Arts, Television

Failure Fuels Comedy in Tech-Hunting Grounds of ‘Silicon Valley’



Director Mike Judge, well known for his social-commentary films Idiocracy and Office Space, has once again struck gold with his cult-classic television program Silicon Valley. The show has reached critical acclaim even from its very first episodes, appealing to the tech-savvy and television-savvy alike. The premiere episode of the third season showed that Judge is far, far away from running out of ideas.

HBO’s Silicon Valley relates the story of Richard Hendricks, a failed Stanford University student who’s trying to develop his own software startup company. After leaving tech giant Hooli, he develops his own product, Pied Piper, a music app with a constantly developing mission statement. Hendricks constantly fights to keep himself and his company legitimate in the eyes of the minefield of a business world that is Silicon Valley. In the season three premiere, Hendricks attempts to sue his own company after being fired by its board of directors. He meets with an external company to try to find work elsewhere, but is eventually hired back as the CTO of his own company.

Thomas Middleditch, who plays Hendricks, is without a doubt the strongest actor on the show. One of the biggest elements of a long-standing television program is a solid ensemble cast—Middleditch grounds every single actor around him, rooting the show in a sense of concrete steadfastness. Second to Middleditch is Matt Ross playing the role of Gavin Belson, chief innovation officer of Hooli. Gavin stands in stark contrast to Hendricks as the foil to Hendricks’ desire to remain sane in the world of business. Ross’ character is by far the funniest—the way in which he counteracts the character of Hendricks is nothing short of comedy genius. The Middleditch-Ross power duo is one of the most appealing parts of Silicon Valley.

This is the driving force behind Silicon Valley’s popularity. The uniquely executed humor of the show is something of a phenomenon in modern television. Silicon Valley garners laughter from its audience in perhaps the most counterintuitive way possible: by punishing its characters over and over, placing them in positions where they are doomed to fail, like when Middleditch is unable to convince Pied Piper’s executive board to make him CEO of his own company. Even similarly styled programs like The IT Crowd or Betas are not quite as harsh to their characters, which leads Silicon Valley down a path more reminiscent of HBO’s Game of Thrones than a show about a tech startup. And the formula works quite well—Silicon Valley is hilarious. The first two episodes have more than their fair share of laughs.

Refreshingly, Silicon Valley is not afraid to offend viewers in an effort to gain these laughs. The second episode of the latest season featured two thoroughbred horses having sex on camera. And according to Mike Judge, no, the scene wasn’t simulated—Silicon Valley actually displayed “horse porn” as an elaborate joke in its latest episode. Yes, seriously. Extremely graphic and extremely brave, this scene is representative of Silicon Valley’s one-of-a-kind style of humor: unafraid of criticism from anyone.

On a lesser note, Silicon Valley impresses with its musical choice. The first episode closed with D.J. Shadow’s “Nobody Speak,” and the second with The Pioneers’ “Time Hard”—each a perfect connection not only to themes of the show itself, but the specific episodes as well. Utilizing such a wide array of genres serves only to diversify the nature of the show.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley is not a television program for everyone. And this is not hugely shocking, especially considering the show’s willingness to show horse “fluids” to its viewers. Though Judge’s hit program will probably never reach a very broad appeal, there is no question as to the depth it reaches with those who do find it intriguing. This, perhaps, is an acceptable fate for such a unique style of humor, if Idiocracy and Office Space were any indication. Though it may seem backwards, if Judge’s creations are loved by the masses, they’ve likely lost their artistic integrity already, which is thankfully a fate that has yet to befall Silicon Valley.

Featured Image By Judgemental Films

May 4, 2016

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