The Silicon Valley Binge
I guess I have become a binge watcher. After binging my way through 7 seasons of NCIS Los Angeles, I figured I would shift to something else. I had heard and read some good things in passing about an HBO series called Silicon Valley, and blindly put it into my queue to watch. Blindly is important here, because I really didn’t know what to expect. I sort of wish now that I had done a little more research, I suspect I would have saved myself some time.
The idea of Silicon Valley is following a group of nerdy guys as their silly incubator projects that usually fail turns up a “nugget”. From zero to full blast in a short period of time, the guy who wrote the nugget is standing in one guys office listening to multi-million dollar buyout offers, and on the other side he’s getting offers a tenth of that to buy 10% of the company by another billionaire investor type. His choice (after barfing his lunch, breakfast, and possibly the few meals before) is the basis for the entire series. It all hinges on that decision.
The series is a no laugh track satirical comedy that doesn’t have jokes so much as odd and uncomfortable situations and silly setups. After watching the first episode and really not being impressed, I decided to find out more information about the series and try to figure out what I was missing. That “missing link” was the shows creator and writer, Mike Judge. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps his work will: Office Space, Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill are three notables. The Office Space movie has gone on to be a sort of cult classic, Beavis and Butthead is, well, what it is, and King of the Hill appears to be the inspiration for the humor of Silicon Valley. For the record, I didn’t like King of the Hill much at all.
Silicon Valley has a simple problem: none of the characters are likable. The Richard Hendricks character, who is the pivotal guy in all of this, is really just not a very likable guy. He’s a nerd, but not even good at nerding. He’s like someone’s really ugly puppy. Erlich Bachman, who is suppose to be the incubator cheerleader type instead spends most of the time going on about the company he sold for millions and how much the girls really dig him – as the girls pretty much all run away from his obnoxious boasting and only me self centered universe. These two guys are like cardboard cutouts, barely making it up to two dimensional. The rest of the cast appears mostly to be really, really dull cartoonish versions of themselves. In fact, I would say that this perhaps is the biggest indication of the King of the Hill effect here, it seems that most of the characters are created as one might create empty shell cartoon characters, that exist only for the main duo to play off of. The seeming lack of any character development in a character driven show is odd, but again much like most Mike JUdge works he seems only able to develop one or two characters past a certain level.
An example of the “humor” as it were is the introduction at the start of episode two of Jared, who becomes more or less important over time. He appears sort of at the window with a bottle of cheap champagne trying to suck up for a job, and when Richard answers the door, he says “Hey! Sorry if I scared you, I know I have somewhat ghost-like features. My uncle used to say, “You look like someone starved a virgin to death.”” . It’s that sort of awkward un-funny stuff that dots almost every scene in the show, as if none of the characters are able to express themselves in any normal way or without pushing their character traits to the maximum at all times. It’s sort of non-comedic overkill.
I will watch through the first season to see if it gets any better, but honestly, it’s hard going. The concept is excellent and the basic storyline is interesting, but the characters are not particularly likable and the writing and dialog is dense, in all senses of the word.