March 3, 2021
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As a techie I make it a point to watch Television shows about techies, and there are so far and few between that I sometimes have to use alternative methods to find these sleeper hits.

The last great drama about technology was Halt and Catch Fire and it premiered on AMC in 2014. It’s more realistic portrayal about startups in the 1980s left me wanting something a little closer to the modern era, but I still list it as one of my top favorite Television shows of all time.

Enter Startup streaming service Crackle’s claim to fame, where newcomer Edi Gathegi and the crazy Martin Freeman shine in this soapy drama about emerging technology and what it takes to get noticed in the cut throat world of startups. Sure there is high stakes drama, the sex is pointless, and Martin Freeman plays the same role he played in Fargo, but the Miami backdrop and diverse cast makes it stand out from all the noise.

Where startup fails is it’s messy message to the audience. If it wanted to appeal to us techies it wouldn’t have several episodes where there were no computers in sight or without showing a single line of code! If it wanted to appeal to people working at startups it wouldn’t have cast such good looking relatively thin people. If it wanted to tell a great story about how startups can help bring together a diverse group of people that change the world, it wouldn’t have put those same people into such dire circumstances. If it wanted to show how making a startup is a gamble, it certainly over exaggerated the stakes, but then doesn’t every good drama?

That’s when I figured it out. Startup isn’t a tech show, it’s a drama about tech! One can argue that Halt and Catch Fire falls under the same category but at least they try harder to make things more optimistic. In startup everything is dirty the Billionaire with the money, one guy’s father has connections to the mob, even the FBI Agent (Freeman) is dirty. At the end of season one, the people who started their company end up exactly where they started thanks to a bunch of backstabbing and throughout the last episode the message appears to be don’t you dare try to start a startup, you don’t know what you’re getting into, and if by some miracle you do get funding everyone will try to take it from you and so you’re better off where you started in the first place, with what you know best. So don’t even try. Right?

The best parts of Startup just so happen to be those dire circumstances that the characters find themselves in each episode. Edi Gathegi’s Ronald is a gangster in little Haiti trying to get his gang under control, Adam Brody’s Nick is a high finance hipster who takes the gamble, and Otmara Marrero’s Izzy is a latino coder trying to get noticed and change the world with her software. Martin Freeman’s Phil Rask, plays a dirty FBI Agent in Financial Crimes with a questionable path in money laundering who ends up killing his own partner. Even Wayne Knight (Seinfeld’s Newman) pops up as a Billy Blush a surprise Angel Investor early on in the series. Despite a shaky start which might have thrown off some critics, the story wraps up nicely even if they weren’t going to get a second season and on top of it all, the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard on a streaming network. Edi Gathegi deserves an Emmy for his performance in Startup!

John J. Falco