In the US: Sundays, 10pm, HBO
in the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic for summer 2014
Geeks and nerds are hard to do well. The natural instinct of US comedy writers – typically arts graduates who know next to nothing about science and technology – is to mock them mercilessly and hold them up to be objects of ridicule. Even when seemingly siding with nerds (cf Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science), writers still regard them as ‘the other’ and targets for the comedy more often than not – hapless losers who succeed despite their apparent social failings, unattractiveness, etc, rather than who have worthwhile character traits.
Look at Big Bang Theory, which supposedly is on the side of the geek, but which still gives all the nerds 1970s clothing and haircuts and has ‘normal’ people around to look down on them. Or at least that’s how it started (it’s improved a bit not a lot).
And in a lot of ways, HBO’s new comedy Silicon Valley is no different. Set inside a Silicon Valley ‘incubator’ – a collection of start-up businesses all under one roof being helped to become successful by a mentor – it’s a show that very precisely satirises the people, the working style, the business practices, the culture and pretty much everything else in California’s technology capital. Very precisely – having written about technology (as well as TV) for the best part of 20 years, a lot of it is very familiar to me, even if it is exaggerated.
But at the same time, this is a comedy from Mike Judge. Best known for the affectionate but teasing portrait of Texan family life that is King of the Hill, he’s also the progenitor of the much-loved cult movie Office Space, which did a fabulous job of mocking working life.
So although the geeks and nerds on display in the show are as much the butt of the humour as in any other show, not only is it quite affectionate mockery, no one escapes it. Best of all, it’s also very funny.
Here’s a trailer and if you liked that, you can watch the entire first (censored) episode, too (if you live in the US).