SAN FRANCISCO, California—Last month came word that HBO, Time Warner’s premium cable network, had ordered the pilot episode of Silicon Valley, a half-hour comedy skewering the US technology industry. Now I’ve got my hands on the script, by the makers of King of the Hill, and can say it’s a whole lot better than Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, last year’s Bravo reality show.
Certainly, the glut of television shows about internet entrepreneurs in northern California says something about the ascendance of nerds in American popular culture. (Then again, Bravo and HBO have both recently made shows about journalists, who are not exactly having a moment.) In any event, Silicon Valley appears to succeed not by glamorizing its subject but cutting it down.
Here’s how the opening credits to HBO’s Silicon Valley are described:
In the pilot, six programmers are living together in East Palo Alto, each working on software they hope will make them rich, from a system for policing music copyrights to an app that “gives you the location of a woman with erect nipples.” Later in the episode, the music copyright software receives offers from, among others, a venture capitalist named Peter Gregory, who is very clearly Peter Thiel.
It’s hard to get a sense of the show without reading the whole script, which is fast-moving, tightly written, and sharp. The lead writer and director is Mike Judge, best known for TV show Beavis and Butt-head and the movie Office Space. And of course, the script of a pilot isn’t exactly a full-fledged TV show. But what it reveals about HBO’s potential take on Silicon Valley is promising.
Running through the script is the idea that something is missing here, that behind the “shit brown colored hills of Mountainview” may not lie much, that it may all be vaporware. This point is driven home by a pair of single women in Los Angeles, whose sudden lust for Silicon Valley types stands in for the American audience’s idolization of the same.
When they arrive in exceedingly suburban Palo Alto, however:
Bravo’s Silicon Valley, which was cancelled after a short first season, displayed a certain earnest enthusiasm for startup culture that struck many viewers as annoying and, worse, boring. HBO’s Silicon Valley is neither, and if the network ends up ordering a full season of the show, we’ll see if the American tech industry can handle a searing portrait of itself.
One sign that it would be a hit: another HBO show, Entourage, was written as a send-up of the Los Angeles entertainment industry but was received by that crowd as more of celebration. Whatever irony was lost on southern California may well turn out to be missing in the north, as well.