HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is the rare show that might make you say, “Wow. Wouldn’t want to be a tech billionaire right now.”
Creator Mike Judge took his physics degree to Silicon Valley years ago, before he started making shows and movies like “Beavis and Butt-head” and “Office Space.” His brief time working in tech helped him accumulate enough disgust to fuel a masterpiece of cynicism.
“Silicon Valley” makes fun of Steve Jobs pretenders, CEOs who also aspire to bring light to the world, and the people who parasitically empower them all.
Thomas Middleditch plays Richard, one of the only truly nice people in sight, who creates an algorithm worth potentially millions of dollars. Pompous billionaire Gavin Belson (“Big Love” vet Matt Ross) offers him $10 million for it. Idiosyncratic genius and Belson rival Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) offers $200,000 — letting Richard retain primary ownership, while developing the product himself.
Both actors are fantastic, and one will be dearly missed. Welch died of cancer after the fifth episode. The depth of the loss is apparent in a future episode in which Gregory becomes fixated on Burger King. Welch is outstanding as a man shielded by a field that doesn’t so much distort reality as bend it to his will.
The rest of the cast is excellent, too. Zach Woods (“The Office,” “Veep”) gets to play one of the humble, cautious characters he does so well. T.J. Miller plays Erlich, who makes the Sean Parker of “The Social Network” look like a wallflower. Kumail Nanjiani brings his impeccable deadpan to the role of programmer Dinesh, and his rivalry with illegal Canadian immigrant Gilfoyle, played by Martin Starr, is exactly the kind of inter-incubator rivalry that CEOs have skillfully exploited for years. (Everyone works out of Erlich’s house, which he calls an “incubator” in the valley’s pretentious parlance.)
Josh Brener, so good as Marc Maron’s assistant on “Maron,” is also great here, as the guy who thrives, kind of, just by being friends with the brilliant inventor. And unlike many Silicon Valley incubators, “Silicon Valley” has a woman: Amanda Crew plays Monica, who translates Gregory’s incomprehensibility to English and has some brilliant ideas of her own.
“Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiam” veteran Alec Berg executive produces with Judge, and “Silicon Valley” often has the watch-it-all-come-together plotlines that make those shows such delightful comic puzzles.
“Silicon Valley” premieres Sunday at 10/9c on HBO.