Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mike Judge's New Series: "Silicon Valley"

It bums me out, but I haven't been able to watch the HBO series Treme. The daily life of a jazz trombonist is way too close to home for me, so the show absolutely reeks of fakery. Even though it's the labor of love of one of my idols, David Simon (creator of The Wire), and even though I've heard he took pains to plunge deeply into the musician scene in order to portray it authentically, I can't watch for more than a few minutes without groaning. Everything's cringingly "off".

When the media portrays a milieu you know well, that's when you really notice the falseness. Same thing with journalism; if you're ever inside a news story, you'll inevitably be flabbergasted with how wrong they report stuff.

But I just caught the premier of Mike Judge's latest, Silicon Valley, a comedy about high-tech startups. In spite of a rave from TV critic/god Alan Sepinwall, I expected to dislike it, because this, too, seems too close to my wheelhouse.

But quite the contrary. In fact, this series may be the antithesis of Treme; viewers may find it overly broad and unrealistic, but I have the perspective to know how close to home it hits.

The first episode starts with an obnoxious young insta-zillionaire smugly announcing to his team:
"Yes, we're making a lot of money. And, yes, we're disrupting digital media. But most importantly [grave pause] we're making the world a better place....through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximal code reuse and extensibility. "
Nailed it.

Then there's the shady self-important parasite running an incubator (burning through funds earned from selling his water-fountain-locator app), hoping to leech 10% off any unlikely hits among his stable.

Within that stable is, among other things, a web site called "Nip Alert" which "gives you the location of a woman with erect nipples". And a would-be incubatee pitches his idea for BitSoup - canned soup with pasta shaped not like alphabets but like ones and zeroes.

Sad to say, this is all way less broad than general audiences might imagine. In fact, some parts may be more authentic than the producers themselves realize. The disoriented haplessness of the lead character, who finds himself suddenly and somewhat randomly caught in the machinations of powerful entities, is something readers of my Chowhound epic tale will find startlingly familiar.

I'm not suggesting this is any sort of hyper-realistic treatment. After all, it's satire. But, damn, it's satisfying!

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