Early in my Silicon Valley residence, I went to see an awful, just awful play at the San Jose Repertory Theatre called “CTRL + ALT + DEL” that was supposed to be about the dot com mania and the venture world. It was a ballsy thing to produce in the center of Silicon Valley. Mostly because it was totally ungrounded in reality.
Every detail you could imagine was off. Entrepreneurs in residents at venture firms were depicted like brutalized interns, instead of people with pretty cushy gigs, paid just to find a new thing to do. The “VC” dressed head to toe in all black and talked in a Southern drawl, just like… you know, no one on Sand Hill road. They referred to entrepreneurs as “entreps”– something I’ve never heard in the wild. The only thing I can remember being sort of spot on was a funny bit about creating a whole made-up founder’s myth to feed to press.
These details are all from memory, mind you. And the only reason I remember this much is because at the time I was so annoyed. It just seemed lazy. “Why didn’t you just spend time with some VCs and entrepenreurs before writing this? You live here! How hard could that be?” Not to mention this was one of the most dramatic periods of modern business history. You wouldn’t have to fictionalize much to make it entertaining.
Dear God, how my views have changed since then. Poor “CTRL + ALT +DEL” is still awful, as entertainment goes, but at least it did two things: It didn’t put real entrepreneurs’ names on its bullshit story (ala “The Social Network” and no doubt the coming Steve Jobs biopic also penned by Aaron Sorkin), and it tried to depict people who actually build companies (unlike Bravo’s “Startups: Silicon Valley”).
It’s with this backdrop that I find myself oddly relieved that HBO’s new show on Silicon Valley is scripted fiction. And by that I mean, it’s scripted fiction that is actually calling itself fiction, not fiction masquerading as reality. Oh. Thank. Jesus. If you’re gonna bastardize this ecosystem, at least own up to the bastardization.
In case you haven’t seen the news, HBO has green-lit a new show on Silicon Valley. This is a little surprising given how awful “Startups: Silicon Valley” has done. According to BravoRatings.com, even a better time slot hasn’t helped the show that the Valley and pretty much anyone 18-49 years old simply has no time for. Sadly, LolWork hasn’t done much better and was just moved to a less glamorous time slot. HBO is clearly assuming fiction will play better than presumed reality.
Don’t get me wrong: It’ll be awful as a representation of the Valley. Just awful. I will likely cringe watching it. But at least it doesn’t do actual harm. And were I not too close to the subject matter, it would actually sound pretty good.
I mean, it’s written by Mike Judge. Who didn’t love “Beavis and Butt-head” and “Office Space”? And few things are better when you can’t sleep than the soothing tones of Hank Hill’s Texas drawl. It’s actually a funny premise: Depicting a world where the people who are the most likely to succeed are the least likely to be able to emotionally handle it.
But let’s not presume for a single second there will be an ounce of authenticity or reality in here. While years ago, it would have incensed me for bastardizing something that a lot of people take seriously, let’s take the closest thing to a win the Valley can get in mainstream entertainment. At least it’s not trying to be real, and it’s not misrepresenting actual people.