Which TV shows really get entrepreneurs? 'Breaking Bad,' 'Shark Tank,' 'Silicon Valley'

·4 min read

We've all endured a lot during the 20 months of the pandemic: product shortages, supply chain issues and a nearly two-year wait for new episodes of our favorite business-oriented TV series.

Fans of HBO's "Succession" endured a full year's wait before finding out what happened after the press conference where Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) announced which family member would be served up as the scapegoat for their company's cruise line scandal.

And it was 15 months before Showtime gave "Billions" fans the second half of Season 5 – and with it, the end of Damian Lewis' run on the show, halting the "War of the Roses"-style grudge match between his shady investment banker, Bobby Axelrod, and Paul Giamatti's state attorney general, Chuck Rhoades.

The good news is our regularly scheduled programming is back, and that got us thinking, which television shows – past or present – actually gets entrepreneurs and small business right?

Let’s see:

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'Succession'

2018-present

Sign up just in time for season 3 of 'Succession.'
Sign up just in time for season 3 of 'Succession.'

Is HBO’s hit show about the bickering billionaire Roy family a dark comedy or a drama? Who cares? It’s fantastic either way.

That said, what does a show about a Fortune 100 business have to do with entrepreneurship? Well, admittedly, there is nothing “small” about Logan Roy’s entertainingly dysfunctional family and their billion-dollar conglomerate, but a family-run business in which the family bickers? Yep, we small-business people definitely get that.

Where to stream: HBO Max

'The Office'

2005-2013

No, Michael Scott was no entrepreneurial genius (that’s what she said!), but the office he ran was not unlike many a small business: The boss did not always know best, employees tolerated/annoyed/liked each other, work was often not about work, and yet somehow they made enough profit to keep going.

Sound familiar?

Where to stream: Peacock

'Empire'

2015-2020

As far as entrepreneurship goes, "Empire," featuring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson,  really drilled down into the effect greed can have on people.
As far as entrepreneurship goes, "Empire," featuring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, really drilled down into the effect greed can have on people.

Another show about a CEO choosing a successor? Yes, but who cares? This powerful show had a great cast, and as far as entrepreneurship goes, it really drilled down into the effect greed can have on people. Is greed, as Gordon Gecko so famously said, good? Or is it bad?

Watch and decide for yourself.

Where to stream: Hulu

'Shark Tank'

2009-present

'The Profit'

2013-present

I list both of these reality shows together because they are similar in many ways; both show you how entrepreneurs think and analyze business and business issues.

In the case of ABC'S fun and engaging "Shark Tank," you get the perspective of both the entrepreneur – why did they devote so much time, money, and energy into making this product? – as well as the investor – who is the intended market for this business and can it scale?

No less interesting is Marcus Lemonis and CNBC's "The Profit." Again, we get an inside peek at how a great entrepreneur thinks and that is very enlightening.

Where to stream:

'Shark Tank': ABC for new episodes; Fubo for past seasons

'The Profit': Peacock

► 'Shark Tank' exclusive: The new list of the 20 best-selling products from the show

► Is this the best time to start a business? 'The Profit' star offers some insight

'Silicon Valley'

2014-2019

Jared (Zach Woods), left, Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) confront yet another potential disaster in HBO's 'Silicon Valley.'
Jared (Zach Woods), left, Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) confront yet another potential disaster in HBO's 'Silicon Valley.'

In this tech-obsessed, gadget-centric world we live in, I would be remiss if I didn’t list at least one tech-oriented show. Luckily, we have "Silicon Valley."

The tale of the brilliant, odd, engineer/entrepreneur Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), his struggling tech startup Pied Piper, and his not so merry band of coders, partners, employees, and rivals, Silicon Valley portrays the entrepreneur’s life pretty darned well.

And, at the same time, it hilariously skewered the actual Silicon Valley startup culture just as much.

Example: Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), the CEO of Pied Piper rival Hooli, once said: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.”

Where to stream: HBO Max

'Breaking Bad'

2008-2013

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, left) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Season 5 of AMC's "Breaking Bad."
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, left) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Season 5 of AMC's "Breaking Bad."

Arguably, the greatest television show ever, "Breaking Bad" is a rags-to-(illicit) riches cautionary tale, a small business nightmare, and a show about entrepreneurship on steroids, all rolled into one.

But let’s be clear about one thing Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was one hell of an entrepreneur.

Starting with nothing but smarts and gumption, he parlayed that into a meth empire by knowing his market, creating a better product, tapping into a clever distribution system (albeit one that was hidden below a chicken fast-food joint), and thereby rising to the top of his industry.

OK, yes, he did have to murder his mentor Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to get there, but hey – that’s business!

Where to stream: Netflix

Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker, and the author of 18 books, including his latest,"Your Small Business Boom." You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed.com, and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The best TV shows about business: 'Breaking Bad,' Shark Tank'

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