you have to be venerated to be satirized
April 7, 2014 3:11 PM   Subscribe

The Mike Judge HBO series Silicon Valley premiered last night. The AV club calls it "incisive satire" (while comparing it [favorably] to Entourage). Some people in the real Silicon Valley are not happy about it. Maybe Silicon Valley will have the last laugh: HBO has put the first full episode on youtube.com.
posted by Potomac Avenue (115 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
S/O to drjimmy for the AV Club article.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Musk reached for a bacon waffle and proclaimed that he would take [Mike] Judge to Burning Man this year

Shark. Is. Jumped.
posted by thelonius at 3:20 PM on April 7, 2014 [21 favorites]


Oh damn, a new Mike Judge show? Thank you!
posted by kafziel at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not an insider in Sillicon Valley, but people I know who do have tech jobs in that area said that it was good satire of start-up culture. Maybe Musk is angry because the cult of personality hits a little close to home for him?

Anyway, I haven't really enjoyed Judge's past few efforts. I thought Idiocracy was juvenile (ironically) vaguely racist and definitely tone-deaf on class. I never bothered with Extract after the terrible reviews. The less said about The Goode family the better. This seemed like a return to form, though. I like the main character, and think that he's enough of a lovable wiener that it doesn't feel like a self-insert in a world of morons (like Idiocracy) or a mean-spirited caricature (like the Goode family).
posted by codacorolla at 3:23 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen it but I know it must be good because it stars Bill Haverchuck.
posted by cman at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


Elon Musk not only lives in a different Silicon Valley from the rest of us, he appears to live in a different reality entirely...
posted by naju at 3:29 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I saw it waiting for Veep and honestly if I wanted to hang out with clueless, socially awkward tech dorks loaded with jealously and avarice and zero real world experience I have literally the entire Internet to go to.
posted by The Whelk at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


"I dropped out of college. Maybe I should re-enroll and drop out. Try and get the money."
posted by oceanjesse at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also start up culture is impossible to parody, it's like making fun of a clown for having huge shoes and a stupid red nose.
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2014 [78 favorites]


“None of those characters were software engineers. Software engineers are more helpful, thoughtful, and smarter. They’re weird, but not in the same way,” he insisted. “I was just having a meeting with my information security team, and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”

what
posted by rtha at 3:37 PM on April 7, 2014 [31 favorites]


what it is
posted by thelonius at 3:37 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: If I wanted to hang out with clueless, socially awkward tech dorks loaded with jealously and avarice and zero real world experience ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:38 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's like making fun of a clown for having huge shoes and a stupid red nose.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:39 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


From the AV Club review...

The series begins with Richard living in an “incubator” run by self-possessed pothead Erlich (T. J. Miller), a man who parlayed selling one start-up into eternal bragging rights and the ability to spend the rest of his life doing pretty much nothing.

I haven't seen the show yet. Is this character based on Paul Graham to the degree that it sounds like here?
posted by enn at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


Content-Free Comment: I liked it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2014


"and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”

It's worth noting that Elon Musk is not only sounding ignorant and narrow minded here but he is also confusing his real life with that one time he read The Invisibles.
posted by sendai sleep master at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2014 [50 favorites]


Anything that pisses off Elon Musk is pretty OK with me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


“I really feel like Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man, which is Silicon Valley,” opined Musk. “If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it...”

Musk looked around the circle and asked who had been to colorful annual desert festival that is a favorite of tech’s elite. Not a one answered in the affirmative.


#amiritedontleavemehanginbro
posted by The Tensor at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I read the "Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man" quote this morning and can't stop giggling about it.

It's like a douchey tech bro version of "Do you even lift?"
posted by brundlefly at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2014 [76 favorites]


We enjoyed the premiere. I didn't expect it to be a realistic depiction of startup culture any more than I expected Breaking Bad to be a realistic depiction of what a high school chemistry teacher would do to pay medical bills, so the lack of authenticity didn't bother me. The cast is excellent, but they should definitely let Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani be more than background characters with the occasional one-liners.

And yeah, Elon Musk hating it gives it at least an additional half star.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the show they called those guys "brogrammers".
posted by cazoo at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's like a douchey tech bro version of "Do you even lift?"

