Monday, April 7, 2014

Judging Silicon Valley

If there was ever a guy you could rely on to properly skewer a corporate culture, it's Mike Judge.

The director, writer and animator dropped Office Space on our heads 15 years ago and still to this day nothing touches it in terms of picking apart the subtle absurdity of conventional work environments. Perhaps the British version of the Office does, but it's a totally different beast.

Office Space is one of my all-time favourite comedies and I enjoyed his other stab at workplace humour in Extract, though that film isn't nearly as memorable.

After feeding off the mundane existence of the average worker drone, it's nice to see Judge shooting higher with his excellent new series, Silicon Valley.

I watched the pilot episode last night on HBO and it was like a getting a drink of water in a desert of tech titan worshipping. This is a culture that has been screaming to be made fun of, and Judge appears more than up to the task.

The episode starts with Kid Rock playing a private party for some new startup while guys like Elon Musk and Eric Schmidt mingle, oblivious to his blasting rock. The startup's leader blathers on about "changing the world" with their new app and creating "disruption" in the digital age. Judge nails the diluted self-importance radiating from many of Silicon Valley's would be masters.

T.J. Miller as a tech guru
The show centres around a nerdy group of programmers (is there any other kind?) being mentored by a dim Svengali-like character played by T.J. Miller. This guy always does overconfident and obnoxious perfectly and I maintain that he and Jay Baruchel did great work together in the underrated She's Out of My League.

And of course it's nice to see Martin Starr playing a semi-grown up version of his Freaks and Geeks character, Bill Haverchuk.

Silicon Valley has a blast highlighting the ridiculous names that come out of tech culture. The lead character, played by Nelson, B.C.'s Thomas Middleditch, works at a company called "Hooli," while Miller's character laments selling his startup, "Aviato." The show also has fun painting SV billionaires as over-the-top eccentrics who drive ultra-narrow smart cars and wear ugly toe shoes while consulting their spiritual gurus.

The show is slated for eight episodes and it will be interesting to see how deep Judge plunges his satire knife. Hopefully guys like Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin can take a joke.

Here's the entire first episode:

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