From a business perspective, their transition from a crusty, non-descript cable channel to the cultural phenomenon we know today was an act of reinvention worthy of a Harvard Business School case study.
They quickly identified a target viewer, got ahead of the curve by winning over the LGBT audience, and created a general programming formula that was equal parts cost-efficient, addictive, entertaining, and fantastical.
I’ve never watched a full episode of “Real Housewives,” but I’ve seen how hopelessly addicted my girlfriends and their friends have been for each flavor of the series (New Jersey, Orange County, Miami, etc). And these viewers have good jobs and Ivy League degrees. So something is working.
And I’ve enjoyed some of their shows myself — “Million Dollar Listing,” for example. It’s great drama and well shot. Do I believe that the negotiations they film on the show are the actual negotiations for the homes? Of course not. Do I believe that two out of three realtors in LA are gay? No, I don’t believe that either. Do I believe that everyone in LA owns a Ferrari and flies on private jets? Some do, but most do not.
But I’m a junky for insanely nice homes, and Bravo knows how to bring that to life. And I’m no more ashamed of guilty pleasure shows than I am proud of the more high-brow stuff that I do. Like writing for “the site of record for Silicon Valley.”
And in that context, “Startups: Silicon Valley” is a perfectly fine Bravo show. It follows the formula and programming model to a “t”, and the characters they have selected are more or less in line with everything else that they do. Yes, they have a “token gay guy,” because that is their audience. Yes, the three women on the show are attractive and more image-conscious than anybody I know who works in a startup.
I like watching the guests — who are actual, successful people from Silicon Valley — stare awkwardly at the set and mumble away from the microphone, thus necessitating English-on-English subtitles.
Whatever, that’s how Bravo makes a Bravo show.
If people want me to point out the inaccuracies of the program, I could literally fill 10 pages of text with them. But I’m not going to do that, because we all know what those morbid inaccuracies are. And a realtor in Los Angeles, or an actual top chef, or a New York hedge fund manager’s wife could also point out a thousand things wrong with the shows that touch their world.
I don’t think that those of us in San Francisco or Mountain View need to act as though our territory is any more or less deserving of the Bravo touch. Hell, if it encourages all of us to put on an ironed dress shirt once in a while, then so be it.
As for all the “real people” who produce or appear on the show — like Randi Zuckerberg — let’s not give them a hard time. It’s clear that she has almost no creative impact on the program, given that it looks the same as every other Bravo show. And even if they regret doing it, I give full props to the VCs who bit their lip and made an appearance on the program. That’s how TV works. They turn you into whatever they want, and you just have to laugh alongside the crowd.
I experienced this myself on a smaller scale, when I went on Jesse Draper’s “The Valley Girl Show,” and every single one of my employees gave me shit about it for six weeks.
Oh well, I knew what I was getting into. And so did the VCs who appeared on Bravo.
I don’t agree at all with the other PandoDaily writers who think that the show is dangerous or somehow undermines the rest of us. I know what it takes to build a great company. Sarah Lacy knows what it takes to build a great company. Hermione Way has no idea how to build a great company, and so she will not be the head of a thriving business in this town or any other.
Washington DC politicians know how to laugh at themselves. Laura Bush once did a standup comedy routine. I see nothing wrong with a dose of humor, fantasy, or sensationalism in how our lives are telegraphed to the rest of the world.
I just don’t care if some housewife in Birmingham, Alabama thinks that San Francisco parties are teeming with half-naked, smoking hot youngsters who take Jagermeister shots while spewing out non sequiturs about Steve Jobs.
Evidently, the show is getting bad ratings, so it probably won’t be here long. It can go swimming with Valleywag in the TechCrunch Deadpool. And 10 years from now, when Silicon Valley is still Silicon Valley, we can all laugh about “that Bravo show that tried to make us look cool.”
I like laughing. It makes it easier to work hard.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]