You mean "Do you even Lyft?"
posted by zachlipton at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Uh, Didn't Amazon already make this show?

This is probably the first time someone else copied something Amazon made, instead of the other way around.
posted by FJT at 4:01 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I watched it this morning. Didn't blow me away but it was enjoyable enough to come back to. Actually, one of the trademarks I really like about HBO show pilots is that they rarely swing for the fence, they just give you a sample of what they're going to do and let the writing/production/etc speak for itself.

For some reason the "That's a really narrow car..." scene got the biggest laugh out of me.
posted by mannequito at 4:05 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


A less positive review.
posted by kenko at 4:10 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow... that review does not make me excited for the rest of the series. Looks like more of the same from Judge.
posted by codacorolla at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2014


Can't find confirmation on Wikipedia but I'd guess Mike Judge probably has been to Burning Man.
posted by Flashman at 4:17 PM on April 7, 2014


I tend to agree with the less positive review kenko posted. This may be a good show but not by virtue of accurately skewering silicon valley.

The sharpest moment in the series so far comes in the second episode, when Dinesh and Gilfoyle boast about their skills and critique each other. Gilfoyle is the disheveled systems hacker who knows the nuts and bolts of hardware and Linux, while Dinesh is the clean-cut theoretical scientist who can write brilliant algorithms but is loath to get his hands dirty with system administration. This is, in fact, a very real divide between two different strains of engineers, and Nanjiani and Starr are, for that scene, convincing representatives of each type. Too bad that divide is never subsequently addressed, but props to whoever squeezed that in between all the dick jokes.
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:29 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Weird way to frame this show, with Musk and Youtube trying to create some sort of false controversy. FWIW most of my friends working in Bay Area tech thought the show was pretty good or funny or amusing. It's easy to enjoy a parody of yourself when you're winning, you know? Also anything has to be better than Bravo's Silicon Valley show.
posted by Nelson at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I worked for a Silicon Valley company for six years (although remotely) and have a bunch of friends there and most of the satire seemed to be pretty close to the target, at least for a TV show.
posted by octothorpe at 4:34 PM on April 7, 2014


I don't know. I liked it. And if the actual Silicon Valley doesn't, then I think he's doing satire correctly.

It's not a tech manual. It doesn't have to be accurate. It only has to be funny, smart, make you care about some of the characters, and to be actual satire, it has to piss off Elon Musk.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel bad for anybody that has to work for somebody that calls a trans-woman "fucking weird — ... used to be a dude."
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2014 [42 favorites]


The one thing I like was how they had the guy advising against college spying on the protagonist's phone GPS to find him in the CEO's meeting room, at the clinic, &c. I bet Elon Musk does not carry his cell phone with him turned on 24/7.
posted by bukvich at 4:37 PM on April 7, 2014


I don't think that anybody really cares about the differences between two types of software engineers besides software engineers. In fact, it probably shouldn't surprise you that a software engineer brought that up in a review about Mike Judge's television show about software engineers.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Heather Havrilesky, for Vulture, HBO’s Silicon Valley Understands That the World Has Changed, But Tech Culture Hasn’t:
Judge presents a community of fatted calves where the basest urges, the greediest, most backstabbing behaviors, and the most blindly competitive, least humanistic tendencies are rationalized away at every turn. Or, as Belson's spiritual guide puts it, "In the hands of the enlightened, hate can be a tool for great change." Richard's fast-talking partner Erlich puts it a little differently in an upcoming episode: "If you're not an asshole, it creates this kind of asshole vacuum, and that void is filled by other assholes."

What's most surprising about Judge's comedy, though, is how well he captures the free-floating uncertainty and self-doubt of those who live inside such speculative bubbles. It's hard to avoid feeling at once glamoured and suspicious, seduced and repelled. This is a key part of the electric yet smarmy energy of The Social Network, in particular those scenes where Justin Timberlake's Sean Parker orders glowing chartreuse cocktails and unloads a barrel of witty banter and big ideas on Mark Zuckerberg, hinting at endless wealth and glamour but actually beckoning in a new era of ruthlessness and isolation.

