What makes “Industry” the most exciting show on TV?

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For years, HBO has treated power struggles as delightful entertainment, wringing gasps and jitters from fantasy kingdoms, crime clans, and ambition-torn media families. Now, the prestige television alpha is suffering its own drama. Last week, news broke that Warner Bros. Discovery is reportedly downsizing and rethinking HBO Max’s programming strategy as it plans to merge that service with Discovery+. An investor presentation claimed that the two streaming platforms are “unique and complementary” because, among other things, HBO Max is the “Home of the ‘Fandoms'”, while Discovery+, an ecosystem teeming with reality shows and of nature documentaries, is the “home of the ‘genredoms’.

The shake-up seems to affect HBO Max original content the most, which is largely separate from the roster of critically darling shows that HBO is most famous for. But the presentation nonetheless played into one of the key myths surrounding the tag prestigious television: the idea that high-quality shows transcend genre boundaries. In fact, in many cases they are a genre – a fact that HBO’s emerging masterpiece Industry embrace with glorious effect.

An Anglo-American series on young financial analysts in London, Industry oozes with cinematic confidence and killer acting, offering a dark take on world banking (as well as the chaos of being in your early 20s). But watching it, one can’t help but be reminded of many other well-made, innovative shows about smart people who talk fast and cheat. The series is, in fact, much the same sleight of hand as efficient television – and the most addictive pursuits in human life, whether gaming or stock trading – always succeed. It’s about how we disguise, in order to indulge, the primal dopamine hunt.

The first season of Industry arrived in the fall of 2020, an appropriately anxious time for a deeply anxious series. Created by former investment bankers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, the series follows a cohort of recent college graduates working for fictional financial giant Pierpoint & Co. Members of the class have six months to prove their worth to the company before that half of them are fired. . This ticking time-bomb premise locks viewers and characters into an accelerated carousel of schemes, schmoozing, intimidation, and betrayal, punctuated by happy hours that escalate into cocaine blowing and weird encounters. During the second season, some of the one-time interns became full-time employees. They jostle for paydays, job security and, with more difficulty, scraps of existential contentment in a legendarily soulless profession.

Around this humming plot engine, IndustryThe hull aesthetic shines. Whether it’s the production design (cluttered offices encased in glass-walled skyscrapers) or Nathan Micay’s haunting soundtrack (percolating beeps and bloops set to fast beats), the show conveys a sort of smooth density, reminiscent of the avalanche of information from a teleprinter. The headiest ingredient is the dialogue: a thick, pungent cloud of jargon and slang. “Remember this is not an IPO – there will be no month-long road show to drum up interest, no batting an eyelash,” a deadpan character said in the episode. sensational last week. “We have less than 24 hours to build the book and goodbye the full position at the gate.

All this specificity is, in a way, generic. Speaking on the Macro hive conversations podcast in 2020, Down said HBO executives like shows that portray “confident subcultures,” which are “essentially worlds that people think they understand, but they don’t.” Once you hear this term, confident subcultureyou will see it everywhere on prestige TV: Successionthe media class of , Easttown Mare‘s Pennsylvania burg, big little liesof the haughty, hippie coastal community. The illegibility of the chatter in these shows is part of the fun: the viewer comes to feel the thrill of initiation, an intellectual “aha” as they discover a strange part of our world.

The spectacle of realism also allows Industry get away with the kind of unreality that so much TV relies on – artifice, coincidence and plot holes, all working in the service of juicy twists. In Season 2, nervous and gifted analyst Harper Stern (played by Myha’la Herrold) begins to land deals that benefit Pierpoint but undermine his badass mentor, Eric (Ken Leung). This subplot was fascinating to watch. The speed and detail with which it unfolded made it easy to forget that Harper’s advantage stemmed, in large part, from luck in the right place at the right time: bumping into an investor at a hotel, hearing a talk on a train.

Indeed, the show’s illusion is that it seems to care about the way things are – the words and methods that move the money – when in reality the main appeal is in What arrived. Who is standing? Who’s down there? And after? These are the core concerns of TV shows often dismissed as genre fare, like police procedurals and reality competitions. Shows such as Industry just in the foreground of cinematic musings, social commentary, and background digressions that are all, in some way, also forms of action fulfilling expectation. The themes are laid out with ritualistic panache, as when a shrewd billionaire in a bathrobe talks about Thomas Hobbes. The sex scenes reveal the character but also, by their length and liveliness, seek to titillate. Head-turning jokes largely exist for comedy. (I’m glad I rewound to decode another character’s heavily accented diss: “Cryptos stinks of virginity and builds his own bombshell, but Kenny is more fluid than he cares to admit.”)

Keeping the viewer’s limbic system engaged is, to be clear, a noble thing when your story demands hours of attention, especially in an age of ubiquitous distraction. Talk to The watch podcast, Down marveled at how Mad Menthis prestige TV classic, told simple stories “in a pretty luscious way” – which is exactly what Industry try to do. But comparisons with the “golden age” of television, which flourished more than a decade ago, also reveal the evolution of the medium. You better call Saul, a faithful spin-off of the time, treated the small screen like a painter’s canvas, to be filled in at leisure. Its incremental storytelling has made wonderful payoffs, but it also seems, to be generous, anachronistic. Industry exemplifies a new generation of shows that, like the stars of the track, maintain excellence while setting a higher pace each year.

Life, after all, can often feel like a racing loop. IndustryObsessive workers strive for money, but in reality they seek something more fleeting: the validation of temporary gains. The show renders their visceral hunger for viewers while conveying the emptiness of an existence built on headhunting. The viewer can take the opportunity to reflect on their own Sisyphus activities, or they can simply distract themselves with what’s on screen – either works. With each episode, the story deepens, the characters grow, and Kay and Down expand their probing lens on the global economy. Still Industry– and ideally any decision-maker, corporate or creative, trying to advance this art form – is never under any illusions that higher aspirations can be achieved if lower ones are not addressed. “Remember,” the philosophy-reading billionaire says at one point, “it’s all just a cycle of winning and losing.”

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