Industry: #LFF20 review

Year: 2020
Creators: Mickey Down and Konrad Kay
Episode Total: 6
Stars: Myha’la Herrold, Marisa Abela, Harry Lawtey, David Jonsson

By Caz Armstrong

As someone whose day job is working at a FTSE 100 investment firm, and who has interviewed, hosted and mentored a number of grads over the years, I was particularly interested in “Industry”. This is the latest HBO/BBC TV show from Director and co-producer Lena Dunham and it’s coming to the small screen soon.

Episodes 1, 2 and 4 were available as part of the London Film Festival 2020 and these episodes discussed here.

A group of overambitious twenty-somethings begin their graduate placements at Pierpoint & Co, a fictional international investment bank in the City of London. They’re competing against each other for a permanent position at the firm. Quickly thrown into the lion’s den, they are absorbed in the work-hard-play-hard environment that will either make or break them.

With sex, drugs, drink and deadlines abounding, these new recruits face an almost impossible battle to keep their jobs let alone get ahead.

Although exaggerated, it is a fairly accurate environment. In real life most people want to help grads and spend time teaching them key skills, not yelling and swearing at them the way a lot seem to do here. That’s not to say that yelling doesn’t happen, or that it’s a million miles off.

“The commentary around women in the workplace was on the nose and I hope that this will be explored more deeply in the rest of the series.”

For a start the set and general atmosphere was very good (aside from the levels of overt bullying). The bewildering amount of screens, phone lines and piles of food on people’s desks is spot on. Some of the trade talk is deliberately convoluted with acronyms and jargon thrown about the room like confetti. But fear not, the important things are explained enough that everyone will get the gist. Success or failure may come down to something as simple as an inconsistent font. Haven’t we all been there!

While many side characters embody a single character trait they were at least well chosen. The aloof boss, the bullying co-worker, the demanding team leader or the one with all the stories. The women’s predicaments in particular are very common. One of the easiest ways to ingratiate yourself is to serve. So grad Yasmine (Marisa Abela) takes it upon herself to fetch food and drink orders to a largely ungrateful team, at the risk of being seen as a servant not a colleague.

The female grads discuss tips and tricks like how to get the male counterparties to warm to you when they don’t see you as an equal. They look up YouTube videos about how to conduct yourself as a woman in a male dominated workspace. Anyone who’s had to suffer the indignation of being told not to say the word ‘just’, or to stop apologising as though that’s what has been holding their career back for years, not the systems engrained in the industry will scoff at those references. The commentary around women in the workplace was on the nose and I hope that this will be explored more deeply in the rest of the series.

“Industry” looks to be an intense watch and of particular familiarity to Gen Z starting out in the workplace. Realism (or lack of) aside, fans of ensemble dramas are in for a treat with this very current new show.”

It was a nice touch that Black and Asian colleagues’ pictures were prominently featured in one of the workplace brochures, creating the impression that it is a multi-cultural and diverse place to work. Yet diversity is not played out in Pierpoint’s stats and it’s revealed that there are no women on the board. It’s a swift indictment of corporate culture that is so true it’s painful. “There’s still work to do” head honchos say, year after year after year while very little actually changes.

Where the show falls down more severely is in some of the more extreme scenarios. Aside from the unprofessional amount of bullying and drug taking, no grad with less than 4 months on the job would ever be able to trade with client money at their own discretion and with no supervision. The company would receive the wrath of the FCA for the string of governance and oversight failures for that.

Having said all that, this is a TV show not a documentary so is it worth watching?

It’s a high stakes drama with a range of characters, cutthroat ambition, sex and drugs. There will be secrets, backstabbing and office politics as characters seem willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. This ambition makes them all somewhat unlikeable and the workplace atmosphere is exaggeratedly toxic. But as the series continues and we get to know them we will hopefully warm to them.

“Industry” looks to be an intense watch and of particular familiarity to Gen Z starting out in the workplace. Realism (or lack of) aside, fans of ensemble dramas are in for a treat with this very current new show.

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