Minimal Viable Product
By Andy Greene
Silicon Valley is The Social Network…except it’s a comedy from Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, Office Space) that satirizes and lambasts the tech industry. Mike Judge worked as a software engineer in the late 1980’s, and is clearly the perfect person to create and write this show, even 30 years later. In an industry that changes every second…clearly the atmosphere and players are always the same.
The premise is fairly straight forward: five dudes live in an “incubator” set up by the brazen, funny and bizarrely shaved Erlich (How To Train Your Dragon’s T.J. Miller). They hate Palo Alto, the Silicon Valley and everything it represents, yet…software engineering is the only thing they can or want to do, and they want the money, fame and power that their nerdy contemporaries have. Silicon Valley is all about contradictions: the nerds are purported to rule the world, but it’s the smarmy businessman who invest and buy their programs that really have the power.
Meet Richard (Thomas Middleditch of CollegeHumor fame), who works at Hooli, a farcical cutting edge tech company known for its innovation and desire to facilitate social change. It’s clearly all B.S., and Richard and Big Head (The Big Bang Theory's Josh Brener) hate it, the brogrammers, and their enigmatic and mysterious CEO Gavin Belson (Big Love’s Matt Ross).
Richard has created Pied Piper, a useless website that can help songwriters find out if their music is infringing on copyrighted music and beats. Of course, as everyone knows, the music industry is notorious for sharing, sampling and stealing each other’s music. Clearly Richard’s focus is all off, and may get kicked out of Erlich’s incubator, or worse, made fun of by the two programmers who jokingly ask to take a look at his project.
But when they finally do, they realize Richard isn’t a joke: his state of the art compression software is a game changer, and could be the next billion dollar idea if used correctly. The technology actually gets Gavin’s attention, while inciting a bidding war with eccentric investor Peter Gregory (RUBICON’s Christopher Evan Welch). Richard is left with a terrifying choice: take a lump sum of money from Gavin, or build a company with Peter Gregory.
Silicon Valley is funny and biting. While Erlich seems poised to get the best lines, I expect Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani of Portlandia and Franklin & Bash) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr of Judd Apatow’s troupe) to steal the show in future episodes, and hopefully The Office’s Zach Woods becomes a bigger player (which seems likely, considering he’s on the billboards and is hilarious). Silicon Valley certainly has a whiff of familiarity. There have been no shortage of films and TV shows on the subject, including most prominently, Amazon’s Betas, which has pretty much the exact same plot points and character archetypes. Unfortunately for Amazon, Silicon Valley is better. It’s somehow more realistic, even while making fun of everything about the Silicon Valley and the douchebag nerds that run it.
The show is male-dominated, as one might expect from the setting, but thankfully Monica (Charlie St. Cloud’s Amanda Crew), Gregory’s second in command, is around to provide the tiniest bit of gender balance. Hopefully she’s not merely a love interest for Richard (or whomever), and Silicon Valley introduces more women to the proceedings. Mike Judge and company already make light of the programming demographic and group dynamics…and hopefully they can use the notion of gender imbalance as a source for comedy and satire in the season ahead.
Silicon Valley is about people who innovate, or try to, and while the show isn’t innovative itself, it’s off to a promising start with its pilot. HBO likely has another winner on its hands.