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What's The Best TV Show About Working in Tech? ( 197

An anonymous reader writes: Recently Gizmodo hailed "the best show ever made about Silicon Valley", asking its readers one question: why didn't you watch it? They're talking about AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, which their Senior Reviews Editor says "discovered the fascinating, frustrating human side to the soulless monsters who built Silicon Valley." Unfortunately, "nobody watched it. The show never cracked a million live viewers after the pilot episode. It sat firmly on the bubble every season, getting greenlit only by the grace of AMC."

Today Netflix is making that show's fourth (and final) season available -- but is it the best show about working in tech? What about Mr. Robot, Silicon Valley, or The IT Crowd -- or that short-lived X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen?

Has there ever been a good show about geeks -- besides those various PBS documentaries? Leave your own answers in the comments.

What's the best TV show about working in tech?
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What's The Best TV Show About Working in Tech?

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  • Dilbert (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 17, 2017 @04:56PM (#55757125)

    They made a short-lived cartoon series. Dilbert is the most accurate depiction of tech life, ever.

  • The IT Crowd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 17, 2017 @04:57PM (#55757133)

    It's funny because it's true.

    • Re:The IT Crowd (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:08PM (#55757225)

      Another vote for IT Crowd.

      They covered a lot of things us nerds have to deal with, such as bad operating systems [], people who don't know how to use technology [] or even people who have no idea what the Internet [] really is.

      I wish they made all of this up, but you can be sure that each of these situation happened at least once, somewhere.

    • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
      "The IT Crowd" is a great depiction of typical "desktop support" staff (and their supervisors and colleages) in typical non-IT companies.

      But it is not at all about technology startups, neither the "true" ones founded upon excitement over a new technology, nor the "false" ones that are just money-drains for gullible investors.

      Actually, a TV show on such "false" startups is actually missing (not counting the one SouthPark episode "Go Fund Yourself").
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I think it is very best parody of the stereotypes we think of as tech. Alphas is another one.

      The fact is that there is no good show. They are all stereotypes. Every tech worker is a stereotype on any show I have seen.

    • by rklrkl ( 554527 )

      The IT Crowd was good in its first few seasons when it actually did stuff about, you know, IT. Later seasons were nowhere near as funny as the IT angle almost completely disappeared. By the time they brought it back for the one-off finale, I managed one smile throughout the entire last ever episode (and you've guessed it, it wasn't an IT-related laugh either).

      For consistency, it has to be Silicon Valley, which still has hilarious moments in every episode, even after 4 seasons.

    • I about choked on my coffee the other day when one of our IT guys was called to fix someone's computer in the middle of a meeting. He said, without the slightest trace of humor or irony, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Which, of course, fixed it.
    • When my colleague and I have problems and ask the other if they're having the same problem, if we don't, we reply, "have you tried turning it off and on again?" Solves a nontrivial amount of problems. Dish Network has been using that for decades.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @04:58PM (#55757135)

    HCF was just OK, I can see why it didn't pick up a lot of viewers. It was more about the emergence of tech and what that meant to more traditional companies, but the thing was it just was not that gripping for whatever reason. I don't know by what metric you could possibly claim is was a great show. I only made it through most of season one before I grew too bored and stopped watching.

    I've not yet seen Mr Robot but I have seen all of Silicon Valley so far, and THAT is by far the best show about working in tech. If you are not in the valley the crazy stuff around startup culture is not AS pertinent, but the personalities of coders are honestly not too outlandish compared to the real thing. As everyone on Slashdot probably already knows, the whole spaces vs tabs thing is all too real where a causal viewer would probably think that part was absurd... also just sheer arbitrariness of developing any software for a large company is well portrayed.

    • by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:02PM (#55757171) Journal

      HCF went from an interesting show about the emergency of tech to a generic soap opera that had nothing to do with tech beyond "these dull characters work in the tech field".

      • The show is praised by many people. Perhaps you should give it another watch.

        • by Scutter ( 18425 )

          I made it two episodes into season four before I went "I don't know why I'm still watching this. It's not coming back to how interesting it was in season 1."

