As we all know about today’s economic environment, starting a new company comes with a lot of risk and, with rare exceptions, distant or mixed rewards. In many ways, launching a new TV series in the Peak TV Era faces a lot of the same problems and possibilities. When it comes to StartUp, the Crackle original series that debuts September 6, the drama is not a venture I recommend you invest in.
With the plot revolving around the creation of a digital currency system that could benefit those often ignored by the banks and Miami’s melting pot as a character in itself, the 10-episode first season of the Ben Ketai-created series has serious potential but just never really plugs into to anything of depth. Having seen the path taken by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and placing a smart bet on original series like The Art Of More, Crackle is well into the content game, but StartUp is not a strong play for the Sony Pictures-owned entity.
Part of the weakness is that it checks off a lot of narrative and aesthetic boxes we’ve seen many times before. So StartUp has the gritty tropes of corruption in high places, rough sex, a soiled American Dream and strange bedfellows (figuratively and literally), but even those dots don’t always connect. It also has a prolonged homage to the work of Michael Mann but, as I say in my video review above, distinctly lacks the Heat director’s skills.
As jaded FBI agent Phil Task, Sherlock and Hobbit star Martin Freeman seems as exhausted as the tangled narrative will render viewers. Yes, he’s out for a big payout and more than willing to cross the line to grab it. Also looking for their big shot are a trio of characters who are nowhere nearly as unlikely as StartUp portrays them and all intended to represent a bigger notion simultaneously, which never really works. There’s Adam Brody as would-be do-gooder banker Nick Talman, trying to make his own way and wash away his family past; Otmara Marrero as Stanford tech genius and first-generation American Izzy Morales, trying to change the world and her Cuban parents’ lives; and Blacklist alum Edi Gathegi as a Little Haiti gang lieutenant looking to move on up and make serious coin. Gathegi is by far the best thing about StartUp, but even he can’t rise above the often-flattening gravitational pull of the scripts and the series’ style.
Check out my video review of StartUp above. Will you be plugging in when the entire first season launches September 6?