Are you watching Billions? If you’re not then something has gone seriously awry. Order a new one off of Amazon or call your TV repairman and get the problem fixed because a broken set is the only excuse you have. We know there’s a lot of ‘good’ shows on the air right now, but this is one of the elite in every way. Fans already know the opulent drama for what it is, pure brilliance. If you don’t know what we mean, it’s time to move up in the world with Billions.
1. Paul Giamatti is Underappreciated
There is no possible way to give Paul Giamatti enough awards and accolades. It’s like trying to count to a trillion; you just don’t have the time. There is nothing he cannot express eloquently and in a relatable way. Something about the nuance of his facial expressions is just peerless. We hope he never retires, but when he does, we still hope he’ll teach other actors the craft. While we could list his credentials and sing his praises for days, it’s easier to show you his range. All you have to do is watch any one of the 70+ movies he has participated in during the course of his career.
2. Oh, the Humanity!
Suspension of disbelief can be a problem with the best shows. It takes something extra to create a truly believable world and populate it with reachable characters, people who could be your neighbors or sitting in the next cab over when you stop at the light. Billions manages to take a high stakes, sophisticated world that isn’t necessarily part of the collective experience and hand it to us in a package we can immerse ourselves in completely. Unquestionably, Paul Giamatti is a considerable part of that process, but it’s not as though the rest of the cast is sitting on their thumbs. Allison Estrin and Avy Kaufman do a brilliant job casting the show.
3. White-Collar Issues
Charles “Chuck” Rhoades, Jr. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York hates wealthy criminals, and with good reason. Most people don’t relate to white-collar crime. It goes misunderstood and underreported. What people can access is a clear understanding that wealthy people often think they are above the law. We share his frustration and beliefs readily enough, and so it gives us the inroad to understanding more about that world.
4. Ridiculously High Ratings
We aren’t saying that the ratings are what makes the show enjoyable. We’re just pointing out that this show not only had the most massive pilot audience in Showtime history, it also consistently delivers. When it comes to dominating the screen, some shows just don’t have the pull, not so Billions. From critical acclaim to the ratings themselves, Billions is worth its weight in gold at least.
5. Maggie Siff – Where Has She Been All Our Lives?
Let’s be fair; she’s been around. From Mad Men to Sons of Anarchy, we already knew Maggie was iconic in her own right. She has the range to match Paul Giamatti, and that is saying quite a lot. This brilliant actress has no trouble handling herself. She holds two degrees and nowhere near enough awards for her acting. Something about Maggie Siff is genuinely captivating. She needs only to walk into a room to command her audience. It’s no wonder they cast her in the role of the BDSM Domme by night and power player in her own right during the day. When asked about her career, she told CigarAficionado “There’s a pleasure in swimming with sharks.”
Do we really have to say that the costume department is as good as every other aspect of this show? Of course we do! They deserve the credit. Maggie Siff in that BDSM getup was scintillating and scary. We absolutely die over some of the suits as well. Men in modern TV don’t get noticed or complimented the way their female counterparts do. Some of these ties are just gorgeous, which is to say nothing of the rest of the suit. Eric Daman knows his stuff.
7. Sheer Drama and Pacing
When it comes to making fans endorphins flow, your first thought is never going to be, “Let’s watch a drama about white-collar criminals and high powered attorneys,” and that’s fine. The surprises, buildup and genuine stomach in your throat, hold-your-breath scenes aren’t supposed to be straight out of an action film. Billions holds its own with riveting plot devices and never cliched writing that keeps us glued to our screens. Many shows have attempted the sort of acceleration that Billions regularly uses to guide the plot. Compacting months into one episode is a risky move. Shows can quickly lose their relevance and audience interest when they leapfrog forward. Worse than that, they can ‘break the universe’ and simply get so far ahead of themselves that there’s no more story to tell. Billions scoffs at that amateurish handling of their favorite plot device, forward momentum.
8. Money Fascinates Everyone
There is always room for a show about the finer things in life. From the first time we saw Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous as children we have loved the glitter of wealth. We blame Robin Leach for introducing children everywhere to the sorts of dreams we wouldn’t have known we could have without his weekly televised tours. Billions brings the updated version of that glitz and filters it through a remarkable lens that shows us how some people live without making it seem unachievable.
9. Deeper Philosophy
Though it isn’t something that most would think about, the show has a mythic core. All the storylines are exploring the dichotomy of good and evil. The grand battle between the forces that serve the light and those that seek chaos and darkness is played out time and again in the show. The way human intricacy complicates the issue is beautifully wrought.
10. Almost Criminal
Apparently, Bobby Axelrod is known worldwide for his hedge fund scams, even though he is fictional. Damian Lewis, who plays Axelrod, was vacationing in Ireland when he was recognized. Unfortunately for the actor, there was some confusion. The person who IDed him thought he was a criminal. The upright citizen called the FBI because he thought Lewis was on the run.
Billions was created by the real deal. Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of the show’s creators, is a writer who handles finance. He writes a financial column at the New York Times. Sorkin is well known in the world of finance because his apt and accurate insights are incredibly valuable.
