It’s not easy to create a niche comedy series that balances mainstream appeal with accurate parody, but HBO’s “Silicon Valley” does a decent job of it.
The half-hour comedy, co-created by Mike Judge, pokes fun at stereotypes surrounding the tech elite in Silicon Valley while keeping its main characters relatable.
And it’s not half bad.
When we initially saw the trailer for “Silicon Valley” last month, we were convinced it would be a disaster. The trailer showed little more than a dick joke and a group of cookie-cutter misfit nerds trying to play the underdog card. The truth, however, is that the trailer really didn’t do the show justice and we were pleasantly surprised with the end result.
Judge and co-creator Alec Berg (“Seinfeld”) not only did extensive research into the Bay Area culture, but both have personal ties to the region. Before becoming a successful writer (he wrote “Office Space”), Judge worked as a test engineer in Silicon Valley and Berg’s brother worked for Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.
“Silicon Valley” is full of quips and jabs that those familiar with the tech industry will find amusing, but it’s also broad enough to lure in average HBO watchers in the mood for a comedy. The show debuts on April 6 right after “Game of Thrones” on HBO.
We watched the first five episodes of “Silicon Valley,” and here’s what we came away with.
The story follows a Zuckerbergish programmer named Richard who works for Hooli -- a giant tech firm that mimics the lavish corporate culture at major companies like Google.
Richard lives in a startup incubator along with three other programmers. He's pictured here alongside his best friend Big Head. They have been friends most of their lives.
Gilfoyle is one of the four programmers living in the incubator with Big Head and Richard. He's a Satanist with a pompous attitude.
They all live under eccentric dot-com billionaire Erlich, who allows them to stay in his house for free in exchange for a 10 per cent stake in their products.
The plot kicks off when Richard's elusive corporate boss, Gavin Belson, realises that the compression algorithm hidden in Richard's music app is extremely valuable.
From there, Richard has a life-changing decision to make: sell his algorithm to his boss at Hooli for $US10 million or keep it and sell a small stake to venture capitalist Peter Gregory for a small fraction of what Belson offered.
Nearly every character in the show is a personification of some Silicon Valley stereotype. Richard is obviously the introverted programmer. As you'd expect, Richard and his posse aren't exactly fighting off the ladies.
Judge especially pokes fun at tech industry big-shots with pretentious, high-strung characters like Belson. Both Belson and Gregory (below) are praised as geniuses even though they typically have their lackeys running things.
Erlich loves Steve Jobs. He even wears Jobs' iconic turtleneck in one scene. From what we've seen, it's a running joke through the series.
The show also parodies the idea that virtually everyone in Silicon Valley is a tech entrepreneur wannabe that's trying to sell you something. In the first episode we meet a doctor who tries to convince Richard that he should try a prototype of his wearable medical device.
'Silicon Valley' has done most things right, but there's the occasional joke that feels out of place. There are certain puns you just wouldn't hear in real life, and it's clear those quips were thrown in there to cram in more nerd cred.
The anti-corporate spirit that defines 'Office Space' makes a return in 'Silicon Valley.' Richard and his gang are often portrayed as much smarter than characters like Gregory and Belson.
There's an underlying theme that drives the series: It takes more than a brilliant product and some dedication to make it in Silicon Valley -- you need to have strong business chops and an ultra aggressive attitude to survive against the industry overlords. Richard's biggest hurdle is not only learning to shed his meekness, but also to be a jerk -- as Silicon Valley requires.
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