Coverage: HBO's Silicon Valley

Below is the text of my story about my interview with Mike Judge last January. We talked about his new HBO comedy "Silicon Valley". For the online link to the story, click here:

MANILA, Philippines - There’s a new comedy from cult favorite Mike Judge (Office Space, Beavis & Butt-head and King of the Hill) that premiered on HBO Signature over the weekend. Aptly titled Silicon Valley, the series brings Mike’s irreverent brand of humor to that patch of real estate in Northern California where the head offices of such information technology giants as Apple, Oracle, Facebook and Google, among many others are located. It is also the area where more billionaires and millionaires have been created in the past decade more than any other cities in the United States (and perhaps the world, too!)

And, Silicon Valley is also the same area where one can find the largest concentration of nerds and geeks in the world, well, rich nerds and geeks, to be precise.

Silicon Valley, the HBO series, attempts to bring out the laughs out of this seemingly awkward fusion of incredible wealth and the unlikely bunch of people who would rather spend time working on their next inventions or their play stations rather than spending their money on lavish parties and all the typical things that the typical rich do.

The series is partly inspired by Mike’s own experiences working as a Silicon Valley engineer during the ’80s. Helping Mike with the writing is Alec Berg, the award-winning writer for Seinfeld and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

This writer saw a preview of the pilot episode recently and it’s an understatement to say that it is funny because it’s more than funny. The humor rings true and it never feels contrived nor condescending. Of course, there are people who will take issue with the choices Mike and Alec made in creating stereotypical characters, but, hey, this is a comedy and Mike Judge is not really known for his safe humor.

“I lived up there for a while and I know it very well,” Mike told this writer during our roundtable interview at the HBO headquarters in Santa Monica, California. “I’ve been wanting to do something like that for a while.”

“It occurred to me that a lot of these types of people like Paul Allen, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniak, if they had been born 200 years ago, they probably would not be the richest people in the world or not even close. They will probably be well-paid by a university or navigational engineers or something and so it is interesting to me that seeing these types of personalities who in high school were not the alpha males and now they’re the richest people in the world but they are still socially awkward — that just seems a good area for comedy,” he added.

The story revolves around four friends who are all dreaming of creating that next big thing that will make them the next area millionaires. Richard (Thomas Middleditch) is an introverted computer programmer living in the Hacker Hostel start-up incubator along with his best friend, Big Head (Josh Brener), pompous Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and dry-witted Dinesh (Kumail Nanjani). These social misfits live under the watch of Erlich (T.J. Miller), a self-satisfied dotcom millionaire who lets them stay in his house for free — as long as he gets a 10 percent stake in their projects.

“It’s a satire, yeah, probably,” Mike replied when asked how should the audience respond to the show. “It is what it is, I guess. A little bit of reflection (of the Silicon Valley inhabitants), I suppose.”

Mike revealed that they initially envisioned a dramedy series about the pitfalls of becoming an overnight millionaire in Silicon Valley but their ideas evolved after they came to know more people and after they were given a full series pick-up by HBO.

“The more research we did, the more funny things we started to discover about this world — some of it, I know already… There’s more money than there is in Hollywood but people aren’t really quite sure how to enjoy themselves with it.”

Their research also confirmed one nice fact about these dotcom millionaires: They live frugal and modest lifestyles. “Nobody drives a fancy car. Sandy Hill Road has a trillion dollar in investment money and it looks like nothing typical like an office park, nondescript.”

Silicon Valley will have eight episodes this season. This writer was not informed if it will follow the story arc introduced in the pilot episode but, nevertheless, it should be one fun series to follow. I know a friend (yes, it is you Christine Macalalad) who saw the pilot episode last week (the show started airing one week earlier in the US) and she was raving about it on Facebook for a couple of days.

In the Philippines, the series airs Sunday nights at 9 on HBO Signature. In the US, it airs Sundays on HBO after Game of Thrones and before Veep.

Raymond De Asis Lo

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