TV Features

BLACK MONDAY, FUTURE MAN, and the Television of White Lines

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The back-to-back release of Season Two of FUTURE MAN and the series premiere of BLACK MONDAY marked a particularly feverish and exciting moment in TV viewing. Writing partners and co-founders of Point Grey Pictures, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, have found their stride in the world of disruptive television. Recently, the duo shifted from a history of stoner comedies to making coked-out, manic, all-over-the-board content—that is the shit we need more of. Coked-out content is the new stoner comedy.

Rogen and Goldberg’s career in “stoner comedies” (films like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, SUPERBAD, and KNOCKED UP) work at a slower pace. The jokes have the chance to marinate longer, bits are stretched out and slowed down, and even the improvisation is more deliberate. A lot of this is a combination of Rogen and Goldberg’s instincts, paired with their roots in the Apatow school of comedy. Along with literal weed jokes, the slower, laid-back pace and general silliness makes these stoner comedies. These films were as much a product of the 2000s as fast-paced coke comedies are a result of the growing streaming surge. As invaluable as Point Grey stoner comedies will remain, the coke-driven shows are the next evolution for the pair. Some might even say the films of the early 2000s were their gateway comedies to this new, harder level-up. Although the coke-driven content is more the speed of current disruptive television in  the streaming era, both have their merit, but serve their time periods respectively. Much like fashion is cyclical, are we donning our sweat-bands and stuffing our shoulder pads to return to the ‘80s with the brand of drugs fueling (or at least inspiring) our content? If it’s as much fun as Rogen and Goldberg are making it out to be, I sure hope so.

Black Monday Future Man

Just your average, super casual Tuesday

Hulu’s FUTURE MAN, in its sophomore year, is a time-traveling parody filled with with robotic puppies, polygamous pegging, and neural climax (that may be misleading, there’s some heavy petting of a rather slimy brain stem, but even as a glorified OTPHJ, everyone gets off). FUTURE MAN begins with a silly and fun concept: pretty lame average guy living with his parents and working as a janitor beats a video game that was actually a test sent back in time by Time Traveling(™) soldiers to find the savior of their existence. From that point forward, the world builds on itself and expands in absurdity, snowballing into chaos and hilarity. Season One explores time traveling to the past, while Season Two thrusts us into the future to see what Josh, Tiger, and Wolf have created with their interference. Often frenetic and crazed, season one jumps through time and peril like a bat out of hell, showcasing the trio’s failures and follies throughout history trying to save the future from the cure of herpes that leads to the inevitable destruction of mankind. Near the end, we follow Wolf through his exploits in the ‘80s as he tries his hand at the culinary arts, and starts a hyperbolic coke habit. This quickly descends into farce as he takes on mounds of the stuff at the time, inevitably having to turn, as one does, to butt rails as he loses his sense of smell and taste. The episode whips through years of the escalating habit at a pace that feels like… well, coke. Until it climaxes in the furthest possible extreme: turning his restaurant into the “Truffledome,” an arena for battles to the death, over a truffle the size of a baby, obviously.

The energy of Season One, and much of Season Two, flips from one idea to the next the way someone doing cocaine might, and from your viewpoint on the couch a safe distance away from the stuff, it’s a pretty fun ride. Beyond Wolf’s time in the ‘80s and developed fondness for the drug, the entire decision-making process behind the show’s arc is a crack dream. That being said, both these shows are pure, good ol’ fashioned, wholesome ‘80s white powder. They’re not genuinely fucking with any of “the cracks,” as the cast of BLACK MONDAY refer to it. One of the greatest masterances of FUTURE MAN is how it often feels like the ending for a scene was chosen based on what would be the funniest, craziest punchline, the biggest-payoff pun or joke; not only do they go with whatever was devised, but they fold the decision into the fabric of the world, and commit to it wholly in terms of narrative and plot furtherance. So if possum sperm is the funniest thing to derive the cure for herpes from, you better believe the “milking lab” for said possums comes up throughout the season. The humor and cocaine-driven decisions are woven into the world building—and what a beautiful, fucked up tapestry it is.

