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‘Black Monday’ corners the market on ’80s excess

“Black Monday” (10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime), the new comedy that claims to finally have the answers behind Wall Street’s biggest crash, wears its 1980s trappings like a badge.

A badge it no doubt would attach to one of its power suits, skorts or bedazzled denim jackets.

“Technology? We’re on the cutting edge,” a Morgan Stanley trader brags. “From mobile phones as small as toasters to computers as big as barns.”

The financial services company is name-checked, often, as is Lehman Brothers in the form of dorky identical twins Lenny and Larry Lehman (Ken Marino, “Wet Hot American Summer”).

“Black Monday,” though, is the story of The Jammer Group, Wall Street’s No. 11 trading firm, and its leader, Maurice Monroe (Don Cheadle), whom the Wall Street Journal once dubbed “the Billy Ocean of trading.”

Whether that’s high praise or a devastating slam is left to your interpretation.

While the end result is sillier — in the best way possible — “Black Monday” isn’t that far removed from Cheadle’s previous Showtime comedy, “House of Lies.” Like that show’s Marty Kaan, Maurice is a wealthy, cutthroat, deal-chasing force of nature. He easily could have been Marty’s weird, coke-loving uncle.

Maurice waxes poetic about nose candy. His favorite things in life are money, cocaine and using his money to snort his cocaine. He invites his robot butler, which he named Kyle, to do a bump. One of the walls of The Jammer Group is even home to a large portrait of him Hoovering up the stuff.

There’s more to “Mo the Marauder,” though, than Bolivian marching powder. He saw “Top Gun” three times — on its opening night. He takes special joy in hazing delightfully uptight recent Wharton grad Blair Pfaff (Andrew Rannells, “Girls”). And he adores his stretch Lamborghini, precisely because it’s ridiculous. “Oh, so you get none of the speed of a Lamborghini and none of the comfort of a limousine?” Blair snarks. “Yeah,” Maurice fires back, “but it costs twice as much as both.”

“Black Monday’s” comedy bona fides include Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, his writing and directing partner, as executive producers. They’re also behind the camera of Sunday’s premiere. Like many of their projects, this one is not for the squeamish or the prudish of heart.

The most promising sign for its long-term hilarity, though, is the presence of David Caspe, who created “Black Monday” with writer Jordan Cahan.

Caspe’s the mad genius behind the gone-too-soon ABC comedy “Happy Endings,” quite possibly the most laugh-till-you-hurt network series of the past decade. It’s one of only two comedies — after NBC’s “The Office” — that I can remember going back and picking up after being turned off by the pilot episode. It’s also the only series of any kind that I can say for certain that I’ve watched straight through twice.

All three seasons of “Happy Endings” are streaming on Hulu. It’s too early to tell if “Black Monday” will scale those comedic heights, but it is off to a stronger start.

And “Happy Endings” certainly never had anything as classy as that Lamborghini limousine. Aka The Limbo.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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