          • by Blymie ( 231220 )

            ROTFL -- I made it to the end of episode 1.. maybe you're just a tad more optimistic then I ("It'll get better!").

            I suspect that the low ratings, gave 'power' to the suits who immediately tried to add all forms of conflict. Sexual, general interpersonal, marital.

            The first season was good. The second was... palatable. But, down it spiraled. I barely made it through season #3.

            Shame, really.

            FYI -- Mr Robot is nothing like Silicon Valley or HCF. Give the first episode a spin.

        • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

          The show is praised by many people. Perhaps you should give it another watch.

          I enjoyed the first season, and think the show deserved all the praise it received at the time. But then every season after that was downhill. The final season sits on my DVR unwatched.

          For the details the show got right, it just wasn't entertaining. I'm reminded of a Shirley Jackson quote: "[an] accurate account of an incident is not [a] story."

      • that was my feeling. Girl was cute, though.
    • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:11PM (#55757255)

      Mr Robot is about working in tech the same way that Die Hard is about working in law enforcement.

    • We all know that people who use spaces instead of tabs are just a bunch of tnetennba's anyway.

    • HCF was just OK, I can see why it didn't pick up a lot of viewers. It was more about the emergence of tech and what that meant to more traditional companies

      Translation: It was about the Gen-Xers that created tech, but Millennials aren't interested in anything that happened before 2010 when they started working.

    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @07:25PM (#55757873)

      Actually I think Halt and Catch Fire's problem as you describe was exactly the reason it was the most accurate portrayal - it's blandness was a recognition of reality. I actually watched all 4 series for what it's worth, it was watchable, and it did a good job of compacting the rise of the modern computing industry, but if you're looking to be on the edge of your seat then that show isn't it. Whilst the real world industry isn't devoid of the sort of humour you see in Silicon Valley and the IT Crowd, it certainly isn't like that every minute of every day - that's what the Half and Catch Fire captured, the reality of the day to day, the complex egos, the fact that for every billionaire Bill Gates that made it there were hundreds of others who were on the cusp of getting it but just missed the target. That becoming a silicon valley billionaire was as much about the right idea at the right time with the right people working on it being sold to the right people, and that plenty of people had the time and idea, but the wrong people, or the right people and the wrong idea and so on and so forth - that success in the computing industry that's led to the current giants was largely about the luck of stars aligning for the right people as much as it was anything else and that the valley is full of many thousands of equally talented people who had the ideas but just didn't get lucky enough for the rest of it to align - Halt and Catch Fire captures that, it recognises the reality and dispels the myth of the Zuckerbergs, Gates, and so on and so forth as being unique geniuses - it's an ode to those who were equally as talented and innovative but who simply just did not have quite so much luck on their side.

      Silicon Valley is funny, but it's an over the top comedy, so whilst it does indeed touch on real arguments, it of course uses an absurdist form of humour which doesn't match day to day reality. That is of course however what makes it enjoyable to watch.

      • That sounds like a great description of what HCF was, the thing is I don't exactly need something to grab me to watch and find it interesting, but four seasons of HCF is too large of a time commitment for something I would happily watch compressed into a miniseries. Maybe that was the problem, too many small moments which all were interesting enough, but it was just too many of them.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I think HCF could have done more with the tech culture side of things. That history is interesting and something not really covered much in mainstream TV. They did some of it but could have gone further.

        I mostly enjoyed it, the only really off-putting thing was l33t hacker Cameron's hunt-and-peck one finger typing. Her portrayal of the nerd who cares more about the tech than anything else was spot on though.

        • The typing aspect was off. The elite hackers I have known (I'm spelling it correctly because these people would have disdained 13375p33k) had serious keyboard skills.

          Bob Frankston, the guy who actually implemented VisiCalc (his partner Dan Bricklin, the company head who came up with the idea, is far better known), is the best typist I have ever met; he could type CODE at 100 WPM in his prime. (That's faster then all but a small number of people can type standard English text, and typing code is harder becau

          • You don't even really have to learn, you use it so much muscle memory takes over. If the thoughts come fast enough, she'd naturally speed up. So yeah, pigeon typing does not compute for this elite hacker. Or no wonder it took her so goddamn long to do things.
    • I loved the show... although it got a bit "soap opera" ish part way through.

