Review: HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Is Not the Vicious Skewering You’re Expecting
We might be entering the golden age of mocking Silicon Valley.
Consider the evidence. San Franciscans have made private buses full of techie commuters a divisive class issue. The New Republic reports that the Valley’s mindless cult of youth is leading middle-aged men to seek Botox treatments. Big-brain billionaires openly muse about building floating cities in which to pursue their utopian dreams, as college and high school dropouts become insanely wealthy from apps that don’t actually make any money.
Basically, Silicon Valley is already a satire of Silicon Valley.
In light of all this, there’s something surprising about Silicon Valley, the new show co-created by Mike Judge debuting this Sunday night on HBO. (I got an early look at the first five episodes.) Contrary to what you may think, or may have read, the show is not just a merciless skewering of socially inept code monkeys, pompous tech honchos, venture capitalists, and the bro-centric startup scene.
Sure, all those notions get played for laughs in various ways. But at its core, Silicon Valley invites you to empathize with the techno-devils.
So: Are we ready to root for these multibillionaire tech-freak overlords?
I’m surprised to find myself saying that I think the answer is yes.
The show’s protagonist, a dorkily handsome faux-bro named Richard, is a young employee of a Google-esque company called Hooli. Richard comes up with a new file-compression technology that he figures could be a business.
Richard is awkward — but not in the freakish, borderline-sociopath way that Mark Zuckerberg was portrayed in The Social Network. And he’s smart — but not in the superhuman, vaguely demigod way Steve Jobs is portrayed, um, everywhere.
And let’s face it, those are the usual, blatantly contradictory, identities offered when pop culture bothers to address techie entrepreneurs: They’re either evil weirdos we should fear and distrust — or otherworldly geniuses we should all strive to emulate.
In contrast, there’s something relatable about Richard and his posse. True, he’s dealing with choices most of us never will (sell his idea outright for $10 million, or accept a $200,000 investment and control his own startup?). But he copes with them in a way that’s easy to understand (example: puking into a trash can).