By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Language, bullying in absorbing series on ride-sharing rise.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
On the good side, Kalanick's story shows what unbridled ambition and confidence can do; on the bad side, he mistreats his employees and others and ultimately is shown to be an unethical operator.
Positive Role Models
Kalanick is no kind of role model, much as he presented a picture of a titan of tech industry at one time; he runs on a continuum from brash to positively abusive. His parents, especially his mother, are loving and supportive, and there are employees within Uber who are more thoughtful and cautious than Kalanick, but ultimately they are all mowed down.
People of color are in significant roles. Most characters are male, except for a woman who has a position of power at Uber and a major role, and another woman who has juice in the tech/media industry and significantly affects Kalanick's career.
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Violence & Scariness
There's some braggadocio, threats to punch people in the mouth and the like. A kitten is briefly shown in distress on a video, wet and bedraggled but being tended to by a first responder.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters kiss and boyfriends and girlfriends live together and share a bed. Kalanick has a girlfriend but is shown flirting with and dating others without her knowledge.
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Cursing and language includes "f--k," "mother--king," "bulls--t," assh--e," "s--t," and frequent uses of all it, often in an insulting way: "F--k those motherf--kers."
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Products & Purchases
Kalanick seems to have an unquenchable lust for more money, success, and power, and seems to take pleasure in crushing business adversaries. We see the privileges and luxury goods money and power buys: fancy cars, expensive clothing, upscale apartments.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink at gatherings, but no one acts drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Super Pumped is based on a nonfiction book that charted the rise and fall of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who managed to turn his ride-sharing company into a tech powerhouse even as his personal and business life crumbled to the point where he was ousted from his own company. His story is a cautionary tale; we see him bully business rivals, family members, and employees, we understand that he's basically the villain of this tale, even if his motives are sometimes humanized. Language is frequent: "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "assh--e," and other cursing is prominent and often a factor in Kalanick's browbeating. Violence is infrequent; though Kalanick and others threaten each other physically and financially, they don't actually get physical. In a video, a bedraggled kitten is said to be injured, but we don't see any injury and the kitten's said to be "rescued." Sexual content is mild, but Kalanick does flirt with and date other women behind his live-in girlfriend's back; expect kissing and references to off-screen sex. Drinking is common at gatherings, but no one acts drunk. Kalanick is money- and power-hungry; we see luxury cars, dwellings with expensive views, and other expensive items that he covets. People of color and women are in significant roles, though leads are mostly White men.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
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What's the Story?
Based on Mike Isaac's bestselling book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, SUPER PUMPED spins the tale of the beginnings of the Uber ride-sharing service. It focuses on the volatile Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who was both instrumental in Uber's success and a cautionary tale himself: a young wunderkind who ascended the heights of tech titandom by the time he was 35, yet was ultimately brought down by his own hubris and bad behavior. Kyle Chandler co-stars as the venture capitalist who gave Uber an early start, and Uma Thurman is The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington.
Is It Any Good?
Hundreds of millions around the world have used ride-sharing apps, and this absorbing show investigates one of the morally questionable companies that made that happen. One of the best things about Super Pumped is all the tech gossip: Mark Zuckerberg gave a "chunk of preferred" stock to his sister Randi in an early round of Facebook funding; a 22-year-old Kalanick was sued out of business in his first company by notorious former Disney head Mike Ovitz. Showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Billions), along with Beth Schacter, pick and choose from the best anecdotes from Isaac's book; for instance, when transportation officials in Portland, Oregon, start hailing Ubers to serve drivers with huge fines and impound their cars, Kalanick and the gang use their app to secretly block specific individuals while giving the appearance that a ride is on the way. Howling with delight, the Uber cronies watch the app working malevolently from a meeting room: "Ghost cars served up 24/7!" crows narrator Quentin Tarantino.
Oh, did we not mention Quentin Tarantino does some of the bro-down narration? If there's one thing Super Pumped is, it's stuffed with five-star talent: not just Levitt and Chandler and Thurman but Fred Armisen making an appearance as a peeved Portland politico, Kerry Bishé (Halt and Catch Fire) as an Uber insider, Elisabeth Shue (The Boys) as Kalanick's mom Bonnie, Hank Azaria (The Simpsons) as Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Ben Feldman (Mad Men) playing Google co-founder Larry Page, among other familiar faces. If things ever lag plotwise, not to worry -- there'll be a huge star along any minute to bring up the wattage. It all adds up to a fascinating spectacle that surely will echo in the minds of the many, many ride sharers on the road.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Super Pumped' major themes of power, wealth, and greed and why they so often sow seeds of conflict. Can you have money and influence without selfishness and greed, or do they always go hand in hand? Does every action and decision truly have a consequence, or is it possible to buy and steal your way out?
What is the public perception of business executives, particularly in the technology industry? Do we expect these powerful individuals to help others because they already have more than they need? Do we expect a certain level of corruption from those who appear to have beaten the system?
How do Super Pumped's main characters measure up as role models, and who are the heroes and villains? Which side do you find yourself rooting for, and why?
- Premiere date: March 4, 2022
- Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Uma Thurman, Kyle Chandler
- Network: Showtime
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 3, 2023
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Where to Watch
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