When Firefox cofounder Blake Ross last showed off his writing wits, he was imagining new adventures for the fictional Pied Piper team on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Now he’s creating a new original series called “PRICKS,” based on the antics of a fictional high profile startup that’s developing a specialized blood test.
Sound ever so vaguely familiar? Well, now add in the narrative that the startup (named Dynapy) is embroiled in a scandal led by an investigative article published in the Wall Street Journal, which causes companies like Walgreens to reevaluate their relationship with the fictional blood testing company.
Check out the full screenplay here.
You’ll find no direct reference to the blood testing startup Theranos in Ross’s extensive notes for the script which he published online, though the narratives align in pretty comically identical ways. When I asked Ross whether he took any inspiration for the screenplay from Theranos, he gave a pretty hilarious answer.
“Theranos is a blend of ‘Therapy’ and ‘Diagnosis.’ The company that this show follows, Dynapy, is a blend of ‘Diagnosis’ and ‘Therapy.’ They’re totally different.”
Well, that’s that. The script is pretty emphatic in declaring its parodical nature/ covering its bases. The top of it reads, “THIS IS A PARODY WORK OF FICTION.”
Apparent/obvious connections aside, this is a really cool project from Ross. He detailed to me how he wants the project to evolve as an “open source TV show,” where the storyline shifts with real-world occurrences and audience contributions.
“I got a lot of comments after I published my Silicon Valley script about how fun it would be to do ‘open source TV,’ so I thought I’d give it a shot.” Ross told TechCrunch. “It was inspiring for me to watch Andy Weir evolve The Martian in public from a little hobby story to an international film success. He went direct to the audience with quality content—none of the networking, none of the BS. I still have a lot to learn, but that’s the model I aspire to with anything I do.”
The script itself is hilarious. It largely revolves around the idea of how wacky things can get when non-technical (in this case people with little/no experience in the medical field) founders are presented with issues that they have to bootstrap their way out of, generally with the help of PR “geniuses” rather than people that actually know the technologies.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few doctors advising the Dynapy team. Chairman Dr. Dre gathers insights from Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil who also sit on Dynapy’s board.
Outside of the few pop culture figures that Ross weaves into the narrative, it’s interesting to see just how inventive he’s been in building original characters, something he says was one of the most challenging parts of putting together the script, much more difficult than writing dialogue for an established character like Erlich in his original screenplay for HBO’s Silicon Valley.
“Erlich is already a developed character, and he’s played by a brilliant actor. But when I write ‘Bob’ on the page, you start at square one,” said Ross. “I’ve got a much longer distance to travel as a writer. That’s something I still need to figure out, but there’s nothing you can’t master if you’re willing to do it a thousand times.
With “PRICKS,” Ross had to think up the whole project from scratch, putting tons of thought into every cool little motif, including the opening title sequence.
Where does Ross want to go with the project from here? Well, given the project’s open source nature, that relies a lot on the response it garners, though Ross seems to think that a response from one party might be more influential than other on his creative processes.
“I can’t wait to see how Pricks evolves from this halting baby step,” said Ross in a Facebook post. “Unless Theranos sues me for making a parody tomorrow. Then I’ll just start writing a show about that instead.”