Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber might just be the most unnecessary based on a true story limited series/anthology since that whole Feud series that looked into the the lives of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in their latter years. And by unnecessary, I mean it brings nothing fresh to the table.
With the first episode airing on Showtime this past Sunday, you get no sense of why Uber, originally called UberCab, was even invented. Why the fuck did Travis Kalanick (played here by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) think people using ride-shares was a good idea for San Francisco? It might be addressed in the upcoming episodes, but so far, all you have is Travis, or TK as he’s called, just pumping his fists in the are and say “fuck this” and “fuck that” about the status quo and bureaucracy. His first question he asks anyone looking for work is “Are you an asshole?”
Of course, within the first five minutes, you get the sense this is The Wolf of Wall Street without the Martin Scorsese touch. I didn’t care for that movie but the over the top indulgence Scorsese and his second generation Bobby DeNiro Leonardo DiCaprio brought to the role. Wall Street and the actual Wall Street was full of scumbags who would steal their grandparents retirement annuities to snort cocaine off the breasts of a prostitute and then act like it was necessary for the the job.
So far, all I’ve seen is the typical Silicon Valley tropes shown time and time again. There’s the guy with the Jewfro. There’s the guy who wears gingham shirts over T-shirts. There’s the guy who is the suit. There’s the woman with the I-got-a-set-of-brass-cojones attitude.
Nothing of this is new. And watching the first episode, I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t be interested. Except for the fact that it portrays TK and his company fighting the Man or in this case the San Francisco MTA whose head bureaucrat worm is Randall Pearson (Richard Schiff) who wants to shut them down because they are a detriment to the taxicab service of which they get a percentage.
With help from venture capitalist Bill Gurley (Kyle Chandler who was also in Wall Street), whose motto is “Grow or Die,” they get the ball rolling to fight City Hall.
And that’s it.
No, seriously. That’s the first episode.
Ok, so you don’t show the shark in the first act of Jaws but at least give the audience something. Showtime didn’t even bother to air the first three episodes which other networks and streaming services have done. This series just gives us Gordon-Levitt giving a pep talk speech every few minutes or just criticizing his staff for not working as hard as they should.
Every now and again he talks to his mother, Bonnie (Elisabeth Shue who is surprisingly old enough to play Gordon-Levitt’s mother) to get a word of encouragement so we don’t know that he’s a monster like Mark Zuckerberg or Wolf’s Jordan Belfort.
Considering TK is no longer CEO of Uber and there was a lot of headline news for him beginning in 2017, the series might actually have just juice to it in upcoming episodes. But right now, I can’t think of any reason to continue watching instead of curiosity on how they’ll handle what we know is on the road ahead.
What do you think? Please comment.