4 out of 5
Created by: Mike Judge
covers season 1
When IT Crowd references became common amongst the Cools, my inner dork bristled but was soothed by accepting that IT Crowd really wasn’t a dork show, just a regular comedy show with some occasional references. A laugh track and major network admittedly kept me away from Big Bang Theory, despite constantly seeing how many comic book writers were working on it and make nifty nods to neat things. I haven’t had to doubt that decision, as the show occupies the same accessible territory as stuff like Arrow and the Marvel movies. When the posters for Silicon Valley started appearing, the Jobs parody of the initial campaign really rubbed me the wrong way, despite wanting to check out a new Mike Judge project. Besides, it was on HBO, which I always have to grudgingly catch up on later (…Game of Thrones), because I assume its shows will be… I dunno. Not cool enough for me. (Because I’m like mega cool if you haven’t figured that out yet.)
A write-up on IGN.com (which no ones looks at but me, I’m sure) suggested the show wasn’t anything like whatever that Jobs poster made me think it was going to be. I watched the first episode… and was floored. My inner dork was still a little troubled, because these dudes knew more than I did, and it mostly sounded legit, and this was on a major cable station and surely a whole bunch of people are watching this and laughing. And they are. You can say it’s another IT Crowd – a regular comedy with some occasional references – but Silicon is slicker (dorkier) than that. Yeah, it might still be slightly cookie cutter in its tech application, but not really. This is as close to ‘Primer’-level chatter as comedy can feasibly get, methinks. So for the sake of my entertainment, I will smooth down my bristles.
The 8 episodes of season 1 cover the rise of music compression dot-com Pied Piper from a start-up to a major company, thanks to main algorithm writer Richard Hendriks inadvertently sparking a rivalry between venture capitalist Peter Gregory and big time CEO Gavin Belson. Judge gets to once again lampoon the working class / big company mentality as skewed through a tech viewpoint, and Hendriks and his fellow social misfit programmers give Judge the outcasts he writes so well. The show stumbles comfortably from crisis to crisis for the young company and Hendriks, only really failing when it tries too hard for sitcom / TV conceits like a relationship angle (Hendriks’ pointless and rather unbelievable flirtation with Peter Gregory’s assistant) and a “human” component via Hendriks’ average joe programmer friend ‘Big Head,’ who goes to work for Pied Piper’s rivals under Belson. Otherwise the show hones in on that smart and sloppy humor that made Office Space such a random success, elevating it by having the characters employ the kind of uber-ritualistic logic that’s definitely common to the current computer-savvy class. Some jokes do trail out at length without striking home at the moment (Hendriks’ financial manager, Donald, getting stuck in an automated car), but as with other Judge works, if you hang in there the humor will play out (…Donald’s sleepless insanity upon his return). And then when the jokes DO hit – they hit hard. The whole first episode had me in tears, and now, we have the already classic dick joke from the finale.
If the scripters can stay true to the nerdy stuff and do away with social norms like chicks and friends, Silicon Valley’s second season will hopefully be as entertaining, as hilarious, and even sharper than it’s impressive beginning.