hbo’s silicon valley and its new breed of 20somethings
Lately, it seems like television—and the world—is obsessed with 20-somethings, perhaps because today, more than ever, being 20 is unsettling and daunting. The transition from childhood to adulthood is an uncomfortable move millennials are approaching with apprehension. Shows like “2 Broke Girls,” “Looking,” and “Girls” are just a few coming-of-age shows that feature young people looking for a direction in life.
Mike Judge’s “Silicon Valley” on HBO takes this familiar concept and miraculously turns it on its head. The show feels like a refreshing change of pace even though we’ve seen things like it before. In this Emmy-nominated comedy, Judge holds on to his reputation of consistently intelligent humor and socially relevant commentary. With a resume full of critically acclaimed successes, including “Office Space,” “Idiocracy,” and “King of the Hill,” Judge has, unsurprisingly, created another gem.
“Silicon Valley” follows a group of computer programmers as they begin a startup for the compression software Pied Piper, led by the painfully insecure CEO and college dropout, Richard. Although it possesses the elements of a typical millennial series, “Silicon Valley” is also vastly different, as it pulls us into a world rarely seen on television screens. Rather than feature intimidated characters in enormous cities like New York or San Francisco, “Silicon Valley”’s Palo Alto is an insular world, a tight community where word spreads quickly. Rather than follow average people with modest goals, the show pulls you into a world of people too smart for college— dropouts competing in a cutthroat industry of youthful masterminds. Rather than present characters so relatable they resemble the intended audiences, the exceptional people who compose Pied Piper are ones you’d only find among pamphlet-filled tables at tech conventions and fairs.
One of the most appealing differences between “Silicon Valley” and other shows of its genre is that the viewers do not feel distanced from the affluent and unique valley in Northern California, but rather find themselves wanting nothing more than to watch Pied Piper become the cultural icon they strive to be. Although the characters are unimaginably smart and living in a surreal world of technological innovation, the emotional plights they suffer from are universal. The average viewers may not be meeting with billionaire investors trying to buy their companies, but they do understand the stress of making intimidatingly huge life decisions. The audience might not be solving a software logarithm for hours on end with a company riding on their shoulders, but they can certainly relate to the feeling of having a problem that feels impossible to fix. The viewers find themselves growing attached to people with so much to offer who doubt themselves at every turn. In a seemingly remote world of computers and coding, “Silicon Valley” is a series you find yourself getting emotionally attached to because above all, you just want to see Pied Piper succeed.
If you come to the show without any knowledge of how the world of tech startups works or about technology altogether, you will be fine; the show is user-friendly. They speak in technological vernacular anybody can understand, making the goals of the startup even more relatable. The ensemble consists of a group of impeccable minds and dysfunctional personalities. Richard, the awkward CEO, whose inability to make a big decision without having an existential crisis is successfully portrayed by Thomas Middleditch— the gawking and tall caricature of a geek taken straight out of “Revenge of the Nerds.” Erlich, the self-proclaimed ringleader, is irritably obnoxious, yet still deserves respect; he gives a seemingly simple character an array of depth. The supporting characters, Dinesh and Gilfoyle, “Portlandia”’s Kumail Nanjani and “Freaks and Geeks’” Martin Starr, respectively, are as unique as their characters’ names imply. They capture their antithetical roles perfectly, delivering consistent laughs in the awkward social interactions forced upon them. Dinesh’s microscopic level of self-esteem when it comes to women compared to Gilfoyle’s unyielding confidence leads to hilarious back-and-forths—and constitutes some of the best jokes in the series.
Pied Piper and “Silicon Valley” are similar in their respective worlds: small endeavors with the potential of enormous success. Although “Silicon Valley” may not be the show everyone is talking about,, it very well could be once it hits its stride. In a world where everyone wants to be an icon, “Silicon Valley” might be the next big thing.