Sex Is Good for ‘StartUp,’ Says Executive Producer Ketai

Viewers learn about a character while watching them in bed. But how much is too much?
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Call it Start Me Up—there’s a fair dose of hanky panky in the new Crackle series StartUp. The series, set in alternately glimmering and gritty Miami, is centered on a technologically gifted woman looking to launch a new digital currency and the shady characters she ends up partnering with.

There may be too much sex in StartUp, suggests the New York Times. According to a review, “It seems in the first episode as if every character who is introduced has to be immediately shown in bed (or, in one case, in the shower), always gratuitously.”

Variety had a similar take. “Six-and-a-half minutes in, there’s already two sex scenes; by minute 13, the third,” reads its lukewarm review.

Ben Ketai, the executive producer and director, disputes the gratuitous description. “I think we can all agree, a healthy amount of sex is good for any show,” he tells B&C. “Creatively, it’s a great way to know a character. Sexuality is a huge part of who we are.”

Along with Ryan Lewis, Ketai previously created the series Chosen on Crackle. He says the network heavies occasionally push back on the sexy stuff. “Sometimes we go too far and have to pull back,” he says.

Shadowy bad guys notwithstanding, Miami is almost always portrayed as impossibly picturesque on television, whether it’s Ballers or Burn Notice or, further back, Nip/Tuck. Ketai is intent on showing a different side of the city. “It’s our goal to show a side of Miami that no one portrays on television,” he says, mentioning “real-life people who live in Miami,” grit and all.

Indeed, the pilot features a brutally violent scene in a dark corner of a Haitian ghetto.

StartUp follows Crackle’s previous big swing at original scripted drama in the generally well-reviewed The Art of More. Martin Freeman, previously seen as Lester Nygaard on Fargo, plays shady FBI agent Phil Rask. The 10-episode season starts up Sept. 6, and Ketai is banking on a good run for StartUp. “We’re plotting 5-6 seasons,” he says. “We’ll see what happens.”

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