T.J. Miller’s final “Silicon Valley” episode aired on Sunday, and co-showrunner Alec Berg told TheWrap that the exit “was for the best.”
Is he was disappointed to learn that the actor who plays Erlich Bachman had decided to walk away from the HBO comedy? “Yes and no. I just think it’s time,” Berg said.
“I do this with writers, as well,” he continued. “I’ve had writers under contract who have come to me and said, ‘Look, I know I have another year on my deal with this show, but there’s this other thing I kinda want to do instead.’ I don’t believe that anybody’s going to do their best work if they’d rather be somewhere else. It just seemed like that was for the best.”
Miller previously told TheWrap that he decided to leave after reading the Season 4 finale, which ends with a cliffhanger involving Erlich getting stuck in Tibet. “It was an a-ha moment — they had given me this out,” he said, without referencing his reported dislike of Berg.
Co-star Thomas Middleditch, who plays Pied Piper creator Richard Hendricks, told TheWrap previously that Miller’s exit could have been “handled differently.” In reference to Miller, Middleditch said, “There’s been articles, ‘too big for the show,’ but that’s one way of putting it, that’s for sure.”
Berg gave TheWrap hints about the future of “Silicon Valley” and its cast of characters, including Richard becoming ruthless, possible ways to fill the void left by Erlich and whether Miller’s character would have gotten a bigger exit under different circumstances.
How will the show evolve without Erlich?
Alec Berg: I don’t think we’re thinking that we want to try and find a one-for-one replacement. I don’t think it’s that. If not the character, certainly that energy is something we’re gonna miss. We’re going to have to figure that out. The pH balance of the incubator and the company and the show as a whole requires a certain amount of that balance and that ego and pomp.
Betweeen Keenan Feldspar [Haley Joel Osment] now and Russ Hanneman [Chris Diamantopoulos] and Gavin [Matt Ross] and Jack Barker [Stephen Tobolowsky] and Laurie Bream [Suzanne Cryer], we have a lot of blunt instruments, and we’ve kind of grown out the world of the show to the point that we can probably find that energy from a lot of different places. But I don’t know. There might be a new character we come up with that satisfies that desire — it might be a combination of characters that exist already. I’m hoping we’ll find answers once we start talking [this] week.
Do you worry that losing a core character might affect the overall recipe of the show that viewers love?
Definitely — that’s definitely a fear. At the same time, stuff like this is what lights a fire under your ass to reinvent the show and find new ways of making it interesting, particularly in a show like this that’s so serialized, where you have to keep growing and changing. It’s not like you can do 22 episodes of guys hanging around in a house. The story of the company is so interwoven with the story of these characters that you have to keep progressing.
I can make an argument that if Shelley Long had stayed on Cheers, it wouldn’t have run as long. When Shelley Long left “Cheers,” everyone was like, “There’s no Sam and Diane? Well, that show’s over.” But then Kirstie Alley came in, and that was a new energy, and they started to find new dynamics, and they just kind of reinvented the show, and it ran for, like, seven seasons after that. I don’t look forward to living in a world without Erlich but, at the same time, maybe it’s exactly what we need to reinvent the recipe, and maybe we’ll find some new way of going or bring in some new character that all of sudden brings new life into it. Instead of thinking, “Ah, maybe we’ll do a couple more seasons,” maybe you just go, “Oh, my God, we could do nine more seasons now.” But that remains to be seen.
There is a risk on a show like this that you just get comfortable, and it becomes same-old, same-old after a while where the same guys are working in the same house on the same stuff and failing in the same ways, and it just gets stagnant. It’s like a lineup change in a band — sometimes it kills the band, and sometimes you bring in a couple new people, and it just brings a new energy, and you’ve got years more life and more stories to tell. I hope it’s the latter. We’ll see.
The last mention of Erlich in the finale is kind of a throwaway joke. Would you have given him a bigger exit if you knew before writing it that this was definitely his final episode?
Maybe. I guess maybe if we had sat down at the beginning of the season and said, “OK, we know for a fact that this is the last go-round with Erlich,” we might have approached it differently. But it’s not like I have some idea of what we should have done that I’m kicking myself over. I’m sure as we discuss next season, invariably we’ll come up with something, and we’ll go, “We should have done this.” That happens all the time.
It seems like making more of a big deal of it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the character of the show somehow. Killing Erlich would have felt like a repetition. And who knows, maybe we’ll figure out a way to work him back in.
Do you think T.J. will ever return?
I don’t know I have no idea. Right now, I’m assuming we’re living in a world without him, and well go from there.
Richard and Jared [Zach Woods] had more tension over the past few episodes than we’re used to seeing from them.
It’s been interesting that over the years, Dinesh [Kumail Nanjiani] and Gilfoyle [Martin Starr] have always felt like Richard could be more ruthless and more underhanded. It just seemed interesting to take him to that place and to see what happens if he actually starts becoming the ruthless assassin that these guys wanted him to be come. Is that really what they want? The moral voice of the company has always been Richard, but when Richard gets lost, that becomes Jared’s job. That’s what we wanted to play with: What happens if Richard loses his way? Who forces him back on track?
Jared interviewed a female replacement for his role with Pied Piper in the finale. Do you hope to tell more stories from a female perspective at some point?
Certainly open to that. I think a lot of it just comes from, what are we finding that we’re enjoying. I don’t know that we would mandate that, but I certainly think that would be good for the show, and that would be a new energy that we haven’t leaned on particularly heavily so far. I would be very open to that.
Can Pied Piper ever become truly successful?
I don’t know! At the end of Season 1, they won TechCrunch Disrupt, and they were riding high, and we decided maybe we’ll spend a couple episodes where they’re succeeding, and they’re the belles of the ball. And we sat down to try and write that, and there was nothing there. Those aren’t stories — people just getting what they want and winning is boring to watch. Maybe if we figure out a way to let them succeed but also make it compelling and interesting, and there are fun stories to tell within that format, never say never. I just know that watching characters get everything they want is not fun.
Sometimes people complain and are like, “Can’t these guys ever win? It’s getting frustrating.” And it’s like, yeah — I hear you it’s getting frustrated, but hopefully we can figure out new and interesting ways to do that because as soon as you just grant all of their wishes, what are you watching?