Originally published on Trevor Trove on August 17, 2017
TL; DR(eview) – The first season of Silicon Valley brings a lot of great comedic talent into the fictional tech start-up Pied Piper and sets a great foundation for a show with humor built around technology culture, business management, and just some pure outlandish nonsense from the core cast.
Well, since I’m paying for HBO Now now, I’m going to take full advantage of that subscription and catch up on some of the my massive HBO backlog. A couple years ago, when my ex and I were mooching off of her parent’s account to watch Game of Thrones, I managed to squeeze in a few episodes of Silicon Valley but never got through the first season. I have now corrected that.
Silicon Valley focuses on Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), a somewhat typical tech programmer who stumbles into a potentially billion dollar idea when his Pied Piper music app has a powerful algorithm under the surface that can compress data files better than anything on the market. He’s immediately wooed by rival billionaires. On one hand: the flashy executive of a Google-like mega-corporation Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) who offers him $10 million for the company. On the other hand: there’s Peter Gregory, (Christopher Evan Welch) an eccentric billionaire who offers Richard less money but also the freedom to run his company. Taking Peter Gregory’s deal with a desire to build something of his own, Hendricks partners up with his roommates in an incubator managed by Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) and begin to build upon their prototype.
There’s a lot of tech-related humor mined in this show but this first season also derives a lot of its humor from characters who are well out of their depth when it comes to running a business. Richard is a great programmer but has no idea where to even start when building a business. He gets occasional guidance from Peter Gregory and his assistant Monica (Amanda Crew) but a lot of the decisions are driven by Miller’s Bachmann, a know-it-all millionaire with a never-ending well of terrible ideas who continually reminds everyone of the company he sold to earn his money.
There’s also a lot of humor drawn from the rivalry between Pied Piper programmers Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani). Gilfoyle is a dead-panned satanist while Dinesh is a Pakistani-immigrant and the two constantly bicker about who is better between the two. Zach Wood’s Jared rounds out the Pied Piper crew with his awkward involvement as the guy who really understands the business but little else.
I found myself laughing throughout the season but I couldn’t help but thing back to a short-lived series Betas, one of Amazon’s first attempts at episodic programming. The show featured a similar Silicon Valley start-up dynamic with an eclectic mix of characters but didn’t get picked up past its initial run of eleven episodes. It’s almost an interesting parallel to some of the technology ideas brought up in the show. Betas beat Silicon Valley to market by a year but it didn’t have the right “it” factor (or HBO audience) and Silicon Valley will be the show people remember.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first season of Silicon Valley and I’m interested to see where the series goes from there.