Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber

Showtime, February 27, 2022

Feb 23, 2022 Photography by Showtime Web Exclusive
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If you liked The Social Network, you’ll equally enjoy Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. The anthology series is a dramatization of the rise of the ubiquitous rideshare giant, Uber, under the sometimes ingenious, mostly deranged direction of its co-founder, Travis Kalanick, based on the book of the same name by Mike Isaac.

The series kicks off after the company has already been established and is headquartered at a giant, very fancy, high-tech space. Kalanick, or “TK” as he’s often called, is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who right from the start, is pretty unbearable. He meets with venture capitalist Bill Gurley, played by the always wonderful Kyle Chandler, which proves to be a saving grace for Super Pumped as the down-to-earth attitude and general congeniality with which Chandler portrays Gurley (once “Coach Taylor,” always “Coach Taylor”), is the only thing making getting past the starting moments of the series tolerable.

Once you are in the episode, however, and the longer you watch Gordon-Levitt, the more you get sucked into his egomaniacal self-assurance and the more invested you become in the story of this entity, which has become such an essential part of most people’s lives on a global scale.

The various iterations of Uber from its beginning as black town car liveried drivers, to the name change from Ubercab to simply Uber to avoid all laws pertaining to cabs and cab drivers in its original city of San Francisco, to the entrance of Lyft and the introduction of UberX, all are fascinating, and frankly, a little disturbing/exciting to watch as the development of this company feels like a gross manipulation of the general public, one which we all seemed to really want and continue to need.

TK’s out-of-the-box ideas are brought to fruition at the ground-level by Austin Geldt played flawlessly by Kerry Bishé, who, in turn, is rewarded for her hard work with misogyny and sexual harassment. This storyline, which is not exclusive to Geldt, runs through Super Pumped and is nauseating in its blatancy, and doesn’t help endear Uber, or TK, to the viewer.

There is a grudging admiration of TK, however, as his mad genius comes up with newer and better ideas for Uber while entirely disregarding issues of legality and more importantly, safety. Gurley struggles as the voice of reason, using everything in his Coach Taylor toolkit to get TK under control, to no avail. He is not helped by eventual board member, Arianna Huffington, fabulously played by Uma Thurman, who is even more manipulative than TK, besting him at his own game.

TK further alienates himself from the viewer by swapping out his smart and supportive girlfriend who understands him and his business for a lovely and sweet, but not as good of a match violinist. His ruthlessness knows no bounds.

The supporting cast is exceptional with the chameleon-like Hank Azaria as Apple’s Tim Cook, the ageless Elizabeth Shue as TK’s mother, Bonnie and the Babak Tafti as the hyper-clever Emil Michael, who starts out as an ally of Gurley’s but ends up as maniacal as TK. Also, the entire series is narrated by Quentin Tarantino, which doesn’t add much to the story, but is a fun factoid.

Once you get past the initial insufferable hump at the series’ start, it becomes a guilty, addictive watch, not unlike watching self-centered wealthy people on reality shows dedicated to them.

Super Pumped has been renewed for a second season, this one focusing on Facebook. Interesting, since the first season was, as alluded to in the beginning of this review, pretty much a serialized version of The Social Network, Uber-style. (

Author rating: 7/10

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