Recently, I joined the swarming ranks of binge-watchers with a marathon viewing session of Silicon Valley, the absurd (or is it?) romp through the perilous and seductive minefield/gold-rush world of the tech realm, up Palo Alto to San Francisco way.
It may be a beautiful irony — or just an evident truth — that what happens in Silicon Valley is the reason we can now watch Silicon Valley, on demand, after the initial screening event. Without the Internet and its various streams and models, TV would be stuck in the VHF/UHF Stone-analog Age. How else could I have quickly caught up with the entire series before catching the recent third-season finale without the help of a portal?
In this series — masterminded by Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill), a veteran of Silicon Valley wars early in his life, and John Altschuler (also an alum of Beavis and King) — our seemingly unlikely heroes are Stanford dropout/nascent genius Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), the awkward but increasingly assertive CEO and brains behind the promising startup operation Pied Piper, and Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) as the noisier frontman and spin dealer. Hendricks mumbles and practices the art of swimming with sharks; Bachman over-enunciates and overstates his skill and importance. Also on the team, which is suitably diverse enough to allow for comic banter and bluster in the writing and character interplay, are the smart-tongued Pakistani émigré Dinesh, the droll beard-core trickster Gilfoyle, the socially inept yet efficient business head “Jared,” and — flitting between the underdog and the evil, scheming overdog company Hooli — the semi-clueless but sudden millionaire “Big Head.”
Despite the more cynical and market-manipulative capitalist forces driving Silicon Valley (and Silicon Valley), Internet-era homilies and catchphrases sugarcoat the festering connivance and anxiety beneath the surface. New companies or products are geared for “making the world a better place” — and the rejoinder from a competitor: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone is making the world a better place better than I do.”
Sex permeates the subtext in conversations, but carnality arrives on-screen in tellingly bizarre ways, most notoriously a scene with an explicit sexual encounter that involves horses in active stud mode, an uproarious deadpan backdrop to the dialogue in the “foreground.” In one episode, the Pied Piper team ponders a new name, and it is suggested that the best monikers could be spontaneous expressions blurted out during sex — for example, Google, Uber, and Hulu. My vote for zaniest scene in the series goes to an otherwise functional dialogue moment interrupted by Bachman coughing relentlessly from bong hits, a surreal stoner twist on the modern-day sitcom paradigm.
Silicon Valley’s season capper a few weeks ago was touted as a surprise ending. But that’s only half-true, in a series — and an industry and a Valley — where surprise turns, fluke successes, rapid “pivoting,” and chasing elusive dreams that morph into new dreams grow like weeds. Or magic mushrooms. Almost perversely, it’s hard not to stay tuned, and thanks to Silicon Valley, we can — any old time.
Silicon Valley: The Complete Third Season will be available in digital HD on July 25.