody’s secrets and will clearly be a pivotal character throughout the series.
Malin Akerman, who has played the pretty blonde girlfriend in many movies and TV series, is Axelrod’s wife, his childhood sweetheart who is just as manipulative and scheming as he is.
Among the many character actors in supporting roles are David Costabile (Breaking Bad, The Wire), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead) and Rob Morrow (Dr. Joel Fleischman on Northern Exposure).
Basically, this sophisticated series will appeal to the same demographic that enjoys The Affair.
Paul Giamatti also stars in the movie San Andreas, which will be broadcast on HOT Gold HD on April 15 at 10 p.m., as — guess what? — the brainy scientist in this 1970s-style, mega-budget disaster movie. Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson stars as the classic disaster movie hero who remains unscathed while 95 percent of the population of the West Coast is dropping like flies.
It’s official – Game of Thrones is a phenomenon. So much so, that it is getting its own television channel. I can’t remember any other program achieving this distinction. It will be Channel 16 on YES, and it will run from April 3 to 25. On April 25, the first episode of the new season will air at 5 a.m., and the channel will cease to broadcast.
Until then, hardcore Thrones fans can enjoy reruns, interviews with cast members, games and everything Throne related.
For those who can take or leave Thrones, YES is running a series of very funny promos, with dramatic moments from the series accompanied by Israeli pop songs.
Also coming up in early April is the new dramatic series The Path, starring Aaron Paul (Jesse from Breaking Bad) and Hugh Dancy.
It’s about a man who joins a cult. It will start showing on April 5 on Tuesdays on HOT Plus at 10 p.m. and on HOT VOD and on Cellcom TV.