“There’s a lot of humor in this — a lot of playfulness, which I was not expecting.” — Damian Lewis on Billions
Humor derived from life and delivered at the right time and place can make a TV show! And, I believe, it is Seinfeld that perfected the delivery of small but precise details of daily life on small screen! George double-dips a chip in a bowl of dip at a wake and you laugh not just because of what he does but also because you remember the guy who double-dipped at the last party you attended. Elaine’s new boyfriend is a serious close talker and you laugh because you remember the close talkers in your life. Jerry believes you don’t need any extra incentive to kill your dry cleaner and you laugh because you remember the last argument you had with your dry cleaner about the remaining stain on your favorite pants. These are the scenes that stay with you for the longest time because they all come from real life!
Many dramas, as they try hard to stick to drama, forget about this kind of humor; which, given at the right time and place, may be one of the most delicious moments of an episode and can even send a serious message home. We applaud Billions for not shying away from giving us such moments.
As much as we are in love with the fake argument scene, an original, hilarious and genius Billions moment, we are even more impressed by the minutiae of life the writers provide with the right dose of humor. Knowing that most episodes in Seinfeld are based on its writers’ real-life experiences, re-written and re-interpreted for the show’s characters, we cannot help wonder if these bits and pieces of life in Billions are also based on real-life experiences. These moments work perfectly and the lines delivered in them become standard in our own conversations!
That is why Tbkwrm and I take a tour through Season 1 and talk about our most favorite bits and pieces of life in Billions. We would love to hear about your favorites, too!
Episode 1: The Pilot
Wendy is in her office with PM Mick Danzig who is complaining about losing his mojo and asking “Ms. Mojo” for advise. Wendy corrects him: “Dr. Mojo.” And Billions writers steal my heart just then and there in Episode 1! A golden moment of a small observation from real life being brought to small screen. It’s amazing this always happens to professional women. Believe me, I received an email from a student calling me “Ms.” that very day and I corrected him: “Dr.” And, surprise, surprise, this almost always happens with male students!
Episode 3: Yum Time
Oh the moment Chuck finally convinces me he’s working for the public good. No, not at the US attorney’s office, but on Brooklyn Heights Promenade of all places! Chuck yells at a guy who does not clean after his dog. Forgetting the bag at home is no excuse. “You have hands!”
Such a brilliant New York moment! It’s so inevitable to step into dog shit on the streets of Manhattan that some believe stepping into dog shit gives you 14 years of good luck in New York! 😀 I prefer to make my own luck and applaud the US attorney. Don’t tell Axe!
Episode 5: The Good Life
Dale calling Chuck “Dude!” in a meeting is, well, PRICELESS and takes me to a department meeting that I had a few months ago where one of my colleagues calls another colleague (who is his good friend) “Dude!” No, dude, you don’t do that in a professional meeting even when the colleague you call “dude” is a close friend.
But it is even worse for Dale since, the guy he is calling “Dude” holds the most powerful law enforcement position in the country and worse yet, Dale is not even aware of what he just said until Terri tells him! He puts the blame on the law firm he worked before. They were a bit casual with language there. Grow up, dude! And, yeah, I told my two colleagues to watch Billions Episode 5 immediately! Haha.
Episode 7: The Punch
How many of you share your password with your significant other? Let’s see hands! Billions does it again. To share or not to share: That is the question 🙂
We find out — as The Rhoadeses have dinner with their annoyingly loved-up friends, The Gilberts — that Wendy has not known Chuck’s for a while… which he leaves for her on a piece of paper the following morning: Roaddog789. We all have caps and numbers in our passwords nowadays, don’t we?
This is yet another bit of life hitting close to home for me! Email was barely there when I was a senior in college but we had on-campus email. And sharing your password with your best friend or your boyfriend was a measure of how close you were! We were like, hey, what is privacy? 🙂 So, my then boyfriend and now husband and I have always shared passwords with each other… and this scene made me freak out about whether we were as creepily cute as the Gilberts. Yikes!
I am relieved to find out we still have not passed, in Mr. Gilbert’s words, “the final frontier”: We don’t have the same password. Not yet 🙂
Episode 12: The Conversation
This is for those of you that love college basketball like me: Once Axe’s shady deals on 9/11 are public, many investors jump ship and Axe is having a difficult time convincing new investors to invest with Axe Capital despite his “going up only” returns. The investors want to evaluate risk, reward and return and not worry about Axe’s life or his fund’s profile.
