Just when you thought Peloton’s week couldn’t get any worse, the unthinkable occurred: Another character on a popular TV show got a heart attack while riding one of its bikes. The Peloton heart attack appears to be Hollywood’s new favourite plot point, much to the exasperation and detriment of the bike manufacturer.
Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for season six of Billions.
This time, the victim was Billions character Mike Wagner, known more commonly as “Wags,” who is played by actor David Costabile. In the first episode of the show’s sixth season, Wags is in the middle of a Peloton class at home when two EMTs suddenly burst through his door and declare he’s having a heart attack. Wags is unaware of this fact and initially believes the emergency crew are strippers.
This changes in short succession when the character begins to have jaw pain and trouble breathing, and he gradually realises that he is indeed having a heart attack. The episode will premiere on Showtime Sunday evening but was released ahead of time by the network for free on various platforms, including YouTube.
Wags’ Peloton heart attack is the second one to hit the screens in recent weeks. The first character we saw get a heart attack on a Peloton was Mr. Big in And Just Like That, the Sex and the City sequel series, which premiered in early December. Mr. Big’s demise via Peloton was deemed “the worst Peloton ad ever,” and shares of the company dropped after the episode premiered.
Billions’ season six premiere couldn’t come at a worse moment for Peloton, which is taking serious corrective measures in light of declining demand for its exercise equipment, such as “right-sizing” production. It is also reportedly considering laying off employees and has brought in management consulting firm McKinsey to help it cut costs.
This in mind, you could almost hear the exasperation in Peloton’s response to the episode. A company spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email on Sunday that it had not agreed for its brand to be used on Billions and did not provide the bike in the episode.
“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,” the Peloton spokesperson said. “As referenced by the show itself, there are strong benefits of cardio-vascular exercise to help people lead long, happy lives.”
Gizmodo reached out to Showtime on Sunday for comment on Peloton’s response to its bike being blamed for another fictional heart attack but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We’ll update this article if someone gets back to us.
Hollywood swears that there’s no concerted effort to tie Peloton’s bikes to heart attacks and that the two back-to-back scenes, which are different, in the shows are a coincidence.
As reported by the New York Times, Showtime claims that it wrote the Peloton scene for Billions last year months before Mr. Big met his end. The show’s executive producers told the outlet in a statement that a reference to And Just Like That made in the episode was overdubbed recently in postproduction.
“We added the line because it was what Wags would say,” the executive producers said.
They did not respond to a question from the Times about whether Peloton knew about the mention of its bike on the show before it aired.
While Wags’ heart attack is the last thing Peloton needs right now, it can be relieved that this time a character didn’t die on one of its bikes. In fact, Wags appears to make a triumphant return to the office, where his colleagues announce, “It’s alive!”
“It’s a small heart attack,” Wags says in the episode. “Mild as Babybel cheese. Stents are in. I’m not going out like Mr. Big.”