HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is esoteric comedy of the familiar. As I watched season 2’s premiere last night, I wondered if I was laughing at the elemental, narrative humor of the show, or at the slightly private, “in the know” references that leaves me wondering, frankly, if anyone over 45, or who is entirely ignorant of 21st Century cyberculture, can appreciate its full breadth.
In some ways, the show rewards those who entertain fixations with all things sociocultural and socioevolutionary…the type who might flock to this blogosector, with that instant “recognition,” and hence amusement.
I can’t reckon that anyone who is not somewhat literate in the nuances of modern digital culture would enjoy the show on a non-referenced, “orphaned” level, because the simple, undiluted structure of the show’s dramatic timeline is not tremendously funny in itself. Only when superimposed over the familiar trademark idiosyncrasies of much of the phenomena to be witnessed in 2015’s technological culture, is the show’s hilarity visible and appreciable.
Last night’s premiere included, notably and unmistakably oblique but recognizable and ironic, references that those who are privy to the dark side of today’s techno-dystopia might appreciate with a smirk, or a guffaw.
My favorites were, among others, Erlich Bachman’s observation that “negging” inflicted upon potential investors appeared to proportionately inflate the size of their monetary offering. Consequently, this led to series of fantastic scenes in which he dished out the most irreverent, caustic and brutal insults to the steady stream of Silicon Valley’s money people in the ensuing pitch meetings (further emboldened by the exclusive, earth-shattering compression engine his company was offering, sorta the mating game corollary to the hot chick with big tits). The metaphorical allusion to groveling for start-up money vs. gaming a woman was pure genius, but timely genius, because this dialogue would be lost on those who have no awareness of Game and its rudiments. And of course, there was the Aspie curtness and obliviousness of Laurie Bream, Pied Piper’s new principal investor who steps in to replace Peter Gregory, the previous investor during Pied Piper’s prepubescent start-up phase (in season 1), whose character (and real life actor, Christopher Evan Welch), died off-season. Laurie Bream is an unrelenting bundle of repressed and stunted energy and her expressionless but persistent choppy manner of speaking harks back to many a sampling of robotic tech heads who find themselves compensating for blunted social affect with an effusion of commands, statements and clinical observations intended to feign human interaction.
In writing this post, I discovered that the actor who portrayed Peter Gregory, the mystical venture capitalist who was ready to fund the compression algorithm’s start-up vehicle, Pied Piper, died after a long battle with lung cancer. Christopher Evan Welch, 48, died in December, 2013, after battling a recurrence of the cancer which was now in his brain. He was able to film 5 episodes of Silicon Valley before falling ill in November. Silicon Valley is a wonderful show with lots of nerdy soulfulness and I think it has the capability to be one of those rare definers of a cultural era that we can look back at with bemused realizations. The death of such a treasured, iconic cast member early in the show’s run reminds me of the death of “Coach” in the 80’s series, “Cheers,” after the 3rd season of that show’s run.