Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis Kalanick and Uma Thurman as Arianna...

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis Kalanick and Uma Thurman as Arianna Huffington in "Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber."   Credit: SHOWTIME/Elizabeth Morris

SERIES "Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber" tells the story of the evolution of the ride-share giant by focusing on co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

It's the first season in a planned anthology series from "Billions" creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien. (The second season will focus on Facebook.)

These seven episodes depict the rise of Kalanick and his transformative company, as well as his undoing amid a barrage of controversy.

Co-stars include Kyle Chandler as Bill Gurley, the Bay Area venture capitalist whose support proved critical to Uber's growth. Kerry Bishé plays top Kalanick lieutenant Austin Geidt.

Elisabeth Shue brings a dose of humanity to the series as Kalanick's mother Bonnie, and in an unlikely casting gambit that somehow pays off, Uma Thurman appears as Arianna Huffington.

MY SAY There are serious "Wolf of Wall Street" vibes underpinning "The Battle for Uber." It shares a significant interest with Martin Scorsese's debaucherous satire, showcasing the costs of toxic masculinity in a corporate culture that allows for its embrace.

From a major blowout party in Las Vegas that costs the company an eight-figure check to clean up, to endless macho posturing and big decisions about people's livelihoods being considered during games of Wii tennis, the series vividly depicts an ego-fueled mania.

That can be entertaining, to be sure, and Gordon-Levitt goes after it in a big way. His Kalanick loves to gather the team around to bluster about how "we're in the world changing business," among other tech industry axioms, all bellowed in the exact fashion of a coach trying to amp up his team before a big game.

It can also be deeply disturbing, most notably in an episode that adopts the perspective of an employee who cannot get anyone to take her sexual harassment complaints seriously.

But whereas the main character of Scorsese's picture, the convicted scammer Jordan Belfort, exemplified a decades-old moment in history, the Showtime series is spun directly out of the immediate past.

That lack of distance can inhibit meaningful narrative storytelling. The ride-share phenomenon remains a new enough disruptive force in the taxi industry that it's impossible to formulate a larger perspective on what it represents.

A viewing of the first five episodes reveals that the creators grapple with this complexity but refrain from trying to do anything definitive with it.

They're not offering a treatise about the dark side of our tech-centric world, the underbelly of innovation and disruption.

"The Battle for Uber" finds its higher purpose in scenes where computer-generated effects illustrate the main character's fabrications and exaggerations, before simply fading into a green screen.

It's a fourth-wall busting technique that effectively showcases the often wide divide between Kalanick's version of events and the truth, and the danger of believing too deeply in your own myths.

BOTTOM LINE The first "Super Pumped" installment approaches its ripped-from-the-headlines story correctly, and Gordon-Levitt is great.

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