Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brainiac blunders and breakthroughs abound in ‘Silicon Valley’

(July 14, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Lewd and lowbrow elements often make up most of  Mike Judge’s humor, but the “Beavis and Butthead” creator’s new HBO comedy series “Silicon Valley” is primarily smart and geeky, although it can still be crude and downright silly at times.

Judge, with John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky (collaborators on Judge’s animated series “King of the Hill”), cocreated “Silicon Valley,” an eight-episode foray into timely success stories in the tech world, mainly inspired by Judge’s stint at a startup company based in California’s Silicon Valley hub in the 1980s.

And similarities with current-day brainiacs abound, as “Silicon Valley” follows the life of promising genius programmer Richard  Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch), who develops a groundbreaking data compression algorithm, which makes him suddenly sought-after by eccentric billionaires who wish to be part of his impending success.

Richard chooses a venture capitalist’s offer of $200,000 and 5-percent ownership, over a $10-million buyout of his new company—not an easy decision to make and stand by, but a path that would be more rewarding for him, he figures.

But while Richard charts his own course now, he has to deal with all the challenges that come with a potentially profitable future, from his company’s name to the nitty-gritties that his new endeavor entails.
Interestingly, his eager and willing colleagues and housemates join him in ensuring that he gets things done, despite the occasional derailing subplot. 

Entrepreneur Erlich Bachman (TJ Miller), who has been with Richard since the beginning (Erlich runs an incubator of startup businesses), is supportive of the young up-and-comer while acting as a meddlesome middleman.

“Silicon Valley” wryly pokes fun at the unique absurdities of the “techspert” culture, while presenting an easily relatable underdog story with the shy protagonist, who now faces the might of a spurned Internet giant (with nigh-unlimited resources to reverse-engineer his vaunted breakthrough).

And while it deals with the funny world of intelligent people who are ill-equipped to handle “real” problems, it still inspires guffaws through Farrelly-esque irreverence (Erlich attacking a young bully who tormented the defenseless Richard is priceless). The show also periodically resorts to adult/green humor to emphasize the more human side of the characters. In the season-ender, there is actually a lengthy joke that’s both lewd and intelligent, but works hilariously.

May the show mine its offbeat, otherworldly realm for more effective laughs next season, and offer more scathing and spirited satires!

(A “Silicon Valley” marathon airs July 20, 12 p.m. on HBO Signature.) 

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