Silicon Valley//Season 1//Proof of Concept

Written by Clay Tarver
Directed by Mike Judge
Originally aired May 18, 2014

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In a twist whose very invariability is offset by its hilariously physical deployment, Mike Judge and company split the climactic weekend at TechCrunch into two parts. Considering the timing (HBO took Memorial Day weekend off), the heightened stakes should work in the series’ favor as the finale of this admittedly extra short first season draws near. Since its humble beginnings, Silicon Valley has charged forth with an emphasis on plot. While the writers have been undeniably successful in this area (from initial financing to high stakes competition in just 7 episodes), the pace has often left viewers wanting for real character development. For a series that seems oddly committed to both humiliating and highlighting its central collection of outcasts, Silicon Valley has done little to offset its own prominent stereotypes. To the credit of the writing staff, they’re stuck in a bit of a Catch-22. A realistic portrayal of the emotionally locked up and socially stunted doesn’t tend to lend itself to meaningful interactions or obvious growth. “Proof of Concept” attempts to demonstrate the vulnerability beneath the layers of snark and Red Bull. In many ways, having neglected to spend enough time with the inner lives of these characters, the results are unconvincing. Continue reading

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Silicon Valley//Season 1//Fiduciary Duties

Written by Rob Weiner
Directed by Maggie Carey
Originally aired April 27, 2014

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While the first three episodes of Silicon Valley hinted at the series’ ability to be a stable if occasionally predictable dramatic comedy, “Fiduciary Duties” proves these early suggestions wholly substantial. In many ways, this development is both disappointing and enlightening. The episode’s irony is broad; its conflicts are, in contrast to previous episodes, relatively insubstantial; and its best laughs are found in its smallest gestures. Much like its protagonist, “Fiduciary Duties,” arrives at the point where it must make a crucial decision about what it wants to be. The looseness that inspired moments of idiosyncratic comedic gold ( “Always blue!”, “Mushroom stamp”, etc.) are filtered out by a tightness of script that better serves the style of programming (HBO’s unbroken 30 minutes as opposed to a network sitcom’s 8-10 minute bursts between commercials) and balances the gross caricature of the region/industry and its culture of leeches with focused intention. For all its successes at narrowing its narrative scope, “Fiduciary Duties” does take things rather slow. There are plenty of moments that eschew the bold satire the series has already become famous for in favor of probable absurdity. Or perhaps, having become fully acclimated to the series’ unique brand of humor, moments that may have otherwise stuck out as purposefully unreal now seem deeply embedded in the mundane madness of this world. The episode sets this tone early when Richard meets with his faux hipster lawyer who appears more interested in his collection of signed guitars than in Pied Piper’s possible success. He is the first of many (including Richard himself) to highlight the necessity of being able to explain what exactly the company does. The episode follows in the baby steps of “Articles of Incorporation” in asking Richard to do something seemingly straightforward which turns out to be impossibly stressful. Continue reading

Silicon Valley//Season 1//The Cap Table

Written by Carson Mell
Directed by Mike Judge
Originally aired April 13, 2014

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Dramas have it easy. All they have to do is consider pacing, character development, accuracy vs. license, and the best possible way to reward an audience enough to keep them interested but not so much that they begin to think they know where the series is going. Comedies have to do all that and make you laugh. The second episode of Mike Judge’s new live action series Silicon Valley comes on fast and the downshifts in order to navigate a series of sculpted narrative turns. Though its opening “launch party” scene is one of the early highlights in a series with definite legs, “The Cap Table” is far more interested in putting the pins to series protagonist Richard Hendrix to see if his overstuffed egghead will crack or simply explode. Continue reading

Silicon Valley//Season 1//Minimum Viable Product

Written by John Altschuler, Dave Krinskey, & Mike Judge
Directed by Mike Judge
Originally aired April 6, 2014

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Following King of the Hill’s epic 13 year run and the short lived The Goode Family, Mike Judge’s latest undertaking reunites his formidable writing team and transports them to the playground of contemporary American madness: Silicon Valley. While Washington currently has its hands full with House of Cards and Veep and New York is thoroughly tapped out by the stuff satires are made of (bank bailouts, failed social uprisings, government reforms focused on calorie consumption), California has never looked more enticing for established and on-the-rise comedic writers/directors looking for a seemingly endless supply of material. While shows like Maron and Workaholics capture the inanity of trying to be anything at all in SoCal, the slacker capital of the world, Silicon Valley moves north where, like a determined younger brother, the region of Palo Alto strives to convince itself that work can be rewarding and fun. Of course, you need only possess a passing awareness of his film and TV work to know where that idea sits with Mike Judge. Continue reading