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"Pirates of Silicon Valley"

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Martyn Burke, who wrote the screenplay for Pirates of Silicon Valley (Sunday, June 20; 8 to 10 p.m.; TNT), claims two sources for every incident we see on the screen. So one supposes this includes the scene of a young Bill Gates on a wild-oats midnight Nibelungen ride on a very yellow bulldozer. That the founder of Microsoft, before he grew up to be the richest man in the known universe by crushing competition wherever he happened to see it, should have hot-rodded in his geeky youth on a bulldozer is just too perfectly emblematic to believe for a second. On the other hand, as played so anal-retentively by Anthony Michael Hall in this snarky send-up of the digitheads, Gates is very romantic about the woman he will marry -- whereas, as played so manic-depressively by Noah Wyle, Apple's Steve Jobs won't even acknowledge that the baby born to Arlene (Gema Zamprogna) is his, much less pay her a measly $20,000. And Jobs, of course, is the lordly charismatic nerd, peering into the circuitry in his garage and seeing "a completely new consciousness," babbling in leftover sixties guruspeak about "overthrowing the dead culture." Whereas Gates was always in it for the money; that's the way he scored. If Bill plays poker, Steve drops acid. Neither of them -- before Jobs stole the mouse and the menu from Xerox and Gates stole the whole idea of Windows from overtrusting Mac; before they became imperial, with Jobs behaving like Caligula and Gates actually becoming Augustus -- bargained on becoming as famous as rock stars.

You will find yourself identifying with Joey Slotnick as the other Steve, Wozniak, who abandoned Jobs and the programmed madness to teach schoolchildren. You will probably conclude that Microsoft is what revenge looks like to the kid who was never cool enough. You may wonder how such elegant machines ever emerged from such a wormy Apple. You may even want to swear off Websites and cyberspace altogether, now that Microsoft has itself invested more than $100 million in Apple and Jobs is back in charge, returned from the wilderness of NeXT as blue in the face as an IMAX, and the entire online, downlinked, jacked-off world looks to be wearing lawyers and beanies like the Big Brothers at IBM. But Pirates is a hoot.


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