Wags tries some morale boost on Axe likening him to Andre Agassi in his prime. Well, Axe’s answer? “I don’t need the Coach K bullshit right now.” Well… I am still giggling about this. Mike Krzyzewski aka Coach K is the legendary basketball coach of Duke University, who is known to motivate his players well. And he should be doing something right since Duke won 5 NCAA championships with him at the helm. I understand Axe may not need that — well he has his own personal Wendy for that! — but hey, some of us believe in that bullshit 😀
Episode 5: The Good Life
If Kate has something to say, she will say it and say it as she does in this scene. Bryan so good at advising Spyros about his smells seems utterly oblivious to his own, but it is ok because he has Kate there to bring clarity.
Kate: “You still keep emergency deodorant in your office?”
Bryan: “Yeah. You need some?”
Kate: “No” (looking pointedly at Bryan).
Made for each other.
Episode 6: The Deal
“My client has no interest in co-operation, no interest in a plea and he does not recognise your authority.”
If you wish to rile a LEO, or a prosecutor this is exactly one way to go about it very effectively. Those charged with upholding law do not like to hear it dismissed so sneeringly and arrogantly. Here, in ‘the Deal’ during Bill Stearn’s interrogation, Orrin Bach lays out to Chuck, Brian and co that Bill Stearn really doesn’t care what evidence they have against him or what they try to threaten him with. They may manage to send him off to prison, but that does not mean he is going to ever recognise their authority because…well, just because he doesn’t feel like it…so there!
Episode 7: The Punch
As children grow up they inevitably start to question what their parents say, do and believe. While this can be distressing for all concerned, it is a necessary part of life to ensure growth from childhood to adulthood. Adults can be wrong and in The Punch we see adults in the wrong.
Dean and Gordie, as Lara points out, are perfectly capable of raising questions when social media is not working, but seem incapable of raising questions of an adult they know has been doing something that could put them all in danger. Their friends’ dad has been drinking, but then proceeds to drive all four boys home in his car. Neither Lara nor Bobby are happy about their sons being driven home by a drink driver. Unfortunately, Bobby demonstrates another lesson their sons won’t forget when he punches the drink driver instead of leaving him for the Police to deal with…why two wrongs don’t make a right.
Episode 8: Boast and Rails
Everyone loves a good moan about their boss at some point. This episode delivers a hilarious insight into the minds of Axe Capital employees and what they have to say about their boss. Bobby has asked the IT guy to read out what is being said in emails and IT guy warns Bobby these guys are saying terrible things about him in email. Bobby nonchalantly responds “Of course they are. I’m their boss. Hit me with some of the worst”. So IT guy does.
One email says of Bobby
“The man fucking creeps me out. Is he even a man or some kind of alien magi? His eyes see the dark truth inside us all, a truth that wasn’t even dark until he looked at it. He knows I’m typing this. He’s having this email read aloud to him right now.”
This show is just so spot on!
Episode 8: Boasts and Rails
A street kid made it big and that street kid is going to make sure he doesn’t lose it. Boasts and Rails delightfully provides us with a mole hunt, or as Axe refers to it “find out who is a quisling”. In the murky criminal underworld, you need to have balls of steel to be undercover or desperate as hell to be a quisling.
Axe decides to question the three employees who wiped their hard drives or as we call it “the pop quisling” and in Billions own style, this scene mixes the hilarious with the serious. From Pouch knowing how many strawberries he ate, Donnie’s declaration that FedEx is not his sector, to Channing not understanding what his wife has to do with it, this scene has it all.
Episode 11 Magical Thinking
Just one of the many clichés of being an office worker…Bryan and Kate nearly having sex on Chuck’s desk. The kiss that starts it, the papers flying everywhere and people shouting ‘cliché’ at the TV screen…before Bryan and Kate have a good laugh at themselves for being clichéd and pulling back when Kate brings up the possibility of Chuck ever having had sex on the desk…well, it is his desk, so why not?
For whatever reason, people like to sneer dismissively about scenes like this, clichéd work Christmas parties and sex on the boss’s desk. I loved this scene purely for Billions ability to laugh at itself.