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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    HBO show correctly portrays tech-savvy California

    Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods, and T.J. Miller star in HBO's new series "Silicon Valley." (Isabella Vosmikova/HBO/MCT)

    HBO debuted “Silicon Valley,” a smart new comedy from Mike Judge (“Beavis and Butthead,” “Office Space”) two weeks ago. Though it’s only two episodes in, the show is fantastic.

    Set in California’s tech-savvy South Bay, “Silicon Valley” follows the lives of five software developers trying to make it big. The show’s protagonist, Richard, has created a potentially revolutionary compression algorithm. He finds himself having to make the choice between selling it to Hooli, a big Google-like company, for $10 million, or taking $200,000 from investor Peter Gregory, who offers guidance and a chance for Richard to build his own company around this algorithm, and he takes the latter offer.

    Although “Silicon Valley” is satire, it deals with many of the harsh realities of tech capitalism. Talent in programming and app design is always of foremost importance for developing start-ups, but the business aspect can often be overlooked. The show doesn’t sugarcoat the narrative, as Richard is brought back down to earth rather quickly when he realizes that he doesn’t know how to put together a simple business plan, much less his own company.

    Everything about this show works through the first two episodes. Judge is a master architect of worlds and among the best at perfecting atmosphere and nuance, “Office Space” being a primary example of this. He actually worked in Silicon Valley 25 years ago and captures the culture in way that’s satirical, yet starkly real. Richard and his band of nerds have trouble talking to (and generally being around) women, they play video games and make the snarkiest of jokes about mobile apps.

    The acting in this show is amazing. Among the great breakout performances — of which there are many — Thomas Middleditch (Richard) and T.J. Miller (Erlich) stand out from the pack. Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) of “Freaks and Geeks” fame has never been better. The same can be said for the great Christopher Evan Welch (Peter Gregory) of “The Master” and the sleazy Matt Ross (Gavin Belson) of “Magic City.”

    For Judge, “Silicon Valley” has the most widespread appeal of anything he’s done. It always seems like his work isn’t appreciated until years after the fact. But now he’s on HBO, wedged right in the middle of a loaded Sunday night block of programming that includes the insanely popular “Game of Thrones” and the smart, witty “Veep.” Grantland’s Andy Greenwald claims “HBO suddenly has the best hour of comedy on TV,” and it’s hard to argue with him.

    Think “Entourage” but smarter, and with nerds instead of movie stars. And whereas “Entourage” had deteriorated into a comically bad show by its final season, “Silicon Valley” is unlikely to follow in those footsteps. Judge has been here before and has done television for a long time. He’s great at not only building worlds, but also staying within them.

    “Entourage” was always walking the fine line of realism and frat house fantasy, but ultimately succumbed to the latter. It was a sell-out. But here, Judge and his band of nerds have already decided to chase the dream.

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