Only in Silicon Valley can Kid Rock be the poorest guy in the room. Mike Judge’s new show, Silicon Valley, premiered Sunday, April 6, on HBO by opening with a performance from Mr. Rock. His energetic performance at a mansion party of uptight geeks ironically set the scene for the “King Of The Hill” and “Office Space” creator’s latest original PerZpective.
The 30-minute sitcom features tech giant hooli (a fictional Google) as the most innovative company in the world. Judge worked at a start up in “the Valley” some decades ago. Times have changed and technology has advanced but the ideals and values remain the same. Judge’s portrayal of life in California’s tech hotbed is just as hooli executives promote throughout their campus, “It takes change to make change.”
“Silicon” follows the lives of severely introverted techies, who speak quickly and awkwardly. Absorbed by their brilliant minds, they’re not very good with confrontation and conversation. Starring Thomas Middleditch as Richard, dubbed the twig boy by his “brogrammers,” a passive genius who lives in an incubator with Erlich (T.J. Miller). Erlich, a man who got rich quick off his app Aviato, takes a 10 percent stake in the apps his tenants create. Richard’s website is the laughing stock within the incubator, because it’s called Pied Piper, an altruistic app whose purpse is incomprehensible. Realistically, Big Head’s (Josh Brener’s) NipAlert isn’t any better.
In the world of apps, software, and technology, Silicon Valley hits us hard with a group of tech geniuses trying to create the next big piece of software. Judge models the program itself after many real life figures. We see the actions of Peter Thiel (the creator of PayPal—and the venture capitalist who is opposed to higher education) in Peter Gregory, whom we’re introduced to at a TED Talk event. “College is a cruel, expensive joke,” says Christopher Evan Welch as Peter Gregory.
As a satirical comedy on HBO, the show is inevitably going to be brought up in the same sentence as Entourage. It is based around a group of guys, living in a mysterious and lucrative scene. We usually see nerds getting stuffed into lockers on TV, “Silicon” shows the potential glory of being a geek. Erlich’s t-shirt in the pilot episode makes it clear, they know H.T.M.L (How to Meet Ladies). But where are the ladies? hooli is full of male programmers, and Peter Gregory’s assistant, Monica (Amanda Crew), is one of just two women we meet in the pilot.
The show’s strength is it’s relatable comedic style- it’s not just for the tech niche. But the dialog includes the insider pokes that appeal to those in the industry, as well. You can tell Judge did thorough research to prepare himself for this project. It blends the dry humor of Office Space with the raunchy style of Idiocracy quite nicely. Be prepared for a half hour of tech jargon from ambitious billionaires trying to jump in the driver’s seat and change the world.
The centerpiece of the show, Richard’s Pied Piper, is a music application that uses an extensive algorithm to see if a song infringes on any copyrighted material. Erlich tries to force Richard to use his brilliance on a new idea, because as he notes, “Nobody gives a sh*t about stealing other people’s music.” Little do we know, the algorithm and compression can be used for much more than just music. The brogrammers check out the website and see how quickly they get a match. Suddenly they realize that they are able to search on a compressed data space on his app, a game-changing technology. The bidding war for Pied Piper begins.
Richard’s left with a decision: sell his website for nine figures, or sell a percentage for six figures and partner with one of the titans of the tech world.
Silicon Valley is off to an entertaining, good start. But will it become great? “I believe we can only achieve greatness, if first, we achieve goodness,” said Peter Gregory during episode one’s TEDtalk spoof. “Silicon Valley’s” pilot had the humor, realism, and digs at techie stereotypes to make for a good start. So let’s see how high this rocket can fly.