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Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of Showtime's Black Monday. Be sure to catch up.
Showtime's Black Monday is one of the most hyper-kinetic shows on TV, with part of its inherent verve coming from pulse-rattling world of1980s finances. The other part, obviously, comes from the allotments of cocaine coursing through many characters' bodies. The most recent episode, "339," took its powdered drug use to unexpected places by having Don Cheadle's Maurice Monroe snort a line right off one of Nintendo's NES light guns. And guess what? Nintendo was perfectly fine with it!
During this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour, CinemaBlend had the pleasure of speaking with Black Monday creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahan. When I asked about what kinds of rights and permissions issues came up with Nintendo, Caspe shocked me by saying
Weirdly, we were allowed to use the Nintendo game console but we couldn't use the [games]. Don't quote me because I'm not sure – I mean, you can quote me saying, 'I'm not sure,' – but we weren't allowed to use the video game, Duck Hunt, but we were allowed to use the Nintendo console, for whatever reason. I don't know why. Games are owned by different companies than Nintendo itself or something, and so we couldn't get the actual games. I don't know.
That explanation does make sense for why Black Monday was able to show off the actual NES system and the light gun accessory throughout the episode, but was not able to show off any of the graphics for any games being played. Nintendo likely didn't need to get any further permissions from other entities in order to permit the company's first system to show up on a TV show.
However, while the characters were playing the NES staple Duck Hunt during the episode's first scene, Black Monday couldn't actually show any of the graphics from the game. (It seems like they couldn't even say the name of the game.) Thus, viewers only got to hear Yassir talking about the graphics how he has to kill ducks now, as well as Keith referring to the game's duck targets as "quackers." They certainly weren't talking about Metroid or Battletoads.
Other than the limitations over game use, though, Nintendo was apparently welcoming to Black Monday's ideas for how the gaming system and gun accessory would be used. Here's how Jordan Cahan put it during our chat.
But I mean, it's insane. They let us dump cocaine, in the first shot, they let us dump cocaine on the light gun. I was just like, 'What are people thinking that they're letting [this happen]?' It's funny, because we wrote it, and normally, writers want to write the craziest thing and let legal fuck us basically. But like we wrote it and every writer was like, 'Well, you won't be able to do that. So what are the other alternatives?' And then we just kept pushing and pushing. It's the same thing as naming Ken's Larry and Lenny Lehman; those characters obviously didn't exist. There were no Lehman brothers actually. There were obviously no twins with possibly incestuous relationship. So none of that exists. Not In the eighties, none of that existed, but the fact that we were able to skirt some things, and get around some things, and be able to do that...
As Jordan Cahan put it, the show's creative team isn't ever hesitant to take Black Monday's script ideas to the next level in terms of weirdness and lofty goals. That's perhaps evidenced best by Ken Marino's portrayals of Larry and Lenny Lehman, the twins whose relationship probably goes to more perverse places than those where brotherly love usually travels. But fictional people are a lot easier to mess with than real-life tech entertainment giants, so it makes sense why most were pessimistic about bringing this scene to life.
Considering Nintendo is a company that aims much of its marketing and products at younger consumers, it's surprising that its execs would choose to allow its imagery on Black Monday in the most general sense, much less for that exact scene. But then again, back in 1987, video games were being marketed towards adults, so maybe that played into the decision here.
All that said, I can see why anyone and everyone would want to be a part of Paul Scheer's magnificently brutal fall down the stairs outside his illicit lover's home. That was comedy gold, the same color as the NES cartridge for The Legend of Zelda.
Even though the episode was fully shot, edited and set for air during TCA, David Caspe joked that he still couldn't believe Black Monday didn't end up required to use a fake parody-sounding version of the video game giant. In his words:
I'm still shocked that it didn't end up being like a Nin-tern-do. Pass me the Nin-tern-do! Let's play Bird Predators.
Though we probably shouldn't expect to see stars Regina Hall or Andrew Rannells smoking weed using two Sega Genesis controllers as roach clips, we can expect to see Black Monday airing every Sunday night on Showtime at 10:00 p.m. ET. While counting down the days until the stock market goes kerblooey, be sure to keep current with everything the midseason TV schedule has to offer.