“Geeks are definitely the new rock stars,” reads the caption for the trailer for Bravo’s new reality show, Startup: Silicon Valley. For the moment, I was actually excited. Finally, I thought, a show that lets people see just how hip and interesting engineering really can be. That delusion lasted for all of a millisecond, until I clicked on the video. Geeks might be the new rock stars, but the cast members for the show take pains to make it clear that the g-word does not apply to them. They’re a collection of pretty, self-absorbed, and shall we say extroverted people who take great pains to point that they really are smart and yet strive to make sure everyone’s aware of their innate coolness and how they really don’t have anything to do with those engineering types. Their idea of tech appears to be websites for fashion or kicking habits, or smartphone apps. The show reportedly has the better part of the Silicon Valley population up in arms—or roaring with laughter—and it’s easy to understand why.
“There’s people who work in tech that aren’t like 'nerdy’ tech people,” says one cast member.
“Tech is so much more than just engineering,” said another, dismissively, while a third points out that bloggers—and not just engineers—play key role in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
Um, yeah, sure.
Now granted, this is coming from the network that developed the “Real Housewives…” franchise, which is designed to allow viewers to feel superior to various groups of pretty, self-absorbed, extroverted women (are we seeing a trend here?). It’s also a network whose list of “top 14 tech moments” almost entirely involves said self-absorbed women and their ill-typed tweets and unwisely sent cell phone images. It’s important to remember that Startup is probably to make viewers ridicule the cast members, but still...
Engineers deserve more respect.
Before the trailer video ended, I was already mentally working through the logistics of developing an engineering reality show along the lines of Top Chef. Call it Top Engineer. Forget about people sitting in pitch meetings. Top Engineer would feature a cast of actual engineers using their creativity to solve problems. Every episode would have a new challenge: Design a remote-control lawnmower with the controls integrated into a hammock. Develop a bicycle that runs off cold fusion. Build a particle accelerator using only the items in your top desk drawer.
I was very excited about the concept, already planning my career in show biz. Then I did web search and to my surprise and delight discovered that great minds think alike—a show called Top Engineer is already in the works. It’s being put together by Pilgrim Studios, the production company who brought you American Chopper and Ghost Hunters (also, The Real Exorcist and Bounty Girls: Miami, but the less said about that, the better). The casting page calls for innovators who can design, build, test, and integrate systems from scratch to meet high-pressure (actually, I believe they used the word visceral) challenges. According to the studio, the show has been cast and is already in production. So maybe, just maybe next year we’ll be able to watch visceral challenges met by a group of engineers using pretty, self-absorbed, extroverted Arduino boards.
Sounds like must see TV to me.
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