Wednesday, May 07, 2014

I Have Watched the Entire First Season of "Betas"

And you know what? It's pretty good. I'll admit it: I even teared up a little during the finale. Sure, the payoff was a cheap shot at Zuckerberg (and shamelessly rode the long coattail of The Social Network), but setting it up and turning it around in just two episodes? That's some tight scripting.

The first three episodes are free to stream on Amazon (entire season available to Prime members). One and two are a bit shaky, but the snappy dialogue carried it for me. And honestly, if you're not sold by the time Avinash says "Aunties were involved" in episode three, I can't help you, man:

Also? It's fun to pretend that Ed Begley, Jr.'s "Murch" character is actually Henry Starling from VOY "Future's End." And hope that Sarah Silverman will show up at some point. Hey, a kid can dream.

Of coure, it's not perfect. My second biggest complaint is the aggressively indie theme song. My biggest gripe is the casual sexism that pervades the series.

To wit: I know comedy must always tread the Very Afterschool Special line carefully, but devoting an entire episode to "Crazy Misogynist Guy" becoming a meme and not actually addressing the issue is either irresponsible or head-in-the-sand myopic.

The most interesting and well-developed female character on "Betas" was written out after just four episodes, reducing the number of regular/recurring female characters by a full third. Kelen Coleman's guest shot as another startup CEO was a welcome change, but all too brief. And I would love to see another Mikki-centric episode that is actually about her job—you know, the premise of the series—and not her family issues.

(Aside: actress Margo Harshman made the most of a limited role, and I would love love love to see a spin-off about Lisa's adventures in Seattle. MAKE IT HAPPEN, AMAZON.)

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out HBO's "Silicon Valley." I know Wired slobbered all over Mike Judge's geek cred, and some of the satire is spot-on (we'll leave aside the crass racism for now), but it's just not very... funny. And there is only one substantial female character on the show, who is just now—in episode five—starting to demonstrate any agency. Not cool.

I was a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. I worked at a startup where fully half the employees were women, and the company could not have survived without them. I don't want more shows where women don't matter, because that's not real life. And that's not the world I want to live in.


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