There are some who don’t believe that there is such a thing as “internet culture.” They are, of course, wrong.
Heavy internet users often share values that are loosely similar and often gravitate toward certain types of things. You know, esoteric things. Things otherwise not well represented in our culture and society. Maybe it’s fantasy novels or science fiction. Maybe it’s games, the video or board type. There is a loosely shared sense of humor. You have your memes and your gifs; you have your youtube videos and your witty #hashtags. But perhaps the greatest shared belief is that by constantly moving technology forward, the world will ultimately be a better place.
Now, that’s all well and good. But what happenings when you take that idea, and yourself, just a little too seriously?
Let’s face it; most mobile apps are failures. Most technology companies barely get off the ground before they are knocked down again and eventually go away forever. For every Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, or Spotify, there are thousands of other companies that you have never even heard of.
In the technology sector, the odds of success are low. You might think your app is going to change the world. And next month you might not have enough money to change the oil in your car.
Most of the characters in Silicon Valley are true believers. They take themselves far too seriously. They believe that they are going to change the world, despite the fact that no one else seems to care. As proof, look no further than the opening scene, where a large group of San Francisco tech workers attend a party. Kid Rock is playing. Gourmet food is being served. The alcohol is free. A young man takes the stage and screams in to the microphone. “I love Goolybib’s integrated multi-platform functionality!” he yells, triumphantly. He is serious, he is sincere, and he believes that other people are as excited about this as he is.
This is the world that Silicon Valley exists in. It’s a world where people think “integrated multi-platform functionality” is EXCITING and MONUMENTAL and EARTH-SHATTERING.
Enter Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch. Richard works for a huge tech company in San Francisco. For he and many of his peers, he has made it. He has landed a job at one of the best tech companies and can now rest easy knowing that he has hitched his wagon to a runaway success. Money, prestige, and quality-of-life is all but assured. He should just pat himself on the back and call it a day.
But Richard has other plans. He has created a website. The website itself isn’t really of interest to those he has shown it to. However, there is a technology which Richard invented for the site that is groundbreaking. A bidding war ensues. A ten million dollar offer is made. Richard is tempted to take the offer. He feels like he should take the offer.
But it’s another offer that has him more intrigued.
Here’s a deleted scene that gives away an important plot point (spoilers):
It’s a much smaller offer. A much, much smaller offer. But Richard will still own his technology (which deals with data compression) and be hooked up with someone who can help him perfect, market, and license the technology. This should lead to more money and, perhaps more importantly to Richard, allow him the luxury of not “selling-out” to a large tech titan. With the smaller deal, he can be the master of his own destiny. Maybe he can be the next Steve Job, the next Bill Gates, the next tech giant himself.
Silicon Valley is heartfelt and snarky, poking fun at those in the tech industry who take themselves too seriously while highlighting the fact that there are others who are idealistic and altruistic. This first episode establishes this dichotomy well. I found the dialog witty and insightful and the characters interesting, if a little stereotypical. This first episode strikes me as, basically, a more sophisticated twist on The Big Bang Theory and I’m ok with that. The series will probably find critical and commercial success as long as Richard and his friends remain thoughtful and sincere and provide a contrast to the self-importance the rest of the characters seems to wallow in. Oh and if you don’t have HBO this entire episode is up on YouTube for a while.
Here’s a clip from the next episode: