All Peaks and No Valleys

All Peaks and No ValleysAwkwardness can be the basis of the best comedy, say a sketch of a brilliant yet geeky, spineless and anxiety-riddled IT genius whose innovative idea surrounded by the talent of a motley crew of coders suddenly results in him running a hot new start-up.

Except that said nerd is in every way over his head.

That’s the premise behind Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley, the hit HBO comedy in its second season.

As if a vehicle drive by Judge isn’t reason enough to watch, the plot is simple enough yet impeccable in its delivery. Judge draws on his own experience in the business world as an engineer in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. And similar to his other masterpieces, especially Office Space, Judge concocts another winning recipe with this slice-of-life character piece that elicits laughs by relating to the every man.

Even if you don’t know your QAMs from your KPIs, and the IT guy at your company might as well be speaking Mandarin (and maybe is), Silicon Valley makes as perfect sense as an SQL Join. You can relate.

Richard Hendriks, played to squeamish perfection by Thomas Middleditch (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Campaign), backs into stardom by developing an app that solves the IT-age-old problem of lossless data compression, the ability to crunch music and video files to the smallest possible denominator for easy upload and download without losing any quality. But Hendriks is a recluse who stammers his way through everyday life. He can barely talk to the opposite sex and regularly pukes as a result of his frazzled nerves. And while he is a visionary, he is every bit a buffoon when it comes to running a business.

That’s the premise, and while predictable insomuch as, like in Office Space, viewers can sense a Peter Gibbons-esque revelation on the horizon, and no doubt a romance with out-of-his-league Monica (Amanda Crew), it’s the curly coifed character Erlich Bachmann who steals the show. Bachmann, played to precise perfection by T.J. Miller, is a raunchy, nihilistic Birkenstock-wearing hippy who in every way lives up to the dichotomy of being both Richard’s mentor, in the oddest way possible, and alter-ego.

Viewers might recognize Miller or at least his voice. Miller lent his pipes to Fred in Big Hero 6 and to Tuffnut in How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2. He also plays Augie in this year’s Hell & Back. I first saw Miller’s comedic genius and flair timed with Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother. But aside from a few of the mediocre projects he’s been attached to (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Yogi Bear), he’s also been on the comedic, cutting edge (The Gorburger Show, Gravity Falls).

Miller, like many sketch artists, he is a classically trained actor, having studied at Oxford as a teen and Frichess Theater Urbain, and graduated magna cum laude from George Washington University. He also might be the real “Most Interesting Man in the World,” as he once translated for surgeons while volunteering for a Peruvian Medical Association mission.

As arrogant as he is snarky, overtly sexual yet sloth-like, and with hair vaguely reminiscent of Darryl Jenks’ afro without need for an ounce of “Soul Glow,” Miller is the Rolex watch of Silicon’s timing. Well, at least an (un)Fitbit that provides the series its riotous cadence.

While this is a television show about technology and apps and the new New-World order of 20-somethings in sweatpants sitting around the kitchen table writing algorithms and queries that can create more revenue before lunch than some Second World Countries, it doesn’t overstretch itself with too much bombastic, derailing dialogue or side plots. Instead, it’s fast-paced, relevant and wonderful, and balanced with hilarious monologues on the most efficient pace of male masturbation and the correct size of spoon for polishing off a cup of Fage Greek Yogurt.

Silicon Valley is smart and smart aleck fun, and there’s absolutely nothing awkward about that.

About Ryan Gray

An award-winning, professionally and academically trained journalist. I'm a reporter and editor of news, business, sports, and entertainment and manager of the entire production process for print, online and multimedia/interactive for my company. I drive our brands and those of our clients via storytelling and audience engagement. I also direct curriculum development for related conferences and provide quality assurance on all projects and facilitate teamwork throughout the company and convert traffic and readership into dollars. In my spare time I enjoy music, playing with my daughter, blogging and consuming great TV shows and films. Specialties: News/feature reporting, editorial direction, editorial production management, video direction, multimedia, blogging, content marketing strategy, social media, editing/proofreading, page layout, HTML, public relations, photography/videography

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