Nevermind What You Hear to the Contrary, Mike Judge Gets Tech People Right in 'Silicon Valley'
Last Thursday, my grandmother called to ask if I had considered taking a “basic computer job” because, she’d heard, that’s where all the money is. She also, in panicked breath, told me of her fears that the mafia would murder me.
God I love Grandma.
What I love more is the pilot for Silicon Valley. The show focuses on a house full of programmers who are trying to push an accidentally genius product. The Mike Judge show features a group of twenty-somethings that inadvertently are contributing towards the construction of his Idiocracy future.
Silicon Valley had been on my radar, since last year I wrote a film called Your Friends Close about the people that make video games and how they reveal their awful nature when they party. This last week has involved a dispute with Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk about whether this show understood how tech people party. His claim was that Mike Judge had never spent time in “Burning Man,” aka the true Silicon Valley, and therefore did not understand the difference between a tech party and an LA party. As someone who has dedicated an entire film (and eight years of my life) to the idea, the TV show gets it right.
What works best for the show is not the ideas about the tech industry itself, but rather what it exports the world. The Jobs-ian leader of this fictional company presents TED talks on the subject of avoiding college at all costs, offering scholarships to those who avoid traditional education to support his products, representing a nu-marketing tool geared towards making programmers rich before their time. Silicon Valley aims to make narrative from the impossible rat-race of consistent one-upmanship, by betting on its characters instead of the cash-out option inherent in every good idea.
Amidst the dubstep background tracks and jokes about unknown torrent sites exists a character piece that gives power to a small collection of the funniest comedian/actors working today, including T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, and someone called “Big Head,” presumably in reference to the overlord on 3rd Rock From The Sun.
What will keep me tuning back in to Silicon Valley is not the idea that “we can be the Vikings of our day” but rather to take the cue at which point we should all sell out. The belief in these characters is also the belief in contributing to bailing at the point this rocket hits its apex point. This is no Game of Thrones, in which death in answer, but rather an honest evaluation of a collection of terrible ideas, at which a limit is hit which frees us all in the name of a number.
At the very least, we’ll always have a party scene where Kid Rock is the poorest person at the party. And God bless Mike Judge for being his most Mike Judge from the outset.