Remember this, you masters of the Internet: He who holds the pen, laughs last
In a delightful bit of vengeance, Hollywood is getting to tell the world what it really thinks of Silicon Valley in “Silicon Valley” and in “Veep,” too.
The power of the Internet? Meet the power of the Hollywood writer’s room.
On both of those shows, the Valley (the one off the 101, not the one off the 405) is full of sanctimonious jerks, puffed up by their own delusions of grandeur and their adolescent belief that their latest algorithm is saving the world.
Some of that is probably true.
On “Silicon Valley,” creator Mike Judge (“King of the Hill,” “Beavis and Butt-Head”) has drawn a menagerie of deliciously obnoxious characters, fed by Hollywood’s favored stereotypes of a tech power vortex of which it is both envious and contemptuous in equal measure.
There’s the search engine CEO Gavin Belson (played by a venal Matt Ross, who used to threaten the nice Mormons on “Big Love”) of Hooli, who throws $10 million at the tenderly naïve Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch, for his new compression algorithm called Pied Piper.
Richard is a prototypical Valley nerd-wimp, barely able to mumble out a sentence describing his company, but enough of a believer in the power of his idea to change the world to turn down the $10 million. Instead he throws in with the enigmatic tech guru Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), modeled presumably on Bill Gates or possibly Eric Schmidt (who has a cameo in the first episode).
On Sunday night’s episode Gregory threw a Roman toga party for Pied Piper and his other investments, complete with an expensive rapper on stage and looming naked statuary throughout. The girls at the party are hot and, we learn, rented.
If Belson represents the overweening megalomania of the Silicon Valley CEO-emperor (Jobs), Gregory represents its Asperger’s-tinged genius with no ability to connect to the human world (Schmidt).
In one early episode Gregory becomes obsessed with the sesame seeds on Burger King buns. He stares at the seeds for hours, while his poor start-up CEOs wait to learn whether he will throw them enough money to make payroll. It turns out that Gregory invests in the sesame seeds, having figured out by sheer brain power that this commodity is about to pop. Payroll is covered.
The show is partly inspired by Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the late 1980s. However to be fair, he has also said it is inspired by some of his early nightmares in Hollywood, making “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
Still, the inspired insults hit home in all the ways that make Hollywood feel better about itself. (Note that when Hollywood parodies itself — such as in “Entourage” — it’s more of a funhouse mirror kind of compliment. Ari Gold is only parody if you’ve never met the real guy.)
And it turns out that Armando Iannucci, the executive producer of “Veep,” holds just as dim a view of the tech titans as Mike Judge.
In last Sunday night’s episode of “Veep,” presidential candidate Selina Meyer pays a visit to Clovis, an Internet giant whose logo looks suspiciously like the multicolored Google. The hoodie-clad CEO (calling Mark Zuckerberg) who hilariously must be called “Craig” with a sharp “A” (“It’s KRAYYYG”) keeps the Vice President waiting all day. Then he addresses her as “Selina,” instead of “Madame Vice President.”
Meanwhile in the background, Clovis employees play ping-pong, a wayward ball hitting Selina in the face.
Everybody knows that Hollywood and Silicon Valley regard each other with something less than love and admiration. The skepticism isn’t new, and it is surely mutual. This Sunday, they’ll be back at it.
Remember this, you masters of the Internet: He who holds the pen, laughs last.