‘Minimum Viable Product’
There is an old cliché in writing that goes “write about what you know” – and with Silicon Valley, Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill) has certainly stuck to this idea. After graduating from UCSD (University of California, San Diego) with a degree in physics, Judge moved to Silicon Valley and joined a startup company. He quit after less than three months, and out of this brief experience – Silicon Valley was born.
Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch) is a shy programmer working at a large internet company called Hooli. As well as his job as a programmer, Richard is also developing a music app called Pied Piper in a live-in startup business incubator run by entrepreneur Erlich Bachman (T.J Miller). Richard pitches Pied Piper to venture capitalist Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) and a couple of programmers at Hooli who mock him for his terrible idea. Little do they know that Richard’s app contains a data compression algorithm that could revolutionize the way that files are transferred and stored.
Hooli executive Donald “Jared” Dunn (Zach Woods) informs Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) about this revolutionary compression algorithm, and Belson proposes a $10 million buyout of Pied Piper. Meanwhile, Peter Gregory offers a $200,000 investment for a 5% ownership in the company. Overwhelmed by these business offers, Richard has a minor panic attack. After he has calmed down, Richard meets Peter Gregory’s assistant Monica (Amanda Crew), who persuades him to take Gregory’s investment offer. With a chance to run his own business, Richard invites his friends from the incubator to join the Pied Piper team.
Naturally, a sitcom about a group of social pariahs will immediately draw comparisons with The Big Bang Theory – and granted, there are a lot of similarities; likeable characters, complicated terminology, and there’s even an Asian character – but you don’t actually have to understand all of the references to enjoy the show. The highlight of the episode comes from a speech given by Richard in which he inadvertently blurts out the slogans of big corporations like Apple when talking about how Pied Piper will be different from all of the rest.
Like any other Mike Judge project, the script is witty and beautifully written. It’s very similar to King of the Hill in the sense that it moves at quite a slow pace and it doesn’t try too hard to be funny – it just seems to come naturally from the situations and dialogue. For me, this is where Silicon Valley surpasses The Big Bang Theory, as lately it doesn’t feel as authentic as it used to – it just feels like the writers are trying too hard to make you laugh.
With likeable characters, and great performances – especially from T.J Miller as the ambitious entrepreneur Erlich Bachman, Silicon Valley is a modern day sitcom that is definitely worth a watch for its pace and its brilliant script.