National Geographic’s ‘Valley of the Boom’ is an interesting retelling of the browser wars of the 1990s. This docudrama tells the stories of three different dot-com companies who played a huge role in these wars; Netscape, The Globe and Pixelon.
This ‘mostly true’ story — as it is so boldly announced at the beginning of the series — is told by intertwining reenacting of the stories and interviews from people who were involved. The interviews include James Barksdale from Netscape, and Todd Krizelman and Stephan Paternot from The Globe. Mark Andreessen (Netscape) was not interviewed for the show; The actor who plays Andreesen (John Karna) even pretended to be him in an interview which was followed by an explanation that he was just an actor. Not to mention these characters represent the important players at the beginning of the internet. The star-studded cast includes Steve Zahn (David Kim Stanley), Bradley Whitford (James Barksdale), John Karna (Marc Andreessen), Oliver Cooper (Todd Krizelman) and Dakota Shapiro (Stephan Paternot).
What I loved about this 6 episode series is the fact that I felt included as a viewer. The real founders of these companies were constantly speaking to the audience but I liked the fact that the characters constantly broke the fourth wall. The scenes would stop and the characters would explain their feelings or explain what was happening in the scene. These explanations helped me to understand concepts that would have probably been much harder to grasp without them.
The paused explanations didn’t just come from the real-life characters, they also came from imaginary ones. The most prominent imaginary character was Darrin who represented stockbrokers; he followed the storyline along with the characters and came in at moments that needed explanation. He added comedy in times of difficult situations and hard to understand concepts.
This show is definitely something new and creative that combines many different types of storytelling. The only critique I have is that at first, it was difficult to get used to the interviews breaking up the main storyline but I eventually got used to it. Regardless, I recommend this show if you want to learn more about the exciting and intriguing story of the browser wars.
Valley of the Boom premieres on Discovery Channel Sunday, January 13 at 9 P.M.