HBO's Silicon Valley. Credit: HBO
The HBO series Silicon Valley closed out its first season last week with its most madly brilliant episode so far. Whatever it takes, see this program!
The series is the brainchild of Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill, Idiocracy), who admitted in an NPR interview that he was unprepared for the immediate, glowing critical reaction to his program and to his newfound role as a satirical whistleblower exposing the silliness of a vain and gilded Internet culture. In a Viral Video column two months ago I wrote that the show “seems almost too good to be true” and “my only fear is that Judge won’t be able to sustain this initial mood of funny, derisive scorn… if Silicon Valley dissolves into a puddled, quasi-affectionate lampoon, than it will be time to drag it to the trash.”
I’m happy, ecstatic actually, to report that Silicon Valley not only stayed scalpel-sharp — as well as hilarious and crude — but it also deepened into a rich, character-centric buddy movie. And I mean “buddies” as opposed to “bros.” Five of them, in fact, all brainy, warm-hearted goofballs building a startup business called, charmingly, “Pied Piper”, and living together in a suburban ranch home while navigating the sandtraps of instant wealth and resounding failure.
Bad casting would have flattened Judge’s creation from the outset, as would a preening attention to the boys’ dorm-room lifestyle, something a network sitcom would have built the entire program on. Instead, this quintet of still-undatable dudes (played by Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani and Zach Woods) inhabit their space as if it’s an extension of their childhood bedrooms. Their renegade streak of playfulness is a cri de coeur against a tech-verse stuffed with fatuous assholes. The actors all hit the deadpan bullseye, but my favorite is Miller as Erlich Bachman, the team’s self-appointed “vision guy”, a clueless blowhard who nevertheless has everyone’s best interests at heart.
The season finale (the half-hour program has already been renewed for next year) hinges on Pied Paper competing in an annual start-up contest called Tech Crunch. The episode revolves around a set piece in which our sleep-deprived heroes number-crunch their way to victory based on the algorithmic breakdown of…um…hand jobs. The scene was a sidesplitting, anarchically vulgar tour de force, and a perfect example of the show The New Yorker called “ a high-grade Proustian pot brownie.”
(Tip for non-HBO subscribers: The quiet little secret about the pay-to-view behemoth is that if you already have a cable TV subscription you can call up your cable company and buy HBO for a single month (for less than $20), binge watch this series online through their HBO-GO portal, then cancel your subscription, even though they’ll try to make you a deal to keep it until infinity, or Xfinity).
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