When it comes to learning about Elizabeth Holmes and her now-defunct company Theranos, there is no shortage of source material. Holmes, who was found guilty on multiple counts of fraud in January 2022, became famous for inventing a new blood testing device, and then infamous for lying about her blood testing device.
The story of Holmes’ fraud first broke with a 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal by John Carreyrou, who went on to write a book on the subject, which is in the process of being turned into a movie. And that’s just the beginning—multiple podcasts, documentaries, and other projects have aimed to tell the story of one of the most famous scams in the history of Silicon Valley. In March, Hulu premiered the original series The Dropout, a dramatization of Theranos and Holmes’ rise and fall that was based on an ABC podcast series of the same name. Below is our guide to everything you can watch, listen to, and read to learn more about Holmes and Theranos.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
The Inventor, released on HBO in 2019, is directed by Alex Gibney, a documentarian who made his name going deep on other fraudulent organizations with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. With The Inventor, he interviews several of the subjects featured in multiple pieces of Holmes media, including Stanford University professor Phyllis Gardner and Theranos whistleblowers Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz.
The documentary also interviews journalists who covered Holmes, both during her rise and during her fall, including reporter John Carreyrou, and Roger Parloff, who wrote a glowing profile of Holmes when she appeared on the cover of Fortune. With a runtime of two hours, the documentary offers and in-depth look at how Holmes built up her company and the deception that led to its demise.
To go along with their podcast of the same name, ABC aired The Dropout in 2019 during their weekly 20/20 program. The documentary is now available to watch in parts on YouTube. It’s shorter than the podcast, whose first season featured six episodes, so it offers abbreviated versions of each of the interviews. While it does give visuals to some of the people and places discussed, some of the interviews are audio-only.
Like the podcast, the show is presented and narrated by ABC reporter Rebecca Jarvis.
Valley of Hype
If you’ve already watched the other documentaries on Holmes and crave more, then Valley of Hype might be for you, though it’s the weakest of the bunch. Released in 2021, this documentary is produced by Yahoo! Finance and uses mostly existing information and photos with the Ken Burns effect as the primary imagery. Curiously, the documentary opens with several interviews with scientist and board members defending Holmes for her innovative vision, claiming that what she did isn’t necessarily fraud.
While many podcasts have had singular episodes about Elizabeth Holmes, The Dropout is the definitive audio documentary that tracks the rise and fall of Theranos. The ABC podcast, hosted by Rebecca Jarvis, is the basis for the ABC documentary of the same name. The podcast initially aired in 2019 with a six-episode season breaking down Holme’s trajectory from a Stanford student, to a rising tech star, to a reviled fraudster.
The Dropout is also the basis for the Hulu miniseries, which draws many of its characters and scenes from the interviews conducted by Jarvis. The podcast talks to employees from every era of Theranos, neighbors Holmes had growing up, scientific experts, and other crucial figures in the Theranos universe. After the success of the first season, the show released nearly 20 more episodes covering Holmes’ trial and verdict.
Bad Blood: The Final Chapter
Reporter John Carreyrou wrote the first investigative story doubting Theranos’ technology and unveiling the fraudulent blood testing system for the Wall Street Journal. After the explosion of his piece, and the subsequent reporting he did on the subject, Carreyrou wrote Bad Blood, a book diving deeper into Theranos and Holmes, which was published in 2018.
In 2021, Carreyrou continued his work on the topic with the podcast Bad Blood: The Final Chapter, which follows Holmes’ trial and gives a more in-depth look at her company. The show also features insights from former New York Post court reporter Emily Saul. The podcast concluded in January 2022 with an episode covering Holmes’ guilty verdict.
Bad Blood, John Carreyrou
After publishing his investigative report on Theranos in the Wall Street Journal, journalist John Carreyrou then extended his report in the 2018 book Bad Blood. Carreyrou’s 2018 book Bad Blood, which furthered his investigative reporting on Theranos, featured interviews with 150 people—including 60 former Theranos employees—who had connections to Holmes, Theranos, or the investigation surrounding the company.
The book offers more in depth coverage of many of the topics covered in the documentaries including the earliest days of Theranos, Holme’s worship of Apple and Steve Jobs, her relationship with Sunny Balwani, and the whistleblowers that helped reveal the company’s secrets.
In 2020, Carreyrou released a new addition with a new afterword. A movie based on Bad Blood is in the works directed by Adam McKay and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Holmes.
Based on the ABC podcast of the same name, The Dropout premieres on Hulu on March 3. The miniseries stars Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes and Naveen Andrews as Sunny Balwani, her romantic/business partner. The show sticks to its source material and most of the characters are depictions of real people, like Stanford Professor Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf), chemist Ian Gibbons (Stephen Fry), board member George Shultz (Sam Waterston), and reporter John Carreyrou (Ebon Moss-Bacharach).
The series closely follows the first season of the podcast, beginning with Holmes as a Harvard student eager to make a name for herself and ends with the public reveal of her fraudulent science. The Dropout dramatizes the faux-science and business dealings at Theranos, and also goes deeper into Holmes’ personal life and her relationship with Balwani.
It is not yet announced if the show will continue Holmes’ story with more seasons and cover her trial as the podcast did.
The bestselling book by John Carreyrou will be adapted into a movie written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice), with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Holmes. The movie was picked up by Apple Studios to be premiered on Apple TV+, but no other cast members or information about the film has been released yet.
This 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal by John Carreyrou marked the beginning of the end for Theranos. The report alleged that Theranos was lying about the tests its machines were capable of, and that most of the blood tests conducted by Theranos were not done on their own machines.
While Carreyrou was reporting the story, Holmes tried to have her new investor Rupert Murdoch kill the story, since his company owns the Wall Street journal. After the story was released, Theranos employees gathered in their office and chanted “Fuck you Carreyrou.” He went on to write dozens more articles about Theranos for WSJ.
Read the article here.
In between the time when Theranos was revealed to be a fraudulent company and when Theranos actually shut down, there was a strange limbo period. The company was still in operation and Holmes was still CEO, but they were essentially out of money and facing several lawsuits. They were being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and the FBI.
In this Vanity Fair feature, writer Nick Bilton offers a look into the strange final months at Theranos, describing Holmes’ strangely chipper demeanor, her new husky puppy pooping around the office, and her happy social media posts with her new boyfriend.
Read the article here.
Written immediately following her guilty verdict in January 2022, this New York Times story, written by David Streitfeld, analyzes why so many people in Silicon Valley and the tech industry were swayed by Holmes. The story includes some of Holmes’ personal notes, which were submitted as evidence in court.
Streitfield wrote that the persona Holmes had crafted “fit so neatly into the Silicon Valley cliché” that “it inspired belief right up to the moment on Monday when a jury officially convicted her of four counts of fraud.”
Read the article here.
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