Showtime’sShowtime’s Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber is just one of the many dramatizations of major Silicon Valley downfalls that have made headlines in recent years. But unlike Hulu’s adaptation of The Dropout or Apple’s forthcoming WeWork series, which both focus on the creators of services that have largely fallen out of the public’s favor, Super Pumped revolves around a product many people watching the series still use despite the high-profile scandals associated with it.
Adapted from Mike Isaac’s 2019 book of the same name, Super Pumped details former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meteoric rise to fame and eventual ousting from the company in 2017 amid rising concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace, deceiving drivers about wages, user privacy violations, and a cavalcade of other problems. Though these and other pieces of Uber’s history have already been unpacked through multiple years’ worth of reporting, Super Pumped presents them all as fresh puzzle pieces that fit together to form a picture depicting Kalanick as an embodiment of everything that can make unicorn founders as successful as they are reviled.
Super Pumped Season 1 Episode 1
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Super Pumped Season 1 Episode 1 The Battle for Uber
Super Pumped The Battle For Uber Season 1 Episode 1
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A cross between "The Social Network" and "Billions," "Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber" hails from the producers of the latter, drawing extra zest from all the tech CEOs represented in this fun, fact-based tale of greed, high-stakes corporate chess and frat-boy excess. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kyle Chandler anchoring the cast, it's well worth hopping aboard.
Gordon-Levitt is all kinetic energy and relentless salesmanship as Travis Kalanick, the Uber chief who bills himself as "a disrupter" and has a casual relationship with the truth, so much so that his stories frequently cut from the version he's telling to more accurate depictions of what actually happened.
Early in this Showtime limited series, Kalanick pitches venture capitalist Bill Gurley (Chandler) to invest in the fledgling company, insisting the sky's the limit on Uber's potential, and that in terms of its "stickiness," "If someone rides twice, we have them for life."
Still, that's not all that's sticky about this sort of enterprise, from Kalanick's determination to crush his competitors to recruiting the kind of hard-charging executives who make for human-resources nightmares, a toll exacted on the company's few female employees. It's an environment where the question "Is this legal?" is met by sly grins and laughter all around.
Based on Mike Isaac's bestselling book, Kalanick is depicted as being equally ruthless and self-absorbed in his personal interactions. He also finds an unlikely ally in the media-savvy Ariana Huffington (Uma Thurman, nailing the accent), who helps him navigate the murky waters dealing with the likes of Google and Apple. That includes a meeting with the latter's Tim Cook (Hank Azaria), who is put off by Kalanick's "rapacious need to win."
Showtime, moreover, has already ordered a second season devoted to the founding of Facebook -- which is also the subject of a limited series being developed at rival HBO -- making that aforementioned "Social Network" comparison even more apt, sustaining the franchise in theory by dissecting a different case study each season.