“For thousands of years, guys like us have gotten the shit kicked out of us. But now…we can be in charge and build empires.”
So says Richard Hendricks, the protagonist of “Silicon Valley”, a television comedy that starts on April 6th on HBO.
In the pilot Mr Hendricks, the mousey-kid inventor of Pied Piper, a fictional compression algorithm, tries to decide whether to sell a small stake in his startup to a venture capitalist or the whole thing to Hooli, a tech giant that sounds suspiciously like Google.
He is living every geek’s dream. If only he were cooler.
For years HBO has made programmes that gently mock–and reflect–contemporary culture. “Sex and the City”, a show about single women in New York, has sparked a gazillion conversations about how much one should spend on shoes and how soon one should take a new boyfriend to bed. “Girls”, which began in 2012, has inspired twentysomethings everywhere to have awkward sex and not find jobs.
“Silicon Valley” lampoons not only gawky youngsters but also the seedbed of American innovation. Look beyond the free food and glittery parties, and Silicon Valley is a savage place.
Friends are ejected from companies they helped launch (one character extols Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who “was such a tough negotiator that now all his friends are suing him. I mean, how awesome is that?”). Titans try to sabotage each other’s projects. There are so few female executives that hosts hire women to talk to socially inept engineers at parties.
Amusingly, none of the gizmos in the show seems to work. Virtual-meetings software crashes; voice-recognition technology cannot deal with basic English.
Suit-scorning techies nonetheless wear uniforms, sporting grey hoodies like Mr Zuckerberg or black turtlenecks like the late Steve Jobs of Apple. Would-be technopreneurs are encouraged to drop out of college as quickly as possible; in real life Peter Thiel, an investor, offers some clever kids $US100,000 to do just this.
“Silicon Valley” taps into Americans’ unease about the technology industry. On the one hand, they love its products. On the other, they wince when it buries older businesses or turns arrogant 25-year-olds into instant billionaires.
Will Pied Piper catch fire or flame out?
Many Americans will root for the latter–as they watch the show on their smartphones.
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