They always travel in groups of five, these programmers. There’s always a tall skinny white guy, short skinny Asian guy, fat guy with a ponytail, some guy with crazy facial hair and then an East Indian guy. This is a random observation of a rep in Silicon Valley.
Mike Judge knew it when directing his 1999 classic Office Space. He also knew it when he was putting together Beavis and Butthead. If you’re trying to create a genuine and funny postmodern world for audiences to get lost in, nothing works like satire. Lots of it.
Coming off his universally adored King of the Hill, Mike Judge paints a refreshingly authentic canvas in Silicon Valley, a hilarious and fascinating new satirical show about the titular Californian geekplace. I’ve always been a huge fan of the tech industry and its colorful characters. After spending a good portion of my youth enjoying and recommending films like Office Space and Grandma’s Boy I began to wonder where the ultimate silicon valley movie was. One that wasn’t Hollywoodized like the horrible The Internship. With the arrival of HBO’s Silicon Valley geeks and fans like me have a resounding reason to rejoice.
Having worked in the industry in the 80’s, Judge not only seems to adore the Silicon Valley quirks, but also knows fully well what’s expected from a satire of the same. In the pilot titled Minimum Viable Product we meet Richard (Thomas Middleditch) an atypical Silicon Valley programmer who has on his hands a hot new app called Pied Piper that could revolutionize copyright in the music industry. He’s then plunged into a bidding war between his company’s CEO (Matt Ross) and the famous venture capitalist Peter (Chris evan Welch). The former offers him $10 million up front to buy his software, while the latter offers $200,000 and a chance to develop his software in collaboration with him. The choice is too hard to stomach for Richard and his reactions go horribly, hilariously wrong.
With that plot established, Judge fills the show with memorable characters and side-splitting lines for both those familiar with the industry and outsiders. Richard’s friends, fellow developers and partners include Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), Big Head (Josh Brener) and Erlich (TJ Miller) who wears a T-shirt that says ‘I Know HTML (How To Meet Ladies)’. The other apps around Richard include the Nip App, which tells you your proximity to a woman with erect nipples. The two people bidding for his app are reminiscent of Steve Jobs and Larry Page, and there is a fun little nod to Steve Ballmer’s famous ‘I love this company’ speech.
There’s plenty of physical comedy to go along with the smart lines. The scene where Richard and the gang unsuccessfully try to come up with taglines for their new organization is howlarious. Pretty much every bit of the banter between the characters is quotable. When Erlich tells Richard that he’d be like Steve, Richard asks ‘Jobs or Wozniak?’ Erlich says ‘Jobs’, Richard’s crackling response is ‘Jobs was a poseur, he didn’t even write code’. To which an outraged Erlich says ‘You just disappeared up your own asshole’.
The casting is immaculate to say the least, these guys ‘look and feel’ like Silicon Valley strugglers. Their mannerisms and language are completely authentic and they just nail the Palo Alto typecasts. Those who don’t get the industry in-jokes, Judge has got them covered too since much of the fun in the show lies in simply seeing what comes next. If you thought the printer smashing scene in Office Space was iconic, Silicon Valley is a series of such gags.
HBO has well and truly got your TV screens covered this year. With True Detective ending on a high, they premiered the new seasons of Game of Thrones, Veep and the pilot of Silicon Valley on the same day. They’re so confident they even put the latter online for free. And it really is one of the year’s most exciting and promising new television shows. So what are you waiting for?