I see a lot of great shows talked about here on the Odeck and this is one I haven’t seen get mentioned but my goodness it is right up there with so much of the stuff all of us love to watch. There’s just one issue I see this show having: it’s tech-centric. That makes it a hard sell when it comes to me trying to persuade people to watch it, but it shouldn’t be.
So let me start off by trying to describe the show as best I can and then explain why you should not be afraid to watch it.
First off, the show is based on Mike Judge’s experiences working in Silicon Valley in the ‘80s. This is a man who knows his stuff, not just the background but also what works and what doesn’t work on television. I don’t need to explain who he is, we all know his name.
From left to right the cast (as their character names) is: Dinesh, Gilfoyle (who you might recognize from Freaks and Geeks), Richard, Jared, and Erlich.
The show itself focuses around a handful of characters, all of whom live and for the most part work together in an “incubator”, a home in Silicon Valley provided by one of the characters (Elrich) as his way of giving back. Basically, the guy made some cash with an idea and he banked while he could and bought a house which he has turned around and provided as a rent free place to other potential entrepreneurs looking to live in the area (which is known for its exorbitantly high prices in regards to housing of any sort) provided one thing: they have to sell him on their app or idea or whatever. If he likes it you’re in, if he doesn’t you’re not.
Let the pic to the right speak as to what kind of man Erlich is, he defends those he cares about. And yes, he totally did just slap a kid, but in his defense that kid was a little shit who had it coming.
The premise of the show itself revolves around the creation of an compression algorithm created by Richard, the third man in the photo above, which is unlike any other ever created. It allows for what is essentially lossless compression of any file format thrown at it. To the point that the company he previously worked for flat out reverse engineers an early version he shared with fellow coworkers at said company in their attempt to steal it and surpass him when he refuses to sell it outright to them, instead keeping it for himself after a generous investment on the part of an investor, Peter., who shares a past with the CEO of Hooli, Gavin, who is the company and former employer of Richard.
Peter being the rather awkward gentleman you see in the clip above. A very interesting character and one who is clearly a portrayal of the typical “brilliant but socially awkward” tech genius.
And when Jared, a former employee of Gavin’s jumps ship after a rousing moment from Richard shutting Gavin down outright, he takes things personally and steals away Bighead (a nickname), who is Richard’s best friend and a fellow inhabitant of the incubator, and basically sets his own resources against our beloved Pied Piper (name of Richard’s company) boys (and eventually gal, who is absolutely delightful in her role, especially when she messes with the guys and tricks them into thinking she makes more than they do!). It is important to point out that Jared, despite being the “outside guy” of the group is actually the one most responsible and business savvy among them.
Best moment in that scene which didn’t make the GIF, “I’m sorry, did you just say ‘work will make you free’?”
I mean that’s the premise of the show right there. Guy creates insane algorithm, doesn’t sell out, now has to compete with a huge company hellbent on beating him to the market with a competing product based off his own work. So along with his group of friends and a few characters who hop on board with his idea in support of him doing it alone he basically has to take on a tech giant and beat them at a game they’re all too familiar with.
The show is absolutely laugh out loud funny though.
And here’s where I want to make things clear, you don’t have to live for all things tech to appreciate a lot of the humor or even just regular moments in this show. Yes, they do name drop quite a few tech things (websites, people, terms, etc.), but you can always understand what they’re saying and what really important things they do throw around they break down for you.
There is a key moment near the end of the first season that leads to a rather dramatic season finale that is led to entirely because one character says they’ll win even if he has to jerk off every single person in the audience.
It’s a dick joke, yes, but it’s one that leads to the most unbelievable and hilarious discussion I’ve ever seen that leads to a genuine “aha!” breakthrough tech idea (middle out), an idea which literally turns the tide in “Will Pied Piper be able to do something Hooli can’t?” (Seriously, look at the white board by the time they have to kick in Richard’s door because they assume he’s killed himself. They worked hard on determining the exact formula to determine how many dicks Elrich could theoretically jerk off and how long it would take, which he proudly shares with the media later.)
I mean, yes, getting some references makes the show all that better but you don’t even have to know everything about everything tech related to get quite a few of those references, as evidenced by the following clip.
I laughed so hard watching him go through the various “bad” tech products. Not the least reason of which is I have intimate familiarity (and hatred) for all of them for reasons I’m sure everyone here has at least a passing familiarity with.
And that’s what I find so refreshing about this show. It’s not afraid to use a dick joke to make a point. Ignore that it’s crass and no longer quite the shock in this day and age when everyone else is using dick and fart jokes left and right to the point that they’ve become commonplace, but that it uses it in a manner that actually moves the show significantly forward. I mean look at Richard’s face when they say “middle out”, you can see his brain clicking when he hears it and the look on his face as they continue talking is that of a man who’s running through ideas in his head.
There’s also some incredibly useful information dropped here and there. This one caught my attention as someone who does I.T. and who occasionally has to field security related queries for people at work and elsewhere.
Oh yeah, in one of those “that’s going the extra mile” moves, there’s even a website which looks like it was done by the Pied Piper crew! (If you click on the various characters pics under “Who We Are” at the bottom you even get mini bios which come off as written by the respective characters, I mean they’re spot on. I heard their voices reading them aloud in my head.)
Company logo designed by Chuey!
Additional props yet again to Carla’s character! Read her bio! Please, oh please, don’t let me be the only person who noticed the VP9 reference or knows why it’s significant. (If I am I am gonna be so disappointed in all of you.)
Somewhat related but have you all run into videos encoded in x265? I mean my goodness. The file sizes are significantly smaller yet the quality is so much better. I got the latest Silicon Valley vid, I have HBO before anyone ask, and I got the 720p version which looks perfect and was just barely over 100 MB in size. That’s fucking amazing! A few years ago it would have been 175 MB minimum for an inferior AVI file. What a time to be alive!
The show itself is about to hit the second season finale next week (Sunday to be exact) and now is as good a time as any to start watching. Hell, I binged all of the first season and most of the second not even two weekends ago. I could not stop watching it when I was on vacation during the weekend of Google I/O.
Seriously, watch this show, if only to get to what has to be one of the best moments this season thus far, the introduction of Pied Piper’s new attorney, who opens with I joke not the following as his intro to the guys of the company.
That is an attorney! (Although one legally disbarred and therefore unable to defend anyone in open court, which he admits as well.) Some of you might recognize the actor who plays him as Lloyd Braun from Seinfeld, others might recognize him from two of the Police Academy films, and some like me right recognize him from both (am I that old?!) but he is absolutely perfect in this show. Deadpan deliveries through and through.
They even have ferrets in this show (for a moment), folks! Which I have mentioned more than once are my favorite animal ever! And were a part of mythrbi’s latest Monday Mustelid series. The scene itself struck more than a chord with me, because of my love for those adorable, little mischievous creatures.
I laughed at that old man’s reaction in that scene. He is a dick throughout the episode but his reaction to those ferrets hit home. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same in his position, although I’d likely lean more towards, “Won’t you come in so we can discuss this further?” Before promptly bashing someone’s head in and then burying them in the backyard. One does not threaten ferrets in my presence. I’ll take their side before yours any day of the week.
Also, if anyone is already watching this show and wants to discuss it going forward maybe we can do a recap on Mondays? I’m down to discuss it more, no one I know watches it. At least no one I’ve asked, which has been quite a few people.