What the Tech Crowd Really Thinks of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’

March 11, 2014

Hollywood has tried to capture the drama of tech innovation before: The Social Network, Pirates of Silicon Valley, Jobs, Betas and Bravo’s reality series, Start-Ups: Silicon Valley. With the exception of The Social Network, it’s fair to say all those startup depictions have basically sucked.

They try to portray real-life figures many of us know all too well — and fail. They make geeks the butt of the jokes, stereotyping them as one monolithic socially awkward being, and they underplay authentic tech culture.

But now, Mike Judge of Office Space and King of the Hill has tried his hand at the genre. HBO has ordered eight episodes of his new series, Silicon Valley, and it will begin airing April 6.

The premise for this 30-minute show is a group of startup hopefuls living together, developing apps, honing web tools to meet women, and stumbling upon one all-important algorithm. As the founder races through funding, “biz-dev” and product development, he is undermined at every turn by the startup’s pot-smoking mentor, who owns 10 percent of the company. Hilarity ensues.

From the depiction of creepy tech billionaires to the frenzy of established tech companies struggling to stay relevant to the social dynamics within programming groups, the show is Entourage-meets-socially-awkward — and it works.

At a packed screening here at SXSW, the initial reviews were good. The tech-savvy crowd found the jokes spot on and the dialogue believable. One startup vet predicted that his IT guys would be quoting lines from the series verbatim. And while Silicon Valley is clearly aimed at 30-something guys wearing skinny jeans, there’s an interesting plot with real opportunities for development. It’s been very well cast, and although the characters in some cases fit the stereotypes of the East Asian coder and the angry back-end server programmer, their dialogue is so good that it takes them beyond caricatures.

Silicon Valley may not be for everyone, but its authenticity and ability to get a laugh make it worth an initial investment of at least one episode. I have a feeling this is one startup that will be more than a flash in the pan.