This was by far the funniest, smartest new show of the year, giving anyone even slightly interested in the rapidly evolving technology that is rewriting social base codes an insider's view of ground zero for the IT explosion. Mike Judge, the man behind King of the Hill, Beavis and BH, and the film Office Space, which was his first 'at bat' for the Silicon Valley (or somewhere a lot like it) experience, once again draws on his own history in the computer industry, updated to encompass the strange transformation that has taken hold of the insular, asocial, and still overwhelmingly male community. Judge's unfailing eye for absurdity and hypocrisy makes the Facebook-Apple-Google era of Silicon Valley an easy target. The quasi-Hippie rhetoric about 'making the world a better place' that every young developer is thanks to Steve Jobs; and like Steve Jobs, none of these kids care about making the world a better place, unless it's 'World of Warcraft'.
The story revolves around Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch, who is just one of several young programmers looking to get rich while sharing a modest bungalow owned by an older programmer, who sold one of his many bad ideas for enough money to buy property in one of the most seller-friendly/buyer-desperate zip codes in the US. While Richard works at Hooli, a company that in a lot of ways resembles Apple, he and his fellow tenants (who can't afford to rent anywhere else), are all part of landlord Erlich Bachman's 'business incubator', doling out questionable wisdom and demanding 10% ownership of any of the various apps each one is personally creating.
Richard is developing an app that Erlich and his pals think is useless, a music-based program that lets musicians upload their songs and make sure they're not infringing on another musicians' copyright -- something no one involved in song-writing gives a s** about anymore. When word leaks out that the data compression algorithm his app 'Pied Piper' is using is the most efficient yet devised, Richard is suddenly in a strange bidding war, with Hooli's Jobs-like CEO Gavin Belson offering to buy him out for 10 million dollars, while via cell-phone, Belson's arch-rival and fellow billionaire, Peter Gregory -- a college-hating weirdo genius -- offers Richard 200 000 dollars for 5% ownership of the company. A shell-shocked Richard has to choose immediately between a large pay-off that might be a tiny fraction of his creation's true worth, and making an enemy of his former boss while trying to turn his algorithm into a fully-functioning product that will survive the merciless competition long enough to reap the theoretical windfall.
Obviously, he chooses to do things the hard way, and soon Erlich (played to hilarious perfection by T.J. Miller) and the other residents of the incubator are recruited by 'Pied Piper'. The problems that assail them at every step are both funny and instructive. With the exception of Erlich, the personalities that make up most of the programming population are not leaders. The stereotypical uncoordinated Asperger-kid who is a math-genius, and a computer genius, but can barely pass Grade 10 English Lit (let alone carry on a natural conversation with a girl he's attracted to) -- those are the kids who drop out of college and move to Silicon Valley. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but there are exceptions, such as the devil-worshiping Guilfoyle, the only one of the group with a girlfriend, and of course Erlich, who sees himself as Richard's Steve Jobs-type frontman, employing his delusional self-confidence with something like brute force.
There are many lol moments in this season, a short, 8-episode season, and the cast is incredible. Sadly, Christopher Evans Welch, who played Peter Gregory with an inspired strangeness and a gift for idiosyncratic tics, died of lung cancer after filming episode five. He was not replaced for the final three episodes, and fortunately, his loss did not irreparably disrupt production (I didn't hear of his passing until after I had watched the first season; the story doesn't feel forced due to his absence, because he was playing the role of the ultimate misanthropic hermit plutocrat, with plans to escape to a robot-island). But the writing is the true star on Silicon Valley. Judge has put together a writer's room that is as good as it gets, and they provide an amazing cast made up of mostly comedic actors the material they need to make it their own; for a show about socially awkward nerds, it's amazing just how likable and yes, even charismatic, these characters/actors are. HBO has renewed Silicon Valley for a second season