With leading men of the calibre of Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, and a supporting cast that boasts the likes of Malin Akerman and Maggie Siff, Billions was one of the most hotly anticipated new shows to debut on US television this year.
And it didn't disappoint. The story follows a cat and mouse game between two of New York's most powerful men - hedge fund king, Bobby Axelrod (Lewis) and U.S. District Attorney, Chuck Rhodes (Giamatti). Billions isn't your straightforward case of good guy chasing bad guy though. Chuck Rhodes maybe fighting on the side of the angels but it's ego, ambition and to an extent jealousy, that really drives him in his quest to bring Axe down.
Axelrod on the other hand, clearly engages in less than honourable business practices. But he's a devoted family man, cares deeply about his employees and gives back to the community where he can.
The show really is must watch television and has captivated anyone that's tuned into it through Sky Box Sets.
Want to know more about what makes the show so great? Here's five things you probably didn't know about it.
1. It was co-created by financial guru Andrew Ross Sorkin
Billions has an excellent pedigree when it comes its creators. Showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien are the co-writing team behind hit movies such as Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen and Runaway Jury. The real icing on the cake though is having financial guru Andrew Ross Sorkin on board. No he's not related to Aaron Sorkin, but he has his own knack for language that allows him to excel. His novel, Too Big to Fail, being case and point. The book documented the 2008 financial crisis and the collapse of the Lehman Brothers. By having him involved, the show has a level of authenticity that other series of a similar subject matter are lacking.
2. It has a whole host of high profile guest directors
As impressive as the show's writers are, they're eclipsed by the directing talent they recruited. James Foley, best known for directing Glengarry Glen Ross, which of course is the bible of movies about the financial world, directs two episodes. Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless) and Neil Labute (The Shape of Things, Death at a Funeral) are just two other highlights in a list that includes Stephen Gyllenhaal (yes, Jake and Maggie's dad) and Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer's Body).
The list of directors for season 2 is almost as impressive with Alex Gibney (Going Clear, The Armstrong Lie), Steph Green (Run and Jump) and John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) all signed on to helm episodes.
3. It was the highest rated premiere Showtime have ever had
The opening episode of Billions is the highest rated premiere that TV network, Showtime have ever had. No mean feat coming from the home of Ray Donovan, Masters of Sex, Penny Dreadful and Homeland.
They achieved this through cunning marketing and a broad social media strategy. It also proves how big a draw Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis are for audiences. The reaction to the first two episodes was so positive that Showtime renewed the show for a second season before the third episode had even aired.
4. The show may have had some real life inspiration
While the creators have told The Wall Street Journal that there are “no direct correspondence between Wall Street and their cable TV depictions,” some publications have pointed to the similarities between the show's story and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s pursuit of criminal charges against hedge-fund mogul Steve Cohen in real life.
One of the most successful hedge fund managers ever, Cohen may have shut down his SAC Capital hedge fund after it pleaded guilty to insider charges, but he continues to successfully trade his own money.
5. Paul Giamatti had a surprising reaction to filming some of the risque sex scenes
One of the more interesting subplots in the show is the S & M sex life of Chuck and his wife Wendy. The opening scene of the series sees Chuck in a submissive position, tied up on the floor or his bedroom. One would expect Giamatti to feel a little uncomfortable filming those scenes with a whole film crew looking on but in fact he was so comfortable he dosed off in between takes.
He told Stephen Colbert, “I had a warm washing feeling go over me and I just dropped off. They had to keep waking me up between takes! They were like, ‘Hey, buddy! Hey, hey, hey! We’re gonna shoot, buddy!’ It was crazy. It was the weirdest reaction, I didn’t expect that.”
You can catch the first season of Billions on Sky Box Sets now.