12. Sexy… In a Very Different Way
Everyone knows Fifty Shades of Grey helped bring the BDSM world out into the daylight. However, a couple of controversial books are not the only story there is to tell about kinky lifestyles. Billions deserves serious kudos for its willingness to bring a long term BDSM relationship to the small screen in a more primetime friendly way. The Rhoades private interactions in their bedroom are intensely sexy, just not in a Hollywood pornography done by a 20-year-old manner. Alternative sexuality is always a hot button issue for some, but if we can discuss murder and theft, then perhaps consensual kink should not be outside the realm of acceptable topics. At least in BDSM, the people getting ‘screwed,’ want it that way.
13. The Writing is Next Level
Beyond having Andrew Sorkin to draw from, Billions has the sort of scripts that other shows can only dream of. Creative partners David Levien and Brian Koppelman co-wrote Oceans 13, among other movies you have probably see and loved. Koppelman is a former music industry executive, which explains a lot about how the show gets such great music and musical cameos. The trio was clearly meant to combine their talents and together they are like the Voltron of Television show creation, each strong on his own, but together they form up to offer something even more significant to the world.
14. Eskmo doing the score
Brendan Angelides AKA Eskmo was an absolutely ideal choice for Billions. His electronic, multi-genre musical style brings a unique element to the show. When handling money and white-collar crime drama, it would have been all too easy to go with something more predictable and classic, but the show would have lost out on the marvelously modern feeling of Eskmo’s music. His ability to highlight a scene and bring the feeling through the ever-present background music. He manages to integrate seamlessly without any of the heavy-handed musical overshooting that can plague a great show if they choose the wrong music.
15. Guest Star Villains to Die For
When you get to work with talent like John Malkovich (https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/billions-season-3-john-malkovich-1202674989/), you have arrived. John joined the cast in Season 3 to play Grigor Andolov, a Russian Billionaire. Of course, there are plenty of amazing guests stars, both ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ we just happen to love Mr. Malkovich.
16. All Great Stories Have a Core of Truth
Bobby Axelrod is based, albeit loosely, on real life. The inspiration comes from Steve Cohen of SAC Capital. Back in 2012, the real-life billionaire hedge fund manager was caught up in an insider trading scandal. He had private information that he used for personal gain. It must have worked out well since he’s now paying $135 million to settle a lawsuit that resulted from that case.
17. All the One-Liners You Could Ever Need
We know, we already gave the show credit for it’s absolutely beyond brilliant writing. However, the story arcs and ability to show vulnerable and relatable humanity isn’t what we’re talking about here. The banter on this show is just the best. Arguably at the very top of the heap are the lines from Wags AKA Mike Wagner played by David Costabile. We about lost it on Season 2 when he spat this out “It’s time for you folks to sharpen your pencils, and you better come back with one Traci Lords of an idea. And if you need that f___ing defined, here it is- a barely legal, market-dominating, brilliant co____cker of an idea.”
18. Multiple Plot Twists
Billions runs on plot twists to the point of being near Gordian in its beauty and execution. While there are more examples than we could include in a short article, perhaps we can give the only example you really need to understand the convoluted brilliance that is Billions. Charles “Chuck” Rhoades, Jr. (Giamatti) is bitter rivals with Robert “Bobby” Axelrod (Lewis) to the point of trying to actively destroy each other. Meanwhile, Wendy Rhoades (Siff), who is Chuck’s wife, works for Bobby as his in-house performance coach, where the two have been close enough to bother Bobby’s wife for the last 15 years. Basically, before you even begin adding episodes to the show, the entire premise is a plot twist.
19. Frankly, We Could Binge Watch This Show Forever
There’s no denying it, a show you watch once is just not as good as the one you want to see over and over. The re-watchability is added value in terms of any TV show. Sure, the producers use it to sell DVD sets and merch, but there’s more to it. We don’t buy the deluxe boxed set with a hundred hours of behind the scenes footage because we want to see a show a couple of times. Any show can be measured by its binge-worthiness. Billions has that quality in spades. We want to re-watch the episodes almost as soon as they end. We could burn out a tivo if we didn’t have to get to work telling you about how much we love this show.
20. And Metallica Too
There is already so much right with Billions; it’s hard to imagine how they can up their game. Proof of just how stellar the show really is comes in many forms. We think one of the most ‘superior’ decisions the show has made so far was including Metallica in the lineup. The creators of the show are huge fans, and so is Bobby Axelrod. Just as the show brings alt-sexuality to the forefront, not as a bizarre and criminal act, but as a part of a regular (ish) relationship, they chose to bring a love of heavy metal into the world of wealth. Gone are the days when a socialite had to choose between opera and the symphony. Make no mistake, we love classical music just as much, but diversity is the spice of life. One of the sneakiest things Billions is doing involves breaking down the walls of perception and stereotyping. We love them for it. Plus, who could say no to more Metallica?
If you love Billions, and who doesn’t, then we’re preaching to the choir. The premier had 1.4 million viewers, so that’s a lot of love. We all know that after four years it wasn’t a fluke. For those who haven’t seen this show yet, what more can we possibly say? Sit, watch, thank us later.