Peloton responded to exercise bike users on Monday after Billions, another popular television series, had one of their characters suffer from a heart attack while riding a Peloton bike.
In the Season 6 premiere episode Sunday night, Mike “Wags” Wagner (David Costabile), goes into minor cardiac arrest on a Peloton bike, joking later that, “I’m not going out like Mr. Big.” HBO’s Sex and the City reboot series And Just Like That… had previously killed off Chis Noth’s Mr. Big in the same manner last month, tanking stock prices.
“We get why these fictional TV shows would want to include a brand that people love to talk about, but Showtime’s use of Peloton’s Bike+ and reference to a Peloton Instructor was not a brand, product, or instructor placement, and we did not agree for our brand and IP to be used on this show or provide any equipment,” Peloton responded in a statement on Twitter. “As referenced by the show itself, there are strong benefits of cardio-vascular exercise to help people lead long, happy lives.”
Bad publicity has marred the exercise company ever since their initial pandemic boom, with character deaths in And Just Like That… and similar jokes in Billions making situations even worse. Within the past two months, Peloton problems included issuing a hiring freeze, angering employees with an exclusive CEO Christmas party during strict Covid-19 protocols, and undergoing investigation by the Department of Justice for failing to respond to dangerous defects in their treadmills.
The home exercise company also attempted to combat bad press after Mr. Big’s death by putting actor Chris Noth in one of their commercials, only to remove it a couple days later when Noth was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.
According to Billions co-creator Brian Koppelman, the heart attack scene was also pure coincidence.
“That was all in the show, written a year ago and shot in April,” he told USA Today, adding that everyone’s phones were blowing up with text messages after the And Just Like That… premiere had a similar scene.
“All we did different was add one line” to reference Mr. Big, Koppelman said. According to Peloton, however, the joke was made at their expense, and without their permission.
“It would be completely out of our character not to take a swing,” executive producer Beth Schacter added. “It’s too good. We’re going to make the joke.”
Billions recently parted ways with series lead Damian Lewis, who played the central villain, Bobby Axelrod. Leaving the show in the Season 5 finale, he told reporters that he wanted to spend more time with family after his wife, actress Helen McCrory, died following a battle with cancer.
Corey Stoll’s Mike Prince has since taken over as the next adversary for Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, as the showrunners attempt to explore how billionaires have changed in the real world since starting the series over six years ago.
“We’ve noticed that now, many bring a spirit of ‘changing the world for the better,’ trying to celebrate their wealth and power in a way that’s good for everyone. That’s their claim,” Koppelman stated. “We’re prosecuting the show on the question: Is that a legitimate claim, or just another wrapping paper for the same narcissistic, nihilistic billionaire?”
Meanwhile, Peloton CEO John Foley denied reports that they had ceased production entirely amid diminishing demand, and that the company would be “moving forward with the appropriate legal action” against the alleged “leaker.”
According to a report by CNBC, the company halted all production of its treadmills for the next six weeks and ceased production for its bikes until mid-2022.
“I know there is a lot of noise and anxiety in our environment right now, which is why I wanted to take this moment to provide some additional context for you all as we navigate the next few weeks together,” Foley said. The CEO admitted to “resetting our production levels,” as well as what appeared to be significant layoffs described as the “need to evaluate our organization structure and size of our team.”