Silicon Valley: Review – SXSW

HBO Broadens Reach and Hits Comedy Gold

The alluring tech industry features a hodgepodge of billionaire investors, super geeks, and socially awkward characters just waiting to be made into a TV series.  Silicon Valley takes the challenge and provides a well-crafted setting for these characters to play on. 

The series centers around the socially awkward Richard (Thomas Middleditch) who works at tech giant Hooli, run by the super rich Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) who takes every moment to remind us that his products are “making the world a better place” (insert laughs here).  As a side project, Richard has created a product allowing musicians to check if their music and lyrics have been used before.  Named “Pied Piper”, the true significance of the app is its’ ability to quickly condense information-making it potentially worth billions. 

When Belson gets wind of the capability of Richard’s app, he bids a hefty $600,000 dollars for it.  The killer app has also caught the attention of billionaire Peter Gregory (Christopher Welch) who counters Belson’s offer with $250,000 and ownership of 5 percent of the company, effectively allowing Richard to maintain control of his creation.  Belson ups his offer to $10 million and Richard is sick (literally) with anxiety. 

Creator Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) offers a fresh comedy set in the high tech world of Silicon Valley.  During the show’s premiere at SXSW, Judge explained that this his days as an engineer in Silicon Valley during the ‘80s allowed him some insight into the Valley’ culture, but tech giants and the abundance of eager startups and venture capitalists added a modern take that allowed Judge and co-creators John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky a comedy buffet with ample material to choose from.  Anyone or thing is fair game in this comedy and Judge makes sure to poke fun at the super rich and super awkward without hesitation.

T.J Miller gives a stand out performance as Erlich, the slacker millionaire who allows Richard (and other talented programmers) to live at his home for free, in exchange for 10 percent of any company they create.  Miller is the nonchalant, entitled persona also associated with Silicon Valley and lands every joke with ease. The entire cast is delightful, meshing great one-liners with lively comedic exchanges that deliver. 

For the past few years, HBO has had a penchant for establishing niche shows that offer quality content without a strong show of ratings.  Shows like the canceled Enlightened, and recently renewed Getting On, feature great acting and writing without mass appeal.  The addition of Silicon Valley is totally opposite of the niche series home that HBO has become known for.  Silicon has the ability to reach a broad fan base of geeks, tech enthusiasts and comedy buffs alike, and promises to attract a huge audience (and ratings) of the old HBO.  This is definitely one to watch.