Why Nat Geo’s Valley of the Boom Might Be Like Nothing You’ve Seen Before

National Geographic’s Valley of the Boom is a look at the game-changing birth of Silicon Valley, from the browser wars of the early ’90s through the 2001 dot-com bust. Starring Bradley WhitfordSteve Zahn and Lamorne Morris, the series mixes scripted drama with documentary interviews, giving viewers a glimpse inside the rise, fall and revival of tech. Nat Geo’s Carolyn Bernstein, EVP of Global Scripted Development and Production, tells why the six-part limited series, premiering Sunday, January 13 at 9p, might be different from anything you’ve seen before.  

It’s disruptive, unpredictable, irreverent and incredibly fun. From epic rap battles and flash mobs to documentary style interviews with real-life subjects, showrunner Matthew Carnahan’s vision to evoke this period in such a provocative manner is entertaining, smart and really unique. For us at Nat Geo it represents the type of creatively ambitious swings we want to take as we continue to grow our premium strategy. It’s fun to shake things up and Valley of the Boom delivers! 

Dakota Shapiro and Oliver Cooper (photo: Bettina Strauss)

We tell the stories of the real-life tech innovators who paved the way for the Facebook and YouTube, all while gaining and losing a fortune! We think the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories of these early dotcom pioneers will resonate with viewers of all ages.

The series’ score creates a beautifully atmospheric soundscape, evocative of the 90’s but with a contemporary spin. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, who scored the soundtrack and are Emmy winning composers for their work on Stranger Things, used the rich history of the ‘90s music scene as a platform to build the show’s soundtrack. 

Most of the series’ real-life characters appear in the show as themselves in documentary segments that contextualize the scripted drama.  For instance, Stephan Paternot, real-life co-founder of social networking site theglobe.com, appears in the show and is also beautifully played by actor Dakota Shapiro. This allows the series to give viewers unique perspective as the real-life subjects comment on the dramatic highs and lows of their actor counterparts. I think this innovative approach to the narrative gives viewers a deeper understanding of how the early days of Silicon Valley got us to where we are today. 

Steve Zahn (photo: Bettina Strauss)

We got Steve Zahn!  Matthew Carnahan has offered many parts to Steve over the years but the timing was never right.  Steve read the scripts for Valley and was on a plane the next week.  He plays Michael Fenne, a smooth-talking convicted felon from Appalachia who was on-the-run from the law but managed to raise millions from unsuspecting investors to launch tech startup Pixelon.  The spectacular rise and catastrophic fall of that company is the most outlandish true story we tell in the series, and Steve is just fabulous.


The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at Lynn@Cynopsis.com.

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