SXSW 2014 Review – Silicon Valley (TV)

March 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Starring: Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, Zach Woods
Created by: Mike Judge (“Beavis and Butthead”)

While reviews of TV are not something we typically cover at CineSnob, one of the most fun and worthwhile events of SXSW was the screening of Mike Judge’s (“Office Space,” “Beavis and Butthead,” “King of the Hill”) new HBO comedy series “Silicon Valley,” which explores the world of technology start-ups in California.

As a lowly worker at a tech company, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) has used his spare time developing a website that can match a users music to a database of published music to see if they are infringing on any copyrights. While the website has limited usage, Richard has developed a compression algorithm that has the potential to change the face of the Internet and become a billion dollar industry. When faced with offers from various companies to buy him out, Richard must decide if he will take the money and run or venture into self-running a massive company with no experience and only the help of his friends and roommates.

Very rarely do you see a pilot episode as polished and defined as the first episode of “Silicon Valley.” From the opening moments of the episode (which features a hilarious cameo), “Silicon Valley” is firing on all cylinders as the laughs come big and consistent and the characters don’t need much introduction to get a sense of who they are. As a lead, Middleditch is a great stroke of casting, able to be mild-mannered enough to be likable and really getting across the vulnerability and fear of a man who has stumbled across a potentially life changing idea. While the rest of the cast is filled with well-known improvisers and stand up comedians, the standouts are actor and improv veteran Zach Woods (“The Office”) and comedian TJ Miller (“She’s Out of My League” and “Cloverfield.”) Woods self-deprecating, eager to please character is a welcome addition to the ball busting roommates and Miller’s lazy character is probably the most consistent source of character humor in the beginning of the show. Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani deserve a little bit more screen time, and the second episode sees a slight dip in quality, but regardless the pilot stands as one of the best comedy pilots in recent memory.

As a source of laughs, it’s easy to see how anyone remotely interested in technology will devour “Silicon Valley.” For example, a passing 4-way bike with a table in the middle where a meeting is taken place is one of the best pieces of visual humor in the episodes screened. But beyond the tech world, Judge has laid down the foundation for a great underdog story with strong characters, gifted comedic actors and truly hilarious writing. Most of the humor is broad enough to resonate with anyone looking for a smart, character driven comedy. With his background working in technology serving him well, Judge’s first foray into live-action television hits the ground running fully formed and is wildly successful. If the first two episodes are any indication of how the rest of the first season of “Silicon Valley” will go, HBO has a massive hit on their hands.

“Silicon Valley” premiered at SXSW 2014.

For more coverage of SXSW 2014, click here.