Saturday, May 18, 2024

TV: Prescient “Billions” Returns with A Visit to Sparks Steak House and Talk of ’85 Gambino Hit Same Week as New Gambino Mob Murder


I don’t know how Brian Koppelman and David Levien could have known there’d be a major mob the week their show “Billions” returned to Showtime.

But somehow they must have picked up a vibe. Or they knew the guy that killed Frank Cali this past week in Staten Island. Cali ran the Gambino crime family. And the last major hit on the leader of the Gambino’s was at Sparks Steak House on East 45th St. back in 1985.

On tonight’s opener, star Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Michael Rispoli as Richie Sansome actually go to Sparks to cut a deal. (They’re surveilled by the US Attorney.) And then they go outside and re-enact the hit (without guns), ending the episode lying in the wells of the front seat of their car with the doors open.

WTF? Crazy! Until this week, no one has mentioned Sparks in eons. But that’s where Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino family, was killed before he managed to get his steak.

Weird! I doubt Koppelman and Levien could have guessed when they were writing the new season of “Billions” that Cali would get offed or that NY press would be reminiscing about Sparks from 34 years ago.

The rest of the opening episode was just as cool, with all kinds of great music references, and trips to power dining venues like Michael’s,  the former Four Seasons, EAT, and Barney Greengrass. We also cameos from Jerry O’Connell, Donny Deutsch and the blissful news that Samantha Mathis has joined the cast. Plus Asia Kate Dillon looked hot in a long brunette wig.

But the Sparks thing– this show rocks! Maybe Showtime can get them some Emmy nominations this year.

PS Where is Malin Ackerman?

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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