Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, the Bravo reality TV show that has Silicon Valley horrified, has arrived and it's not an accurate representation of the tech start-up world, says Silicon Valley. We're not sure that will matter for Bravo viewers. The program doesn't have its official network debut until tonight. But, some have already gotten a sneak peak and the reactions from within the tech world are extreme, which isn't too surprising considering their visceral response to the idea of a start-up scene based reality show. The most polarized of those reviews comes from Bloomberg Businessweek's Sam Grobart who calls it "a sham of a show." "It’s not just that these people are terrible—terrible can be watchable," he writes. "But this crew is like a six-pack of nonalcoholic beer: It’s lousy and doesn’t even get you drunk." And many agree with the "sham" part of his take. "What you expect is manufactured camaraderie and conflict, tears, cleavage and product placement, and when 'Start-Ups' begins on Monday night that’s what you’ll get," writes The New York Times's Mike Hale.
Much of the criticism (and fear) coming out of Silicon Valley was that Bravo wouldn't get the start-up world. And even though producer Randi Zuckerberg claimed to capture the "real authentic Silicon Valley," it sounds like the show delivered on that, at least as far as tech writers and Scribd CEO Trip Adler are concerned. "They get the culture wrong," Adler told Wired's Ryan Tate. The first episode of the show features an unrealistic, over-the-top toga party scene, for example. "I didn’t have time to go to a lot of toga parties," Adler adds. "We would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning. There wasn’t much time for fun in those days, in 2006, 2007." There is also far too much drama and not enough coding, apparently, " Oh, and Ben had a thing with Sarah once, and Kim likes Dwight, and—oh, who cares?" (Considering the amount of drama like that on other Bravo reality TV shows, we suspect Bravo watchers do indeed care.)
Beyond having too much fun, these critics took issue with the all white cast. "Bravo: There are some nonwhite people in Silicon Valley, too," notes Grobart, echoing a point made by The San Francisco Chronicle's Caleb Garling and The Times's Hale. And the start-up part of the show fails to deliver, too. During a pitch scene, brother sister duo Hermione and Ben Way talk up their product, a fitness app, to venture capitalist Dave McClure. The problem: There is no actual app. Hale explains what sounds like a painful scene: "It begins badly when Mr. McClure finds Hermione, post-party, sleeping under a conference table, and doesn’t improve when he learns there is no product to look at, just a few screen shots on a laptop."
But, it's not all negativity. A part showing coders in a cramped Mountain View apartment came off as real to Adler. And, a good sign for Bravo: in general he found the show hilarious, as you can see below. If a guy who we suspect doesn't watch much Bravo finds the show amusing, think about what that means for loyal Bravo-ists. Entertainment, not reality, is what regular Bravo watchers want in their reality shows. We don't think the lack of coding, too much fun, or melodrama, will turn these people off.