Which isn't to say that the actual Silicon Valley isn't a nightmare full of graspers and hucksters and all manner of people you wouldn't want to meet at a party. It most certainly is. But it is at least, hopefully, a smarter and more competent place than the kids on this show make it out to be. (Certain real-life parties excepted, of course.) Because boyyy howdy do these particular folks make routine fools of themselves in just the first episode. They treat the industry like a splashy/trashy frat party, which is never the vibe I've gotten from Silicon Valley. (Remember: It's nerds. Nerds with money, yes, but nerds nonetheless.) In last night's big houseparty set piece, you got the distinct impression that it was a mansion full of wannabes, all these not-bright-enough post-college kids pretending for the cameras, thinking they're people, when the people they're pretending to be would never actually be caught dead doing any of the things they were doing. It's a pastiche or approximation of the Bay Area tech industry that's discordantly off, and thus striking to behold.
Like any good Hindenburg of a reality series, Start-Ups is chock-full of colorful characters. There's David, the swishy gay developer/programmer/whatever who recently lost a bunch of weight and has since had lots of "work done," including a nose job and a hair transplant. The most he accomplishes in the first episode is getting a particularly gnarly looking spray tan. There's Sarah Austin, a YouTuber who claims to have invented "life-casting," which is not really something that anyone should want to take credit for. Best of all, though, are Hermione and Ben Way, British siblings with a strange Parent Trap-esque backstory — separated by divorce, reunited years later in Thailand — who have teamed up to become movers and shakers in the dog with a blog-eat-dog with a blog world of San Francisco tech.
I hope you'll forgive me for insinuating such an untoward thing, but there's something, uh, a little off about Ben and Hermione's relationship. Y'know, like how Hermione wears a sheer top with no bra while cleaning in front of her brother. That kind of off. Maybe it's because they weren't really raised as brother and sister, but they're a little close, is what I'm saying. Of course that subject will likely not be broached at all on the show, it's one of society's last taboos (and for good reason), but the latent and unsettling hint of it adds interesting and shiver-inducing spice to the mix. In a bigger and more obvious sense, Hermione and Ben both boast that wonderful combination of ambition and cluelessness that fuels any good reality star. They really want to act like they have swagger while mingling at parties or pitching useless apps to venture capitalists, but they've no idea how to actually do that. Plus they seem scattered and overextended — Ben says they have 43 active businesses — which, in Bravoworld, really means they don't want to focus or work too hard on anything; they'd rather the success and fortune and, most of all, the societal respect simply be handed over to them. They are made of the same stuff as Bravo's greatest characters, hubristic strivers with crippling lazy streaks all swaddled in anxious arrogance. They will likely be wonderful to watch. Oh, and right, Sarah has some sort of romance thing with Ben, which Hermione clearly disapproves of, that should make for uncomfortable television somewhere later in the season.