Third-episode verdict: Silicon Valley (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Sundays, 10pm, HBO
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic for summer 2014

Normally, you can pretty much get a grip on a show within a few episodes. You can tell what it’s like, what kind of things it’s going to play with and who it’s going to appeal to.

Silicon Valley is a slightly more problematic show. Set, as you might guess, in the computer capital of the world, it’s a comedy from Mike Judge that follows a programmer (Thomas Middleditch) who develops a revolutionary new compression algorithm and decides to start his own company to sell it to the world. The series then follows the various obstacles Middleditch faces, ranging from coming up with a proper business plan to incorporating the company and deciding who gets to have shares.

Finding the funny yet? 

Well it can be: the first episode was very good, thanks in part to Judge’s own experiences of working in the valley. Since then, though, it’s been variable, depending very much on individual writers’ particular interests. Episode two gave us a very finance-oriented episode that would have left the average person clueless as to what was going on, and bar a speech from one of the programmers about security – which again would have left programming neophytes for dust – was a bit short on the funnies.

Episode three was considerably better, giving us more of a character piece that bulked up the supporting cast and played with stereotypes in a relatively novel way. But tonally, it felt like a completely different show: a single-camera version of Big Bang Theory complete with music stings. True, it was a lot smarter – it even made a plot point out of the co-prime lifecycles of cicadas – and it also required an audience familiarity with cloud company mission statements, but rather than the more heightened Office Space reality of Judge’s episode, this was a conventional sitcom with an unusual setting.

So I don’t really know whether to recommend it or not. If you know both IT and finance, and deal with the corporate world a lot – I’m guessing the kind of person who can afford to subscribe to HBO in fact – this is very much your show. It’s spot-on in its satire and you’ll know exactly what they’re getting at. It still needs a bit more development and consistency if you’re to root for the characters, rather than merely observe them, but I think you’ll like it.

For everyone else, you could get lost in this, no matter how many episodes of Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank you’ve seen. It’s not easily fathomable and the more accessible jokes are by no means its funniest. It’s good, but I’m just not sure you’ll love it – certainly not when Judge isn’t writing it.

Barrometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Already been renewed for a second season


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.