start-ups silicon valley

The Silicon Valley Troll-Mobile Is Low on Gas


So, episode two of Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, the high-horsepower Bravo trolling machine that is torturing the poor, self-serious tech world, aired last night. Let’s talk about it.

I’m worried about this show. I’m worried because, although I think the show performs a public service by serving up Silicon Valley stereotypes for general-audience digestion and mockery, I don’t know if it has the juice to attain its full potential.

Here is a reasonably complete list of things that happened in the show last night:

  • Hermione Way, whose start-up with her brother Ben is failing to attract the interest of venture capitalists, literally stamps her feet and yells, “It really sucks! I’m so angry!”
  • A bout of Steve Jobs–inspired “primal screaming.”
  • A personal training session at which cast’s flamboyant gay member says flamboyant gay things.
  • Cast member Sarah continues her quest to set world records in both vocal fry and upspeak. (“I have a daaaaate?”)
  • Flagrant overuse of the word “lifecasting.” Also, the entire concept of lifecasting.
  • Cast member Dwight retells story of a drunken night (“Her friend gave me an entire cup of whiskey. I thought it was a mixed drink. It was straight bourbon. I drank the entire thing before I realized”) and reaches galactic apotheosis of COOL STORY BRO.
  • A pool party.
  • An existential crisis from Kim.
  • Some kind of bizarre, sad networking event hosted by Sarah.
  • A girl-fight solved via the gift of a conciliatory tiara.
  • Another unsuccessful pitch from Hermione and Ben, during which they are forced to confess to a VC that the domain name they’ve acquired for their startup is, not the much more reasonable
  • An awkward date between Sarah and Dreamy Geek Man (pictured above)

As I said, I want to like this show. I want it to break all viewership records for Bravo, and for its cast members to become megawatt Hollywood stars. I want this both because I think some of them seem genuinely likeable and, as I wrote last week, because I think Silicon Valley would benefit from having its ego punctured once a week at 10/9 Central.

But I worry, because, as the list above details, there’s nothing in the show so far that has made it a must-watch. The pilot episode attracted only 634,000 viewers, well short of what a show that has been as thoroughly dissected as SU:SV should have gotten.

Some of the trouble is the subject matter — it’s hard to scintillate with a show about an industry whose practitioners stare at their monitors all day. But the bigger problem is that the show’s cast members are far too normal to make great, transporting TV.

This is somewhat counterintuitive, if you’ve been listening to the whines of Silicon Valley, as I have, since news of this show hit last spring. In the tech world’s opinion, the characters are too outlandish to represent the real, hard-working, humble entrepreneurs of the tech world. But in two episodes, the exact opposite has proven true. The cast members have mostly revealed themselves to be smart, driven, and a shade too self-aware. Sure, most of them don’t code, and a few border on pathological narcissism. But even the supposed ditzes, Hermione and Sarah, are shown plying their trades in a way that, if not always successful or well-advised, is at least representative of actual effort.

Maybe what SU:SV needs is one good moment — an outlandish viral clip that would spark interest in the show. After all, the first time Jersey Shore really took off was when Snooki got punched by that North Queens gym teacher.

But in the absence of Dwight lighting a homeless person on fire or something (note to Dwight: Don’t do this), perhaps the best thing for all involved is for this show to run out its course, fail to get renewed, and for the cast members to go back to their workaday tech jobs. They’re too good for reality TV, and they should be glad that Randi Zuckerberg is already looking East for the next big thing.