Actor Thomas Middleditch stars as Richard

Actor Thomas Middleditch stars as Richard

(WATCH) Episode 1 of HBO’s spot-on new comedy ‘Silicon Valley’

Main character Richard accidentally invents a piece of software that can shrink any music file, and launches a bidding war for his company

Call Silicon Valley topical if you must. It is that. But I hate calling things topical… it’s lazy. It lends a backhanded compliment to something that could be outrightly terrific. Calling it topical only gives off the sense that something isn’t ahead of its time or wonderfully nostalgic in any way.

If something is topical, the upfront assumption is that it’s only good because it’s right now. A movie like Up in the Air was called topical because the job market sucked in 2009, even though the film was terrific on its own. But the praise is as critical as the put-down, the same sort of patronizing but positive remark you get from your father’s friends or your older colleagues when they tell you, “You did a great job considering how young you are.”

So, I did a great job, or I was just better this one time than everyone else you perceive to be below you?

But Silicon Valley did a great job. And they’ll do more, because creator Mike Judge and his roster of actors seem to understand the scene they’re playing out and because we’re all just as fed up – but still in love – with the Valley as they are.

The show starts the way you think it will: a few nerds work for an exasperatingly long-winded, into-itself corporation called hooli. We never learn what the company does, only that claims to be changing the world and doing things different, even though the pie is as often as oppressive as the broccoli.

“I’d like for this company to just be different than hooli and all the rest,” the show’s main character Richard says at the close of Episode 1. “Like, let’s not turn this into a corporate cult, you know with bike meetings and voluntary retreats that are actually mandatory, claiming to make the world a better place all the time.

He then stumbles awkwardly through a few slogans that are already taken – like Apple’s “think different” and Nike’s “just do it” – while trying to inspire his already-inspired team of programmers and one opportunistic but heart-of-gold investor.

And with that, the template for this show – and the main conflict that will not dominate these characters from Silicon Valley‘s inception – is set.

How can your company actually be different? Richard can’t even end a speech without borrowing a trademarked nugget from the “corporate cults” he has just called out. He professes his admiration for Steve Wozniak earlier in the show, in opposition to the “poser” Steve Jobs… but is the road-less-travelled’s love for Wozniak any less of an institution now? You don’t have to be a genius to be a Steve Jobs fanboy, sure. But hipsters know as well as anyone, the minute you do something to be ironic or different or iconoclastic, you’re all of a sudden a part of a new wave.

Jack Kerouac hated being known as a Beat. Apple always wanted to be cooler than Microsoft – which it perceived as the industry’s Coca Cola – until it was, and then it had nowhere to go but beside itself.

In Silicon Valley, we see Richard cluelessly invent something that could change the world, and there’s no other way to describe it than that overused, hyperbolic cliche. CHANGE THE WORLD.

He develops a pretty lame app which will let you search out music, so you can see whether it’s copyrighted or trademarked or off-limits. But hidden in that app is an algorithm that lets you shrink any music file down to next to nothing – a couple of megabytes – and download the file in an instant.

It’s not just another social app. It’s a software, and Richard and his panic attacks are launched into a bidding war between his own boss at hooli and some dink named Peter Gregory, who we see early on in the episode in a hilarious and scathing, but subtle, parody of TED Talks. The long glances to nowhere, the folded right hand that bobs with every important syllable, and the long pauses between each heavenly word… it’s all there.

Richard’s boss is offering him the cash, straight up. Gregory is offering him seed money and control of his own new company called Pied Piper.

And of course, there’s a cute girl, too, played by Amanda Crew.

She’ll most likely be taken – by Gregory, perhaps – and Richard will have to fight for her and show his golden side. Every show needs a Jim and Pam, after all.

The attitude is here and the plot complies. Silicon Valley somehow turns a predictable premise into something fresh. The acting is terrific, as is the casting.

“It’s like Asperger’s Entourage,” said comedian T.J. Miller, who plays Ehrlich (to Mashable). “We’ve taken great pains to make it as real as possible, not only in the fact-checking but also in the texture and the characters of Silicon Valley.”

Even the show’s soul-less guys – like Richard’s boss, Galvin Belson – have their moments of Ari Gold-ish comedic touch.

For example, in one monologue, Belson – who’s watching a flock of programmers walk into the building below him – remarks on how his employees always travel in the same stereotypical groups of five.

“There’s always a tall, skinny white guy. Short, skinny Asian guy. Fat guy with a pony tail. Some guy with crazy facial hair. And then, an East Indian guy,” Belson says, while his employees talk him up to Richard, who’s waiting in hooli’s executive lobby. “It’s like they trade guys until they all have the right group.”

And there’s another case of the show’s overlapping precision – not only do Richard and his crew mock Gavin and his, but the executive, TED-talkie types like Belson and Gregory (and, we’ll assume Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates) mock them, too.

We’re given a look at Silicon Valley with all its contradictions… nerdy people without money but with misplaced ambition, business guys and titans ready to slurp it all up like Daniel Day Lewis with a milkshake, an ugly city submerged in overpriced, unattainable, average real estate, and a bunch of twilight-ing old people living side-by-side with entrepreneurs in search of the 21st century’s gold rush.

And it’s all great because it’s on HBO. If this was on NBC or some shooting-for-the-middle, once-ahead broadcast network, it would have a laugh track or a schizophrenic week-to-week schedule. It would be the next Outsourced, not its own story.

“We could be the vikings of our day,” Richard says.

His audience doesn’t really get the metaphor, but Silicon Valley‘s audience should.

The only thing wrong with Episode 1?

It’s just 30 minutes long.

WATCH: The Onion parodies TED Talks – “Ducks Go Quack, Chicks Say Cluck”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read