One person’s opinion: Netflix, let us inside your boardroom
Tech companies were all the rage for a while.
Facebook (now Meta) was created by Harvard roommates of Mark Zuckerberg, Niklas Zennström, and Janus Friis in the same decade when Eminem dominated the airways and Bluetooth emerged as the greatest invention since sliced bread.
Silicon Valley as we know it today was formed in the noughties, and the select crop of firms that still inhabit that sacred piece of land in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to control digital (and by extension, popular) culture to this day.
It’s only natural, therefore, that film and television studios would want to take fans behind the scenes of these technology success stories – but more especially, those of their enterprising (and sometimes interesting) CEOs.
The Social Network is possibly the best example of a tech tale-turned-Shakespearean play. Although David Fincher’s 2010 biographical movie records the inexorable ascent of Facebook in riveting detail, it’s far more interested in the moral fall from grace of its creator, Mark Zuckerberg – and television in 2022 is tapping into the same joyful schadenfreude.
A trio of takedowns
You’d be excused for believing that every streaming service save Netflix has a disgraced CEO in their sights this year.
As an example, Showtime Anytime’s library just included the seven-part drama Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, which chronicles the collapse of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Kalanick was fired from the firm in a boardroom coup after charges of harassment and bullying in 2017.
The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried as notorious Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, was recently convicted of cheating investors with her company’s fake medical devices in the early 2000s.
Then there’s WeCrashed on Apple TV Plus, an eight-episode skewering of property rental business WeWork and its CEO, Adam Neumann, whose success came undone when proof of his hard-partying lifestyle (paid by the company’s cash) came to light.
In all three shows, the hubris of once-impressive young people has outpaced their ability to innovate, a theme that makes for equally riveting entertainment. Netflix would be wise to capitalise on this trend while it’s still hot by producing similar shows.
Of course, it must be acknowledged that Netflix is doing just well without a spate of corporate drama series in its original content armoury. Even in 2022, with series like Stranger Things, The Umbrella Academy, and Sex Education still being among the most popular on television, the platform remains our top option for the greatest streaming service available.
But the entertainment market is a constantly moving beast, and the surprise success of HBO Max episodes such Euphoria and Succession reveals a resurgent taste for mature (dare we say old school?) TV drama in recent years.
Succession, in particular, is a fascinating situation. WeCrashed, The Dropout, and The Battle for Uber may all be considered part of the black-and-white genre of biographical drama because of the dramatised portrayal of the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
If it doesn’t – and Bryan Cranston’s Logan Roy is definitely not a carbon copy of Rupert Murdoch – the excitement Succession produces among younger viewers with every new season shows people like peering inside the glittering but competitive world of big business. After all, who doesn’t like seeing corporate greed triumph against the vile wealth of the rich?
Showtime’s Billions, too, plays off the same mentality, and although Netflix has dipped its toes in the boardroom bust-up water previously with Suits and House of Cards, it hasn’t commissioned a Succession-like corporate drama — biographical or not – for some time.
A step towards human drama
The good news, for Netflix viewers, is that the streamer seems to have predicted the trend highlighted by the aforementioned Apple, Disney and Showtime series (though we think a $13.6 billion spending budget must unavoidably purchase some degree of foresight).
We just released a list of seven Netflix shows to watch out for over the next 12 months, and there’s at least a handful other office-based dramas on the way. The Diplomat will have Americans actress Keri Russell balancing politics and marriage while working in international affairs, while The Night Agent will feature a White House FBI agent dragged into a plot involving (dong ding!) a young tech CEO.
While neither project has the accompanying star power of Jared Leto or Amanda Seyfried, they still hint to a fresh concentration on reality for a streamer that has recently been busy with (albeit successful) fantasy regions..
In 2023, may we expect a ten-episode Netflix series to demolish TikTok? The verdict is out on that front, but the previous few years have demonstrated that reality is frequently weirder than fiction when it comes to fantastic sources of entertainment.