We’ve seen the “Mad Men” of the advertising age, the “Entourage” movie star cadres, and the cultures that build around the wolves of Wall Street. Now HBO’s new comedy “Silicon Valley” takes aim at the relatively untapped comedy and money powerhouses of the tech world where the superstars aren’t actors, but guys who can code.
“Silicon Valley,” which launched April 6 from Mike Judge (“Office Space” and “King of the Hill”) and starring Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, and Martin Starr, is the second HBO series to tackle tech and the Bay Area this year. “Looking,” set 30 miles away in San Francisco also features guys in the tech industry. “Looking,” however, has more drama than comedy and is focused more on relationships as a gay male than on the pursuit of tech stardom.
Amazon’s “Betas” (launched last fall and has not been renewed) seems to have had a closer-to-parallel path. Young males starting their own company, with a genius algorithm, looking for investors. Everyone chasing the same digital gold rush. A mixed lot of socially awkward techies, with one just a little sloppier and more socially savvy than the rest. Egomaniacal billionaire investors with their own cults of personality. But I don’t begrudge all the similarities and caricatures. Why? Because they’re all a little bit true.
Different than the seemingly polished worlds of Hollywood and 5th Avenue, the tech industry revolves around people who may or may not look like they have any clue what they’re doing. Living in this area, where a sulky hipster in a café suddenly sits up and takes a call to negotiate a multi-million dollar contract, where friends who were eating ramen one weekend are buying a Lamborghini the next, where the kid no one talked to in school is now the guy who gets all the attention at parties (and would still rather be in the corner or at home), we see the bizarre world of the tech industry with all its patterns and oddities firsthand. So we can’t blame writers for discovering them as well. Of course they won’t show the tedium that is actually starting a company—programming and contracts and years and years of grunt work—because that would be boring to watch. Just bring on the jokes. There should be plenty.
Here’s hoping “Silicon Valley” can succeed where “Betas” failed — with viewers. With helmer Mike Judge’s reputation for finding the humor in the ordinary and the nerdy, HBO’s captive audience Sundays at 10 p.m. will hopefully have fun with this one. Other networks are hoping so too, with tech-themed series “Halt” and “Catch Fire” (AMC) slated for release later this year and “Hatching Twitter” (Lionsgate, no network announced) in development.
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