Mike Judge takes on tech world in ‘Silicon Valley’ 

click to enlarge Silicon Valley
  • From left, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and T.J. Miller appear in “Silicon Valley” on HBO.
Mike Judge is as funny as ever as he takes on the tech world in the new HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

Airing Sundays, the show’s first episode last week introduced Richard (Thomas Middleditch), a shy, thin coder living in a startup incubator run by Erlich (T.J. Miller), who, coasting on earlier entrepreneurial achievements, tries to attain success again by attaching himself to others’ projects.

Richard invents a lucrative bit of technology accidentally, starting a bidding war between two billionaires.

Famous for his send-ups of teenagers (“Beavis & Butthead”), Texas (“King of the Hill”) and cubicle culture (“Office Space”), Judge once again nails the nuances of pop culture. The “Silicon Valley” creator again hits his targets: the shallow idealism of wealthy tech investors; the silliness of startup names; unstylish, rich, possibly-autistic young men; and even the industry’s infamous buses.

Females are set-pieces for the most part, although some may argue that represents a realistic portrayal of a culture that is 99 percent male.

While Judge’s own experience working at a Silicon Valley startup in the 1980s informed the show, he and writer Alec Berg also did fairly extensive research. Web entrepreneur Jonathan Dotan provided technical consulting and advice.

Middleditch (from the Web series “Memoirs of a Manchild”), and other cast members — Kumail Nanjiani (a frequent “Portlandia” guest star) and Martin Starr (“Freaks & Geeks,” “Party Down”) — really do look like tech geeks. (At a premiere screening in Redwood City, the actors said they played “Magic: The Gathering” on set, and Nanjiani even knows how to code.)

Appealingly, the tech bros in “Silicon Valley” are not strictly caricatures, they’re authentic portrayals with effective exaggerations. The main character, Richard, for instance, is not only a shy nerd, but a shy nerd who throws up all the time. And a doctor in Silicon Valley isn’t only a doctor — he wants to tell you about his great quantified self app idea.

Well-researched and real, the parody works because it’s authentic, right down to capturing the socioeconomic stratification inside the Silicon Valley bubble — something outsiders wouldn’t necessarily recognize.


Silicon Valley

When: 10 p.m. Sundays

Where: HBO

Starring: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr

Directed by: Mike Judge

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Emilie Mutert

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