For a while, the world couldn’t get enough of tech startups.
In the same decade that Eminem ruled the airwaves and Bluetooth emerged as the best thing since sliced bread, Facebook (now meta) was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates, Niklas Zennstrom launched Skype with his longtime partner Janus Friis, and Netflix doubled down on video rental stores forever.
Silicon Valley as we know it today was born in the noughties, and the exclusive group of companies still based on this sacred piece of land in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to dictate the digital (and therefore popular) Culture.
It’s only natural, then, that film and television studios would want to take audiences behind the scenes of these technological success stories—but particularly behind those of their enterprising (and often fascinating) CEOs.
The social network is perhaps the best example of a tech story-turned-Shakespearean drama. Though David Fincher’s 2010 biographical film documents Facebook’s indomitable rise in riveting detail, he’s even more interested in the moral decline of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg — and television in 2022 is tapping into that same gleeful gloating.
A trio of takedowns
You’d be forgiven for thinking that every streaming service but Netflix is targeting a disgraced CEO this year.
For example, Showtime Anytime recently added Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber to its library; a seven-part drama depicting the death of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Kalanick was forced out of the company in a boardroom coup following allegations of harassment and bullying in 2017.
DisneyPlus and Hello have The Dropout, in which Amanda Seyfried plays disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who was recently convicted of defrauding investors through her company’s counterfeit medical devices in the early noughties.
Then there is We crashed is AppleTVPlusan eight-episode skewer of real estate rental startup WeWork and its CEO Adam Neumann, whose success was dashed when evidence of his hard-edged lifestyle (funded by the company’s penny) came to light.
All three series scrutinize once-impressive youth whose arrogance outstripped their innovation, a like-minded premise that makes for equally compelling television, and Netflix would do well to capitalize on the trend while the iron is hot.
Great Success (Ion)
Of course, it must be noted that Netflix does well without a number of corporate drama series in its original content chamber. The platform continues to be our top choice for the best streaming service in 2022 with shows like stranger things, The Umbrella Academy and sex education still one of the most popular televisions ever.
But the entertainment industry is an ever-changing beast, and the surprising success of HBO Max shows incl euphoria and success hints at a renewed appetite for mature (can we say old school?) TV dramas in recent years.
Success in particular is an interesting case. It can be argued that it sits alongside WeCrashed, The Dropout and The Battle for Uber in the black and white genre of biographical drama as it is a fictionalized version of the Murdoch media empire.
But even if that’s not the case – and admittedly, Brian Cox’s Logan Roy is certainly no copy of Rupert Murdoch – the excitement Succession inspires among millennial viewers with each new season suggests that audiences are eager to get into the glamorous but cutthroat world of big business. After all, who doesn’t like it when corporate greed triumphs over unsympathetic rich people?
Also Showtime’s Billions plays with the same psychology and Netflix Has It’s dipped its toe in the boardroom with “Suits” and “House of Cards,” but it hasn’t commissioned a Succession-like business drama — biographical or not — in some time.
A step towards human drama
The good news for Netflix fans is that the streamer appears to have preempted the trend highlighted by the aforementioned Apple, Disney, and Showtime shows (although we assume there will be a $13.6 billion spending budget must inevitably buy a degree of foresight).
We recently published a list Seven Netflix series to watch out for over the next 12 months, and there’s at least a couple of office-based dramas on the way. The Diplomat will find American star Keri Russell juggling politics and marriage while working in international relations, and The Night Agent follows a White House FBI agent involved in a conspiracy to (ding ding!) A young technology CEO is involved.
Currently, neither project has the associated star power of a Jared Leto or Amanda Seyfried, but they nonetheless suggest a renewed focus on realism for a streamer that’s dabbled in (admittedly profitable) fantasy lands in recent years.
Could we see a ten episode takedown of TikTok on Netflix in 2023? The jury is on that front, but in recent years have proved that reality is often stranger than fiction when it comes to good sources of entertainment.