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The Dropout, Super Pumped and WeCrashed are creating a "Startup Prestige TV Show Bubble"

  • With Hulu's The Dropout, Showtime's Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber and Apple TV+'s WeCrashed premiering within weeks of each other, "we seem to be in a bubble of prestige TV shows all about startups. Like the tech startup bubble itself, it feels as if it might burst," says Marina Fang. "On paper, it makes sense why seemingly every big investigative story, podcast or book about an infamous tech company from the last few years gets snatched up for TV rights. The dramatic elements are right there. There’s a spectacular rise and fall and a provocative and abrasive leader as the protagonist. The story is often a snapshot of a particular cultural moment and a microcosm of larger, more insidious problems. And yes, there’s something captivating and maybe a bit seductive about these cautionary tales, even when the abuses and misdeeds of these companies and their founders are readily apparent. Get some big stars, veteran TV creators, and a premium cable network or streaming service on board and — boom — turn it into a limited series." Fang adds: "These prestige TV retellings are starting to feel formulaic too, despite all of their money and creative talent. The Dropout, based on a thorough ABC News podcast and starring a mesmerizing Amanda Seyfried as (Elizabeth) Holmes, might be the best of the bunch. But it’s hard to say. It’s unfortunate they’re all coming out around the same time. Watching each show individually, it might have been easier to discern what specifically makes them work or not. But watching them simultaneously, they quickly become interchangeable and blur together into an endless loop of prestige TV. With their proliferation also comes an emptiness: Thematically, they’re not adding anything we didn’t already know about these companies, these founders, their abuses of power and the culture that enabled them."


    • The Dropout, Super Pumped and WeCrashed aren't actually dismantling the cult of the tech founder: "By elevating these stories in the way they do, they might be falling into the same trap they intend to warn against," says Rani Molla. "These founders have already been given too much cash and attention. Putting them at the center of TV shows, even if they’re critical, risks reading like a hagiography rather than a cautionary tale." Molla adds: These new shows make a concerted effort to tell of the collateral damage these companies have caused. We see the Uber driver whose car was repossessed, the cancer patients who didn’t realize the blood tests they were getting from Theranos weren’t real, the women at Uber and WeWork who suffered sexual harassment at the hands of lionized boy wonders. But, in all these shows, these nods feel a little weak. While we’re more aware of the other characters, they are not center stage. This isn’t primarily the story of an Uber driver or a cancer patient or a female tech worker. It’s still a story of tech founders, and we’re still, largely, in thrall to them. The cult of the founder has been complicated, but it has not been undone." 
    • How the actors on The Dropout compare to their real-life counterparts

    TOPICS: The Dropout, Apple TV+, Hulu, Showtime, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, WeCrashed, Adam Neumann, Elizabeth Holmes, Travis Kalanick, Prestige TV, Theranos, Uber, WeWork