'Silicon Valley': Revenge of the Brilliant Nerds

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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Silicon Valley returns for its second season on Sunday night at once triumphant, funny, and in one case, a little bit sad. The new episodes pick up just after last season’s final-minutes-win by our high-tech heroes at the TechCrunch Disrupt convention. Valley also comes to terms with the real-life death of Christopher Evan Welch, who played one of the series’ most vivid and vital characters, billionaire Peter Gregory. 

While it’s uploaded with dense tech-talk and financial strategies, Valley remains fast-paced fun — I can say that because I understand about 2 percent of the tech or the finances highlighted in the first few episodes. What works, bottom line, is the comic interplay between our wafer-thin, goggle-eyed hero, Thomas Middleditch’s Richard, and his colleague-roomies. (So far, the new season’s MVP is probably Kumail Nanjiani’s Dinesh, who never lets a punchline go by without putting his puckishly sour spin on it.) 

Actor Welch died in December 2013 at age 48; his wonderful closed-in performance as Peter Gregory cannot be surpassed. And the series doesn’t try to surpass or pass him by — he gets a Silicon Valley send-off. But the series has also given a good showcase to Susan Cryer as Raviga’s new managing partner Laurie Bream, a profoundly neurotic, asocial figure whose poker-faced responses during any human interaction are amusing. 

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The overarching theme of the new season, as conceived by creators Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, is how Richard and his partners in Piped Piper are going to deal with an outside world they’ve heretofore avoided in order to make the product that now, paradoxically, forces them out into the world — to strike a deal and promote their creation. 

Silicon Valley, like all first-rate business satires, reminds you of your own dealings with market forces beyond your control. Whether you feel frustration at a switch in the menu of your favorite restaurant, can’t remember what you changed your ATM PIN to, or have trouble making yourself understood by your office’s IT person, Silicon Valley feels your pain, and rubs it in. 

Silicon Valley returns April 12 at 10 p.m. on HBO.