HBO's nerdy comedy returned for its second season on Monday night. From Hugh Hefner to negging, here's why you should be tuning in...
5. Geek chic
On paper, Silicon Valley seems an odd choice for the highly sought-after post-Game of Thrones slot. You go from ice walls to firewalls; from sword-wielding knights to keyboard warriors; from sex drives to hard drives. And although it sounds like the sort of place Hugh Hefner would live, you won’t find any nudity in Silicon Valley. Just nerdity.
But you don’t need to know what a ‘compression algorithm’ is to get into it. I promise.
4. Mike Judge
Silicon Valley is just the latest winner on creator Mike Judge’s impressive CV. He was the brains behind Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill and Idiocracy, a biting, dystopian satire starring Luke Wilson.
Judge is clearly no stranger to observational humour, and focusing on tech start-ups has provided a comedy goldmine. The show is a natural successor to geeky sitcoms like The IT Crowd and Big Bang Theory, so if you enjoyed those then you’ll love this.
Despite Mike Judge’s previous form, the satire takes a backseat here as the comedy drives the show. But it still pokes fun at today’s tech giants.
Hooli is a not-so-subtle incarnation of Google, and disperses the myth that huge companies can foster a hippy, laid back culture. Underneath all the PR bluster, they’re all ultra-competitive, pressurised environments. The bosses might wear jeans, but they still count the beans.
The intensity and risk of creating a start-up is well presented too, along with the trials and tribulations of raising cash from temperamental investors. That may sound a bit serious, but the show portrays the Silicon Valley goldfish bowl with a deft and funny touch.
The show benefits from intelligent casting. Other than Martin Starr, all the lead actors have a background in stand-up comedy. With licence to improvise, they add flourish to the writing and bounce off each other perfectly. Thomas Middleditch and T. J. Miller, who play Richard and Erlich, used to perform on stage as a double act, and their chemistry is evident on screen.
1. T. J. Miller
Richard Hendriks may be the main protagonist, but Erlich Bachmann is the star turn. T. J. Miller basically plays an exaggerated version of himself, and if you’ve ever seen his stand-up, you’ll know that’s a good thing.
Last night’s episode saw Erlich negotiating with investors to try and attract funding for Richard’s company. He soon worked out that playing hard-to-get was the right strategy, so he turned the negativity up a notch.
He starts by insulting one firm’s artwork: “It looks like a harlequin Kama Sutra. Done poorly.”
At the next meeting, he tells the three men sitting opposite that their muffins ‘smell like shit’, and that one of them is the least attractive person he’s ever seen. “And I won’t reveal who it is,” he explains, leaving them baffled.
For his final negging, he just puts his balls on the table. “I just had a call from them,” he tells Richard. “There is a line. And I crossed it.” We don’t actually see Erlich’s balls. I did say there was no nudity, and we should all be very thankful for that.
You can catch Silicon Valley on Monday nights on Sky Atlantic.