      Although I wasn't in Silicon Valley at the time I was very much involved in the microcomputer scene so it was a real nostalgia trip watching that first season -- although I expect I'm in a very small group who'd feel that way.

      I think that four seasons was probably enough though and in reality, if you watch only the first season then you'll have seen almost everything you need to.

  • The IT crowds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 17, 2017 @04:58PM (#55757139)

    UK version. Nothing else is close.

  • by should_be_linear ( 779431 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:00PM (#55757153)
    • Matrix

      There is a heroic aspect to The Matrix that is not found in the tech industry. This is a problem with using any movie to depict tech work.

      If a movie were to depict tech work accurately, no one would see it because it would be too depressing.

  • The IT Crowd (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The IT Crowd was produced by the BBC. You can find it online. It followed a company's "technical support" geeks who'd been banished to the basement. Very funny!

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:06PM (#55757201) Journal

    The most accurate filmed depiction of working in tech is Fritz Lang's Metropolis. I am not joking. []

  • "the best show ever made about silicon Valley ...They're talking about amc's halt and catch fire"
    i watched 1st two seasons, started out promising, but it was clear writers had no idea about the techs they were speaking about (or more likely deliberately dumbed things down quite a lot). actors, for example, mackenzie davis, obviously did not study or was nowhere near a good coder, like she was portraying, you can tell by the way she was literally banging on her keyboard

    • Typing well takes a lot of practice. It's difficult at best to fake convincingly, though the actors on Mr Robot do a better job of it than the H&CF people did.

      Most actors haven't learned how to type because they haven't had much incentive to. I know, not all actors; some are also serious academics who developed their typing skills for their school careers, there are some whose side job before becoming successful was as a secretary rather than the usual waitstaff jobs, and there are the geeky actors like

  • ...that to me is most reflective of life in IT in a metaphorical way is The Wire.

    • IDK The wire is better that most think but related to working on IT industry? Metaphorically speaking The wire is all about politics, a credible and not overblown representation of how the human is a politic animal even in the hood'. So many brilliant natural actors, such disregard for loved character's life. A recommended for sure but for other reasons.

  • IT Crowd (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Have you tried turning it off and on again?

  • by seoras ( 147590 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:13PM (#55757269)

    If you remove the fact that they are academics working on psychics then you basically have a good basis for life in the SF Bay.
    When I was working there I got taken along to a Friday afternoon premier of one of the Star Trek movies at Mountain View's Shoreline Multiscreen cinema.
    Sandals, shorts, pony tails and awful T-shirts. Beards if you can grow one. It's like a uniform for the geek crowd. This was the 90's, I doubt they've changed.
    A couple stand up at the front and they shout out "hey everyone, excited?". The crowd goes wild.
    "Hey, who here is from HP?". A small patch of the crowd woop and cheer.
    "Hey who here is from Apple?" Another small patch of the crowd woop and cheer.
    They repeat this with all the big names until finally..
    "Hey who here is from Microsoft?". The room goes silent and then everyone starts booing. Then we all laughed.
    I do miss that place sometimes...

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      TBBT should have ended a long time ago. They ran out of ideas and most of the actors have no sense of comic timing whatsoever. Only Amy and Howard seem to know what they are doing.

      The characters were too thin to begin with and they couldn't really grow them into anything interesting. Plus they were pretty much the worst nerd stereotypes possible - the letcherous Howard with his low level sexual harassment, endlessly mocking the sensitive Raj, and Sheldon... At best you could say he was hit or miss. And of t

  • If you have to ask, you weren't there.
  • Women I've known in tech who were good programmers were very in control of their emotions. I've met people like the main female character in Halt and Catch Fire at nightclubs and such, but usually, they come from rough backgrounds and have substance abuse problems and barely can get a job working retail.

  • IT Crowd, Big Bang Theory, three I could continue to watch. HCF stopped after a few episodes probably binge watch when I get sick for a few days and catch up on everything else
  • Star Trek! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The original series of course.