Black Monday scream

I wish someone would look at me this way

It only takes the first 10 minutes of Showtime’s comedic imagining of the ‘87 Wall Street crash, BLACK MONDAY, to realize this show is literally on cocaine. Hell, you might be on cocaine. BLACK MONDAY moves like it did two lines as the vintage Showtime title card plays. The pacing and energy behind the beginning of the pilot, while literally dusted in the fine powder, feels like it as well. Five minutes and 44 seconds in, Cheadle does his first bump, and the pilot becomes unhinged. It’s already been moving a mile a minute, but this is where it kicks. up. Chairs are thrown at walls, a Nor’Easter of coke blankets the trading floor, an unknown figure plummets from a building onto a red Lamborghini limousine (AKA a lambo limo, AKA a limbo). This show is booking it. Despite it taking a second viewing to realize exactly how much is packed into each shot and every scene, it manages to not be overwhelming, but rather exhilarating. There is not a wasted second. Every inch of this Aquanet-thick show is meat, and there’s no fat on it. Even when it feels like they go out of their way to make a joke, it ends up holding some weight or meaning later. And while cocaine itself is a hearty throughline for all the characters, the pacing and stylistic choices make this show feel like a drug rush.

Black Monday kick

I always enter a room the way God intended. Crotch first

The pivot for Rogen and Goldberg from stoner comedies to coke-fueled television not only suits them, but is bringing something unique to the table in our current era and state of TV. Streaming and premium or subscription-based platforms have been dominating, especially in the field of creating interesting and innovative content. Though even with those platforms it’s hard to have your scream heard above the din. Watching FUTURE MAN or BLACK MONDAY, you hear it loud and clear. Rogen and Goldberg are utilizing the medium and creative freedom afforded by the platforms well. Both shows successfully break their molds, but more so break our expectations of the medium. You want a time-traveling comedy? Here’s a cascading parody that goes beyond making fun of future-bending media and instead parodies the very way we perceive and expect to receive media of innovative form. You want Wall Street in the ‘80s? We’ll grab it by the balls, drench it in drugs, and flop a dick down on its shoulder. You want prestige TV in general? We’ll sprinkle it in coke and throw some penises in it and you’ve got yourself a show. What you think you might be getting can at any second be revealed to be something entirely different.

The two aren’t slowing down any time soon. Rogen and Goldberg have another season of PREACHER on AMC, as well as upcoming serialized content with THE BOYS and a remake of PLEBS. THE BOYS, set in a world inhabited by superheroes, follows the CIA operatives tasked with keeping tabs on the heroes, whose celebrity has gone to their heads. Based on the recent trailer, it could follow the similar, albeit more dramatized, manic edge that flows through their other recent projects. PLEBS, based on the UK comedy set in ancient Rome, could lend itself to this formula as well.

Black Monday Cheadle

See what I mean?

But what is it about this that works? Why does this formula plain old fucking rock? Sure these shows are bending our expectations and maintaining the pace of a coke-fueled binge, but is that enough to make it good? They provide something that even some of the most genuine and witty comedies sometimes lack: they’re a hell of a lot of fun. The pacing inherent in these shows lends itself to actually landing jokes. Rather than just delivering a host of witty quips, they nail the timing. More importantly, they doesn’t take themselves overly seriously in a world where that’s next to rare. Even when covering “serious content,” both FUTURE MAN and BLACK MONDAY are not afraid to deliver (and land) actual jokes and laugh at themselves. While FUTURE MAN often rides a little closer to the side of farce and parody, BLACK MONDAY tends to hold its own in a realm of wit while balancing laughs and the more somber moments. Where do we go from here, though? From weed to coke, what would a  heroin or meth comedy look like? The severity and progression of the drug of choice doesn’t matter, it’s whatever pairs best with the current state of media and television. If things slow down, perhaps we return to the stoner realm, or perhaps they make a lateral move and start popping pills like the bored suburban housewives and the cast of Jersey Shore. The evolution of the drugs has less to do with the drugs, and more the current climate of content.

I’m not out here suggesting we should all be subbing cigarette breaks for bumps in the bathroom, but content channeling the energy and inspired by this spirit is well-worth the digital hangover you’ll probably never get. The manic exuberance and hilarious craft behind Point Grey’s serialized choices give life to exciting and fun new television, praise not often lauded in the era of Netflix’s constant content influx. FUTURE MAN and BLACK MONDAY are on cocaine so you don’t have to be, both willing to jump from zero to 100, and then back down to 40 as fast as it takes Maurice to kick open a door, or Tiger to kill a rat. Both will laugh at themselves, do a rail, flip you off, and then pass the butt-straw or rolled up hundo to share the hit.

Tapley Eaton
Aspiring wannabe writer of all things literary, but can’t seem to figure out how to put together your basic music review. Every once in a while remembers how much she loves the movie A KNIGHT’S TALE and believes Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch should make their comeback. Dreams in cheese and the X-FILES and there’s really not all that much more going on for her.

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