Easily one of the best names in comedy has to be Mike Judge. Not only is he one of the best, but perhaps one of the most underrated. Judge was the genius mind behind some of the most beloved cult classics of all time, such as Office Space and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Both of these films are quite crude and rude, but in a very smart way. Then there was King of the Hill, whose thirteen season run was full of great comedy and even quite a bit of heart.
So when Silicon Valley was announced, I was very happy to see Judge coming back to writing and directing his own content. Let’s face it, aside from a few standouts like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, most comedies on television these days are rather uninspired. Sitcoms like Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, and Moms, while having their own respective fanbases, are just lacking any jokes that have a second of thought put into them. Thankfully, Judge’s return to comedy is a successful one, as Silicon Valley is certainly one of the funniest shows on television.
When Richard stumbles upon a great algorithm for a search compression, he along with his fellow friends decide to pursue this and make their own corporation.
What makes this show work, and work so well, is the cast. Judge has really assembled a diverse cast that all have the potential to bring in some big laughs. The lead of the show is Thomas Middleditch, who has been around doing smaller comedic roles, usually being a kind of awkward guy. Here, Middleditch does a great job being the straight man surrounded by these eccentric characters, while also getting a few laughs in himself.
Middleditch’s friends, however, are the true comedic relief of the show. T.J. Miller is quickly rising up Hollywood’s radar, and for good reason. Miller has a knack for creating big laughs with his energy and delivery. Both Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiania each have a lot of great comedic moments together as well, as their constant bickering is quite amusing. If anything the show could use more of both of them, because their rapport together is very natural.
Stealing the show, though, is Christopher Evan Welch, who sadly passed away in December of 2013. His few scenes in the early episodes of the show are laugh out loud funny, as his awkward mogul type character was a great satire on the Bill Gateses of the world. Welch was a solid character actor throughout his career, with minor roles in The Master, Lincoln, and Synecdoche, New York, but here he really showed a different comedic side. It makes Welch’s death even sadder as he showed so much promise in the role.
Unlike a lot of comedies on television, Silicon Valley has a lot of heart to it. Judge had his own experiences in Silicon Valley in the 80s as an engineer, and you can see those past experiences in the show. Judge really nails the crowded nature of the tech mecca, while showing the true trials and tribulations of creating a corporation from scratch. He also pokes fun at some of the ridiculous aspects of Silicon Valley culture, but does so in a very endearing manner.
One of the aspects I most appreciated about this show’s eight episode first season is how consistent it was. Every episode it felt had its fair share of big laughs, with not a single episode being significantly worse than the others. That being said, some episodes certainly stand out as fantastic episodes. The fifth episode, “Signaling Risk”, may be one of the funniest episodes of television in recent memory, and had me in tears.
At the end of the day, the story itself is very formulaic. While Judge’s script focuses on creating great dialogue and characters, the story centered around these characters is an afterthought. As of now, the story has taken a very formulaic path, with the central storyline of the season ending in a predictable fashion. Also, the story takes a lot of leaps that lack realism. These moments personally took me out of the episode, as most of what goes on in the show is centered in reality.
While most of the cast is well-utilized, one person in particular is not. Amanda Crew seems to be the lone female character in the show, and she really has very little to do except for progress the story along with exposition. It’s a shame when all of the other characters have a lot of snappy dialogue to work with, but Crew’s character has very little to do. With her now being thrusted into a bigger role due to Welch’s death, I hope that Judge writes Crew a sharper, more realized character.
Despite there being a few aspects that need improvement, the debut season of Silicon Valley is full of big laughs. With HBO picking the show up for a second season, it looks like there will be many more laughs to come.
Do a Shot: for each of Richard’s awkward moments
Take a Drink: whenever a character does drugs
Take a Drink: whenever a character is under the influence
Do a Shot: for Christopher Evan Welch. He certainly went out with a great performance.