in Review

Silicon Valley – Season 2

For about the past year or so I’ve spent my days working for a start-up company that much to my surprise has not gone belly-up, and in doing so has kept me employed and able to write crap like this in my free time without having to worry too much about money.  Granted, what I do for said company doesn’t have much to do with algorithms or stock options or any of the stuff that the big players in the tech industry get to deal with, yet has still given me a periphery view of the world of Bay Area-borne start-ups that Silicon Valley depicts.  But then again, I suppose we’re all living on the periphery of companies vying to “make the world a better place”, which is what has and continues to make Silicon Valley seem considerably more timely than your average sitcom.  And in season 2, I think the show was able to exude an even stronger balance of satirizing the bigwigs and dreamers of the tech industry, but while also being really funny too.

Season 2 of Silicon Valley started out by finally addressing the death of Peter Gregory, who very well could’ve become one of the great comedic characters on television right now if it wasn’t for the untimely passing of actor Christopher Evan Welch.  Replacing him at his company is some lady who pretty much acts exactly like him, which might seem odd/lazy if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s so far been a pretty minor character.  Also, introduced this season to help out the guys at Pied Piper by investing in the company is Russ Hanneman (played by that guy with a really complicated Greek last name), who serves as an amusingly douchey send-up of the Mark Cuban/Sean Parker type.  Then as the season progresses we have an ensuing race for Pied Piper to get it’s data compression app out before internet behemoth Hooli and it’s CEO Gavin Belson can create a better version of the app, or just sue Pied Piper into oblivion.  First off, I have to give credit to the writers for making this show’s plot very approachable even despite all of its insider tech babble, because even though I am undoubtedly a nerd, I am far from the breeds of nerd that inhabit this show (though if I was, I can only assume I’d have sooooo much more money).

Another reason I have to give props to the writing staff of Silicon Valley (which seems to contain a mix of young and veteran TV writing talent), is its ability to push forward as a new kind of serialized half-hour comedy.  It’s certainly not the first, as Parks And Recreation (and Arrested Development too I guess) seemed like one of the first modern sitcoms to consistently move its arcs and characters forward, while Silicon Valley and a few others (it’s HBO Sunday brethren, Veep comes to mind) have continued to popularize the idea that a sitcom doesn’t necessarily have to be so episodic.  And sure, there are certainly episodes here that maybe are just there to be placefillers that stand in the way of anything really dramatic happening, but a lot of the time those episodes get by on this show’s innate ability to skewer the ridiculousness of the tech industry in new and hilarious ways.  Also, I think one of the keys to keeping this show relatable has been by keeping Pied Piper from ever becoming too successful and thus too hard to root for, since no one would want to see a sequel to The Social Network in which you’re just watching a really rich dude be really rich.

In that regard, it’s pretty special how the writers and Silicon Valley‘s star Thomas Middleditch continue to make Pied Piper founder Richard Hendricks both more assertive and boss-like in season two, but also remains the same frightened nerd we know he is deep down.  It’s this internal battle of passive geek vs. proactive businessman that seems to be the crux of what makes the tech revolution such an interesting changing of the guard in terms of who is running America’s popular consciousness right now, and it’s also at the heart of these characters.  And even though the show does have a considerable amount of plot, I do appreciate that it’s also loose enough to let this excellent comedic ensemble mess around and riff with each other in the confines of Erlich’s self-proclaimed “incubator” (though honestly, I could’ve used a little more Zach Woods this season because I could always use a little more Zach Woods).

There is a part of me that’s a little hesitant to use words like “satire” and “timeliness” in regards to Silicon Valley, possibly because it isn’t afraid to throw itself into random acts of silliness.  The show often seems like it’s of a piece with Idiocracy, a movie written and directed by Mike Judge, who’s undoubtedly the most high profile producer on the show, though I’m not entirely sure how much he contributes to Silicon Valley.  Either way, it has that same tone of blowing all the contradictions and hypocrisies of our modern age up to absurd proportions, and in the process leads to scenes of engineers accidentally destroying property with a high-tech potato cannon, or a monkey using his newly equipped robot arm to masturbate furiously.  It’s a distinct mix of high and low that I responded to even more in season number two, and as long as Silicon Valley keeps heading in the direction its been heading in, I can only assume it will Make The World A Better Place.