Lots of real-life tech luminaries, including former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and investor Mark Andreessen, are more than happy to contribute their expertise to making sure HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is as accurate as possible.
The details of how, and why, tech leaders work with “Silicon Valley” showrunners Mike Judge and Alec Berg, are recounted in excellent detail by the New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz in a new long-form story.
But not every executive appreciates the show’s satirization of the real Silicon Valley.
According to the New Yorker report, the writers of Silicon Valley met with Astro Teller, the head of Google X — the division of Google responsible for “moonshot” projects including Google Glass and self-driving cars. That meeting ended poorly, with Teller “standing up in a huff” and attempting (emphasis on “attempting”) a dramatic exit, says the report.
“His message was, ‘We don’t do stupid things here. We do things that actually are going to change the world, whether you choose to make fun of that or not,'” Silicon Valley writer Carrie Kemper told the New Yorker.
The issue, Kemper says, was that he felt that the show was disrespectful to Google X and its projects. In the second season of the show, fictional Google analogue Hooli forms the HooliXYZ “moonshot factory,” a clear parody of Google X.
But where the real Google X is working on high-minded stuff like universal connectivity and drone package delivery, HooliXYZ built potato cannons and provided a backdrop for crude monkey masturbation jokes.
The funniest part, Kemper says, is that Teller’s attempt at a big exit was thwarted because he was wearing rollerblades. He fell to the ground, got up, and stumbled his way to the door. Then, he couldn’t find his ID badge to leave the room…all in clear view of the gathered “Silicon Valley” writers.
The writers weighed turning the event into a joke, but decided it was “too hacky to use on the show,” Kemper told the New Yorker.
If the episode caused any hurt feelings, they don’t appear to have had any lasting effects however. Teller appeared alongside “Silicon Valley” star Thomas Middleditch in a Google April Fool’s Day video earlier in 2016.
When Google announced it was be creating a new holding company called Alphabet in the summer of 2015, the official press release included a shout-out to HooliXYZ. And Google has even let HBO post fake “Silicon Valley” news to its search results.
This isn’t the first time that the real Silicon Valley have pushed back at the satirical show. Back when the show first premiered in 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was extremely critical, saying “most startups are a soap opera, but not that kind of soap opera.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.