  • OFFICE SPACE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:28PM (#55757351)

    Is there anything this movie gets wrong about "working" in IT?

    Moron bosses who know nothing about what you actually do? Check.
    Multiple pointy-haired types hounding you about your work because they "have to be involved"? Check.
    Consultants? Ugh, check.
    Outdated tech that needs replacing but its "not in the budget"? Damn it feels good to be a Check sir!

    So much more. This is the penultimate look at what working in IT is like. The only thing close is The IT Crowd.

    • If Office Space was the penultimate, what would you say was the ultimate?

      (hint: You might want to look up the definition of penultimate)
    • It's not even tech really. All office jobs are like that. Someone who thinks that the day to day workings in a tech company are different than say an accounting firm, has bought in to a media portrayal. I'm in a tech company, but I talk to HR, legal, executives, I sit down at lunch next to manufacturing employees, and so forth. If you'll notice, Office Space only is only peripherally about technology; it goes out of its way to be a rather generic company.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Nice that you point all these things out that it is close to working in IT while it has nothing to do with IT.
      It could also be used as working in the Sales department or accounting or in any other department.

      It makeit clear that the IT department is not special. It is just another department that is needed to run a company. If it would not be needed, it would not excist, just like any other department. Even the ones you hate.

  • Because tech people leaned long ago you don't have to watch stuff live.

  • by NetFusion ( 86828 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @05:53PM (#55757493)

    I think Phil and Lem sum up the strife of corporate nerdom well working under the management pressures from Ted and with morally bankrupt of leadership of Veronica.
    I miss that show []

  • There was so much self inflicted drama in Halt and Catch Fire. I tried watching it, but after the first few episodes I honestly didn't care what happened to the characters, or what gender they were, or what sexual orientation they may or may not have.
    • This was why I got bored of it. I didn't get beyond about half way through the first season. It was basically a soap opera that happened to be set in Silicon Valley. The storylines just seemed - goofy. Silicon Valley is far more believable, and more what I'd expect a series about Silicon Valley to be about.
  • None, The problem is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @06:10PM (#55757581)
    User land tech is just an office type drama. Exception Office Space, for the humor ;) was just funny

    Entrepreneur tech is just crazy, social, rich individual type drama.

    Actual Software Development, can not be put in video because it is thought, the ah ha moments, looooong periods of typing, doing, executing, reading, thinking, testing, a few Got Ya Sucker! moments ;) All of which are, for the most part very hard to visualize let alone record in video in a way that someone who does not do it would understand or even care about.

    So what they always end up with is, the side stories, social interactions, drama, etc, etc. with a little poorly done tech mixed in, to try and make it look techie ;)

    What it all comes down to is, to present most parts of IT, you need to understand that sub section of IT, which those not doing it can not do.

    Example, On numinous occasions I have been sitting at a bar/where ever chatting with a friend/my son-in-law/etc (someone in the business) and people sitting next to us will just kind of look at us, shake their heads and move down the bar/go elsewhere ;) And it was not because we were loud or anything ;) Our conversation was so alien, I think it just ruined their piece of mind ;)

    Also, the IT/Tech fields are not special in this regard, there are many areas like this. I think that is why things always end up going back to the old formulas, drama, humor, social interactions, sex, violence, crime, etc. all packaged in an environment.

    Just my 2 cents ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "ruined their piece of mind".

      What a fabulous typo. It's like you shot them in the head.

    • Actual Software Development, can not be put in video because it is thought, the ah ha moments, looooong periods of typing, doing, executing, reading, thinking, testing, a few Got Ya Sucker! moments

      The short-lived TV series "Limitless" did leaned into this. One character was learning to be a hacker (cracker), for reasons. He explicitly stated that it is just a bunch of typing and coding and OMG BORING, so, while doing that, here's a bunch of cat videos my mom sent me. He did a similar joke later in the episode.

  • It was several times better than The Big Bang Theory.
    Note: That's still an _incredible_ insult.

    Closest thing is Office Space I would say.

