“Valley of the Boom,” Nat Geo’s look back at the chaos, debauchery and feverish growth of the early years of Silicon Valley, premieres on Sunday. Ahead of the debut of the six-part miniseries, a multifaceted campaign blends retro graphics and ‘90s references with knowing winks to the history modern audiences know is about to unfold.
Promo spots feature Bradley Whitford and Steve Zahn, in character as Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Pixelon founder and conman Michael Fenne, breaking the fourth wall to discuss the events portrayed in the series, even laughing at their own misfortunes. “Years from now, I will be looked back on as a visionary businessman,” Whitford says, speaking directly to the camera. “But first, we’re going to find out the hard way that not everyone shares our wholesome, online intentions.”
Teaser spots remind viewers of what the internet was like two decades ago, putting some of the era’s excesses into context. Others lean into the experience of the day. An image of Whitford’s head loads pixelated line by pixelated line, with the same frustrating speed that America Online subscribers will remember. (True to life, it never finishes loading.)
On Thursday, Nat Geo will revert its homepage to a simplified ‘90s version, complete with frames (remember frames?) and clickable buttons with drop shadows. The tone of the entire campaign—meta and tongue-in-cheek—reflects that of the show itself, which is a pastiche of scripted reenactments and real-life interviews with people who lived through the dot-com bubble, interspersed with asides, commentary and the occasional rap battle.
Last month, Nat Geo teased the series with Yule log videos featuring Lamorne Harris in a Christmas sweater, burning money in a fireplace.