Smart Start-up for ‘Silicon Valley’

Since the early 1990s, Mike Judge has consistently established himself as one of the best satirists in entertainment.

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

His trademark brand of irreverent humor has brought on a fresh re-envisioning of American workplace culture (Office Space, Extract), the quirks of everyday life (King of the Hill), and the hilarious, yet also haunting stupidity of society (Beavis & Butthead, Idiocracy).

However one thing that a lot of people forget about Judge, is that a few years after graduating from UCSD, he worked briefly for a tech start-up in the Silicon Valley. The job was one that Judge heavily disliked, but it fortunately served as the main inspiration for his new comedy series, “Silicon Valley,” which proves once again that HBO has another winning series in their hand.

Set in the aptly named region of Northern California, “Silicon Valley” centers on a group of six programmers that are trying to work their way up the ranks of the area’s continuously booming technology industry.

Unlike those that have made it big, these are the guys that have the talent, but are constantly looked down upon by their superiors.

However, things begin to look up for the group when one of them who’s working on a music-matching website called Pied Piper ends up inadvertently creating a lossless file compression algorithm that has potential to radically change the industry. Though many opportunities arise from this breakthrough, it becomes hard for decisions to be made, considering how these guys have no experience of running a business on their own.

Judge, who co-wrote and directed the pilot, does not shy away with his aim of both satirizing the Silicon Valley tech industry, but also communicating the painful truth of the hardships various employees face.

He also clearly establishes in the pilot that everything isn’t supposed to be taken in a realistic sense, but more as a biting mockery of the most glorified aspects of the industry.

Casting-wise, Judge has assembled a sublimely eccentric group of comedic actors, most notably those playing the six programmers. As Richard Hendricks, the programmer of the group that creates the lucrative algorithm, Thomas Middleditch makes for a quite likeable lead. His approach to the character is familiar to roles that actors like Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera have treaded on before, but his social awkwardness has that same endearing effect, and also manages to rarely come off neurotic.

Apart from Middleditch, stars like TJ Miller and Zach Woods amongst others, vastly contribute to the show’s abundant supply of humor. Miller, who plays Erlich Bachmann, the irreverent head of the “incubator” that houses the programmers, displays spot-on comedic timing with one-liners galore, but also finds a balance by shifting from being a complete clown to a person that has surprising moments of unconventional wisdom.

Woods, best known from his role in “The Office,” assumes the role of the awkward head of business development for Pied Piper. Eccentricity is an aspect that he has displayed for almost every role he’s played in television, but it’s one that he runs well with on screen, especially when trying to ignite conversations in a quiet setting.

However in just a recurring role, Christopher Evan Welch steals every one of his scenes as Peter Gregory, the venture capitalist that purchases the rights to Richard’s algorithm. His deadpan tone works great for the insults he delivers to others, but also to the zany mindset he conveys to solver certain situations.

Welch unfortunately passed away after completing five of the series’ first eight episodes, so it will both bittersweet yet interesting to see how that situation will be handled for the first season’s plot progression.

Through only four episodes, “Silicon Valley” has exhibited smart writing that not only succeeds on its irreverent humor, but also takes the smart direction of showing the construction of a new business.

There are many tribulations the characters have already encountered, which make you root more for them to catch a prolonged break.

Already renewed for a second season, “Silicon Valley” is destined to become yet another cult hit for Mike Judge. With an astute ensemble cast, clever writing, and dead-on satire of the region’s tech industry, HBO’s comedy lineup continues to strengthen by the seasons.

 

RECOMMENDED: Mike Judge has built up a zany resume of irreverent satires in film and television, and “Silicon Valley” is another great addition to an already impressive career in the comedy genre.