There is a new genre of television that seems to be taking the world, or better yet the internet, by storm: scamming and failed business ventures. You may be asking yourself: “What could possibly be interesting about scamming?” Well, for one, the genre gives an entirely new perspective on class consciousness. Second, sometimes it’s just fun to watch the objective ‘villain’ work so hard to achieve their goals. Series like “Inventing Ana,” “The Dropout” and “WeCrashed” provide these exact conditions for an entertaining watch. They’re the perfect representatives for this year’s new television series that desperately want to put character studies at the forefront of their narratives.
The first show that really tackles the idea of scamming in all of its glory is Shonda Rhimes’ “Inventing Anna.” The series follows the story of the journalist, Vivian Kent, as she attempts to uncover and write an article about Anna Delvey — or Soroken … whatever you want to call her — a socialite who schemed the New York elite out of thousands if not millions of dollars. The episodes are divided into the specific individuals that Anna has scammed. All while having catchy music and hilariously ridiculously curated outfits for Delvey — because why shouldn’t a prisoner refuse to attend her criminal trial unless she has the perfect outfit? The series is filled with incredibly detailed considerations of every individual’s testaments of Anna’s scams, which makes for a difficult series to binge. Also, the performances of each actor seem to vary in not only quality but also the intention, which creates a bit of a jarring viewing experience. But there is something about the simple notion that just one woman could truly scam and get as close as she does to owning an art collective on 281 Park.
When you think about it, it really is the impossible reality that makes these series so engaging to watch. To find more evidence of such, just look at “The Dropout.” If you told me that a Stanford dropout was able to get millions of dollars in investments for a medical product that did not work, show any sign of working anytime soon, or make anyone’s life easier — see: the Theranos employees testaments and the product’s issues on the market — I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, “The Dropout” is still based on real and recent events. Although the series has an interesting story and Amanda Seyfried truly gives an amazing performance — because her voice is actually scarily identical to Elizabeth Holmes’ — knowing the eventual outcome and issues that will later occur in the story does, unfortunately, make for a much less compelling watch than “Inventing Anna.” But if it is all new to you, it can feel both fresh and exciting to witness.
But of all the complex portraits of women at the forefronts of business ventures that take the world by storm just as hard as they fall, Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Rebekah Neumann in “WeCrashed” provides a truly nuanced perspective on this recently-popular television genre. Neumann, who is a free spirit and all about positivity à la “Psychology and the Good Life,” is actively involved in the immense growth and loss of focus of WeWork but struggles with both receiving credit and feeling as if she belongs within the company. Hathaway really captures a character who is desperately trying to feel as if she has control over the things around her in the way her husband, Adam Neumann — the ex-CEO of WeWork — does. It is an intense and genuine inspection of jealousy, grief, acceptance and the gender dynamics that have and still influence the business ventures in America. It brings to the forefront why audiences are so interested in this new genre.
It would be ridiculous not to recognize that the reason these stories have so much virality in entertainment is that these types of spotlighted stories are truly fresh. They provide much more complex and exciting ways to tackle how to look at a scammer or failed business venture. Movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Social Network” are good, but those perspectives are no longer what audiences are longing to see, seeing as audiences have been responding so positively to not only fresh voices but genuinely diverse sets of stories. This new television sensation seems to suggest that those expectations are just begging to be met and that even better is yet to come.
“Inventing Anna” can be streamed on Netflix, “The Dropout” can be streamed on Hulu, and “WeCrashed” can be streamed on Apple TV+.