Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pilot Review: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley (HBO)
Premiered April 6 at 10pm

This show’s title should immediately conjure up images of a buzzing, innovative, productive area in Northern California where technology is truly booming. The poster that has adorned many subway station walls and buses in New York City for months features the show’s main characters all doing their best Steve Jobs impressions, and therefore expectations of the show should be that it will spotlight bright young thinkers who think a lot of themselves, regardless of what their actual talents may be. The show itself contains an intriguing and diverse cast with previous appropriate nerdy TV experience. Lead Thomas Middleditch is the only one I didn’t recognize of the five pictured on the poster, and he’s very much the straight man who actually has great ideas and fewer personality tics than the rest of the bunch. T.J. Miller is a certified oddball, memorable to me as Marmaduke, who excitedly interviewed for a job on Skype with no pants on, from the short-lived “Carpoolers.” Kumail Nanjiani was the agoraphobic Pindar on “Franklin and Bash,” which he may or may not be returning to when the show premieres its fourth season in August (I stopped watching long ago). Zach Woods was the awkward and irritating Gabe on “The Office” and Chad in “In the Loop” before that. And Martin Starr’s signature sarcasm is forever recognizable from two cult classic shows: “Freaks and Geeks” and “Party Down.” The question is, does the combination of these five actors amount to anything? The short answer is not just yet, though the prospect that a completely undeveloped product could net instant offers of $10 million or $200,000 for a five percent share is pretty baffling. The show is definitely much less mature than I would expect for HBO, and certainly less so than its time-slot companion “Veep.” It has the potentially to be truly clever, but it hasn’t proven itself yet.

How will it work as a series? A short season of eight episodes is probably a perfect opportunity to sample the stories of creator Mike Judge’s time spent in Silicon Valley. In many ways, this will be a very plot-driven show, while its characters will also provide ample fodder for mockery and humor.
How long will it last? Reviews for the pilot were strong, and the ratings were pretty good too, besting the third season premiere of “Veep” which followed it. Given that HBO has redefined what kind of comedies it’s looking for and the network loved “Looking,” I think this is a no-brainer for a second season pickup.

Pilot grade: B-

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