This documentary on Steve Jobs aired on the UK TV’s Channel 4 last week (still available on the 4od streaming channel). An efficient whistle-stop tour of the man’s career, it suffered from two principal shortcomings.
The first was the lack of Jobs himself. Clearly the makers were unable to secure the rights to much video material featuring jobs (or couldn’t afford it from the rights holders given the topicality of former Time Magazine cover-boy Jobs death). Secondly there was little of a personal nature in it other than the broadest, most well-known comments already in the public domain. One suspects the programme-makers are still shy of the eager Apple legal team jumping on any perceived defamation.
So what we got was a tightly structured series of chapters from the early days in Palo Alto, the founding of Apple, the Sculley years, the Pixar years and the triumphant return as the saviour of the bankrupt Apple, each under a chapter heading such as “i-Innovated.”
Amongst the heaped praise for Jobs’ drive, magnetism and vision, a few dissenting voices laid out some of Jobs character faults, the school yard bully, the ego-centric credit-stealer. However, the programme failed to offer any character analysis of the Jobs paradox because there was nothing of his personal life and only the business context of John Sculley’s painful ousting of Jobs from Apple, a betrayal which emotionally scarred him for the rest of his career, as others have made plain.
There was no attempt to paint Jobs as a saint, but as a Clifton’s Notes for Jobs, every point was made effectively but briefly, each chapter a bullet-point presentation slide which I’m sure would play well in Keynote.
At its’ conclusion, the show outlined the four areas in which Jobs proved a game-changer: the computer industry, movie industry, music industry and telecommunications industry. Whether you consider Jobs ‘changed the world’ or merely accelerated the progress of those industries toward predicted models of modernity, is up to you. iChanged the World is too good a title to pass on, so that was the reporting line it took. The producers decided not to patronise us the viewers and kept to a neutral, factual tone, for which we thank them and hope other factual TV programme makers will take note. RC