  • by mz721 ( 972419 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @06:34PM (#55757665) Homepage
    Never seen it; just going on the title.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    After 30 years in electronics engineering and manufacturing I found Dilbert covered all the HR fads, management types, rain-man like programmers and smarmy sales people. We had a boss that once asked us to "make everything the same high prioriy", not realizing it was already a Dilbert cartoon.

  • "Unfortunately, "nobody watched it. "

    We, who would have been interested, lived it.

    Just while we are ironing our business shirts, we don't want to watch a show where somebody is ironing shirts.

  • Can't decide between The Orville, or Discovery.

    Of course all Star Trek's feature "This must be done in the next 6 minutes or we're all dead! But I canna change the laws of physics!!" meme...

    • You think The Orville or Star Trek Discovery is the best TV show about working in Tech? Where the heck do you work?
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @07:01PM (#55757781)

    Has there ever been a good show about geeks

    There has never been a "good" show about being an IT worker. Nor about being a doctor, cop, president, soldier, spy, lawyer, detective, scientist or any other job that comes to mind. Even the "reality" shows are completely artificial.

    They are all depicted as disneyfied caricatures, since all jobs are tedious, unimaginative and dull. But people don't want realism on TV - that is what real life is for. TV only ever offers the concentrated, accelerated, no natural ingredients, version of "life" in whatever way it claims to reflect it.

    If anyone thinks TV offers a "window" on peoples' lives, they are either being obtuse or have no actual clue.

    • Tv shows are entertainment, and that's what they should be: entertaining.

      Nobody needs "realism". Some "realism" always present in the depiction even in the worst shows, but it's not the paramount component, it's just one of the things that could be sacrificed for the sake of overall entertainment.

  • Hyperion Bay [] only ran for one season in 1998-99. I remember it because they tried to dramatize the process of finishing up a release. The managers were screaming at the tech guys to "FIND THE BUG!!" and they showed screens of text flying by too fast to read. 10 seconds before the release window closes, they find the bug (presumably using "grep --recursive BUG *.c") and remove it and ship the release. It was hysterical.
  • Re "What's the best TV show about working"
    A series that covers the history of and working with Television Set, Quartz Watch, Video Recorder, Photocopier, Fax Machine, Telephone.
    The Secret Life of Machines []
  • Why would anyone choose to watch a show called 'Halt and Catch Fire' without additional information? The name isn't catchy or poetic, and doesn't convey any information concerning what the show is about.
  • What we want tech work to be is much better than the reality.
  • These type of shows do not exist. Not for IT, not for anything else. Brooklyn 99 is NOT about the Police in Brooklyn, NY. NCIS is not about the NCIS. All those hospital shows are note about hospitals.

    They are just there to have some place people get together to interact.
    Not enough people identify with IT people, so they do not care.

    All shows are about human interaction. If you would need to name one, take "Chuck" or any other and just change the jobtitles.

  • Watch all of them, all of them get _some_ aspects of geek life right. Accentuate the bloody positive.

  • maybe it's because I lived that history. My first computer was an Apple ][e in 1983. I programmed it and learned so much. I've watched the show and remembered so much. It was great. I loved the characters, and how they left and came back to each other all because of technology that they wanted to create. The show embodied that spirit of just making something and turning that passion into a business or to try to. This still happens and will continue because we will continue to want to make something. Why di
  • First, there has never been a TV show that got the tech industry in Silicon Valley right, the shows tend to be skinny 20-somethings living in huge lavish apartments with amazing views and outgoing lifestyles which is the exact opposite of reality. There have been several shows set in San Francisco that gets the feel of that city correct but don't show the tech industry at all, and most people that work in Silicon Valley don't consider San Francisco to be a part of it, just a fringe out-lie'r (hint: San Fran

  • I quit watching Halt and Catch Fire after a few episodes. The presentation of the tech was OK, but I found all of the characters unlikable. Not one of them seemed to have any sense of humor. It was all just constant stress and drama.

  • I really liked the first season. All the obvious drama aside, it's a fun story about people working in ye olde tech explosion era.

DISCLAIMER: Use of this advanced computing technology does not imply an endorsement of Western industrial civilization.