“Industry” is essentially a mashup of earlier TV shows and movies, but in the most enjoyable of ways. Focusing on young candidates at a major London financial firm, the formula weds “Billions” to “The Paper Chase,” with an appealing cast caught up in a Darwinian struggle for (professional) survival.
“People are our capital,” the new arrivals are told as part of their orientation at Pierpoint & Co., along with warnings that “Half of you won’t be here in six months,” and if the objective is to stick around, “Just make yourselves indispensable.”
Yet as is traditionally true in the world of high finance – and especially dramatic presentations of it – the perks and trappings associated with success must be won by enduring what amounts to fraternity hazing, just in finer attire. They’re told it’s a meritocracy, but the inequities in power with those situated on higher rungs of the corporate ladder linger, despite this seemingly more enlightened age.
The new graduates, meanwhile, do what anyone would under these pressure-packed circumstances – namely, drink and carouse and use sex (this being HBO, starkly depicted) as a form of aggressive stress relief. Of course, the danger of coercion also rears its head when those situations involve superiors or clients, and even the peer-to-peer encounters come with an element of risk.
The premiere, directed by “Girls’” Lena Dunham, nicely sets the tone of this series, which was created by Mickey Down and Konrad Kay. The producers have also done an exceptional job in casting the new faces – which include Myha’la Herrold as Harper, an American hiding some secrets, and Marisa Abela as Yasmin, who struggles to earn respect from her male superiors, while beginning a coy flirtation with fellow rookie Robert (Harry Lawtey). Ken Leung, as Harper’s mentor, and Sarah Parish as a demanding client are among the more familiar co-stars.
“Industry” doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but the series captures how the entrenched practices of an enterprise like Pierpoint – and its win-at-all-costs culture – aren’t easily eradicated by diverse talent pools and human-resources departments. The show also depicts the toll that exacts, starting with Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan), who sees working around the clock as the only way to keep pace.
While “Industry” doesn’t posse the artillery of many high-profile premium dramas, it shines primarily based on sharp execution. In that sense, like its hungry characters, it’s the sort of overachiever that appears to have a bright future.
“Industry” premieres Nov. 9 at 10 p.m. on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.