But then, even during the first tech boom of the '90s, the idealistic refrigerator-magnet poetry spewed by internet gurus had a strange way of conjuring emptiness and despair. In navigating the pristine office lofts and flawlessly designed coffee bars of San Francisco’s South Park, it was hard to keep longing at bay. Longing is, after all, the domain of the very spoiled.
posted by ndfine at 4:43 PM on April 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


This show even forgets to make a joke about Google Plus.

Ah, but declining to even mention Google+ is the most sublime way to satirize it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:45 PM on April 7, 2014 [67 favorites]


For me, this part in the cold open was the most brutally spot-on and cringe-inducing. Not David Brent level, but it was up there.

Speaking of cringe-worthiness, when Elon Musk said in the linked article that Silicon Valley was Burning Man, I don't know if cringed more for Burning Man, Silicon Valley, or Elon Musk. Maybe a three-way tie?
posted by mhum at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Uh, Didn't Amazon already make this show?

That was my first thought as well.

And Betas is much better.
posted by nacho fries at 4:50 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


"They’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”

The only way this is actually "pretty fucking weird" is if the first person is a former surfer dude who disavowed his ways after joining an anti-dude-culture eschatological cult, and the second person is a baby, and the third person is a specially trained border collie who understands sentences.
posted by compartment at 5:01 PM on April 7, 2014 [35 favorites]


The one who used to be a dude is actually a time-travelling Evander Berry Wall, having renounced his foppish ways and devoted himself to software engineering.
posted by griphus at 5:11 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought it was funny and smart, and the satire was pretty sharp. It's not strident or lethal satire, but the bit that mhum referenced was definitely cringey. The fictionalized Google offices (Hooli) gave me flashbacks (I've never had a bike meeting exactly, but I had an orientation week scavenger-hunt-thing group ride).

Erlich running the hacker house after making a few million selling his company did make me think of Paul Graham, but I don't think there are any other points of similarity. mathowie seemed to think the Peter Gregory character was more Grahamian, I assume because of the character's rabid anti-college stance? But I don't think Paul Graham is very anti-college, if it all[1][2][3]; his radical idea is more about starting a company after college vs. working for someone else.

I also wonder if mathowie is right about the lack of female characters being part of the satire. That seems implausibly generous to me.

I had to check a couple times that the article about the premiere with Elon Musk was not in the Onion. Musk may mistakenly be assuming that his experience of Silicon Valley is the experience of Silicon Valley. There are weirdos there, but it's also pretty mainstream at this point and there are might just be more brogrammers than tiny super-smart transgendered infosec engineers. His comments did, however, make me think that I'd like to see a series set in the tech world of the mid to late 90s--it wouldn't be satirical, but with all the raver/bike messenger/techy freaks that hopped on the web gravy train there are some great stories to be told.
posted by jjwiseman at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Musk reached for a bacon waffle and proclaimed that he would take Judge to Burning Man this year.

Am I reading this correctly? Is this a thing that actually happened in real life, not the show? Because if it was the show, I'd be like "No way. Nobody is that much of a cliche."
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:14 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The "one used to be a dude" is Kristin Paget, formerly Chris Paget, and very well known in security circles. A brilliant person. Not the weirdest person with whom I've ever worked, by a long shot.
posted by blob at 5:16 PM on April 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Over the years my friends and I have taken a few shots at coming up with a Silicon Valley drama TV show ala the various law office or CSI shows. "Damnit Laura! You have got to approve that bug fix for 10.1! AT&T is depending on it!" "But Trinh, didn't our evening alone in the server room mean anything to you?"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:17 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The one thing that almost took me out of the story, realism-wise: Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper.
posted by jjwiseman at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


For me, this part yt in the cold open was the most brutally spot-on and cringe-inducing.'

Yeah, it kinda reminded me of another article (which I also think I read on the Blue) about how Microsoft was so unhip in this day and age that they had Weezer come play at a new Microsoft Store opening.
posted by FJT at 5:23 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not like he can't afford multiple houses, but I thought Elon Musk lives in LA, not Silicon Valley. He certainly cares an awful lot about the 405 for someone who doesn't.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not that it really matters where he lives, but that does emphasize how tribal people feel about this subject.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:30 PM on April 7, 2014


We watched most of the first episode last night, got a couple of chuckles out of it but like The Whelk says above, startup culture is impossible to parody. This show needs to be either completely surreal Morrisean satire, or plain slapstick comedy. Right now it plays like a light drama with some amusing bits, and it just feels completely wrong.

Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper.

I don't know much about anything, but I think Hooli could only claim that if the software was developed in their time, on their machines, but I think the guy was developing it out-of-house. I dunno, I wasn't paying real close attention.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:31 PM on April 7, 2014


Looks like more of the same from Judge.

I haven't seen the show yet, but that sounds like praising by faint damnation.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:48 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I also wonder if mathowie is right about the lack of female characters being part of the satire. That seems implausibly generous to me.

The mix of bro culture and nerdism suggests that Judge is intentionally leaving out women as part of the narrative. The characters commenting on the bus that the Palo Alto woman of 2014, was the woman on the bike summed it up.
posted by Benway at 5:53 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Read article)
(Tab back to MeFi)
(Ctrl+F)
(search for "used to be a dude")

As usual I have nothing to add that hasn't already been said better by someone else, but that won't stop me:

~May you be stricken with an insatiably itchy taint / armpit rash, Elon~

I got him good, I did
posted by jake at 5:57 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think Hooli could only claim that if the software was developed in their time, on their machines.

I'm probably paranoid about the issue, but when millions of dollars are being thrown around I bet they could spare a few $100K to try it in court. The company can possibly win the right to use the idea for free even if they end up not owning it.

It's just a TV show and it's my personal paranoia, I know (but also see California labor code section 2870).
posted by jjwiseman at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know; it was amusing and worth the time commitment (only 30 minutes). Just thought it was too unsubtle in the geek/nerd culture aspects, and almost came over like some kind of higher budget version of Big Bang Theory at times with the main group of characters.

There were some lines I did LOL to e.g. "You don't know the half of it, and neither does Congress." but, dunno. It's maybe due to recently being spoilt by really good TV e.g. the sharp dialogue of Girls, or the script and characterization in True Detective, or maybe because I'm still resenting the false main narrative of The Social Network, but this isn't gelling for me. Yet. I do want to like it, and am sticking with it for now.
posted by Wordshore at 6:29 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the premiere more than I thought I would. When the guy was having his panic attack, I was right there with him.

I think I'll continue to enjoy it as long as I take it for what it is. It's going to satirize the things Mike Judge is great at satirizing: Ridiculous people (self-important and/or awkward) and the painfulness of work in general.

From the scene with the doctor I think we can see this is a slightly "heightened" reality and not 100% the world you and I live and breathe in. So I'm not expecting much satire of the serious socioeconomic impact of Silicon Valley as the "Wall Street of the west," or any mentions of how Steve Jobs built his "genius" on the back of Chinese slave labor. That's not what Mike Judge does, and I'm fine with that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:30 PM on April 7, 2014


I just wanted to post this
posted by threeants at 6:40 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper.


I was totally thinking faux-Eric Schmidt was going to tell him that Hooli legally owns Pied Piper.
posted by gyc at 6:57 PM on April 7, 2014


“I was just having a meeting with my information security team, and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”

Valley Disease. He sees a group of normal human beings, and he thinks, "they're so weird!" Not in their mannerisms or in how the conduct themselves professionally, but whether or not they conform to a physical stereotype of "normal."

He should check out the infosec shop at my last gig, we had a black woman and a honest-to-goodness Mexican from Mexico and a giant fat dude and a guy was over 60! He'd have been amaaaaazed and amused if they were his team!

His network would be water-fucking-tight, too, not that he'd care. He'd be too busy bragging about his infosec freakshow to his fellow Burning Man "rebels."

Burning Man was always a tool of the Illuminati to counter Bob Lazar's alchemical rituals at Desert Blast. They disengaged after Lazar's assassination, and it's now run by a dionysian suicide cult that claims to be founded by Richard M. Nixon - just isn't the same, man. Let it go.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


Silicon Valley is a sitcom, it's not incisive and it does a disservice to good satire to call it that.

Of course, this was the point - Mike Judge was paid to write a show to compete with the likes of Big Bang Theory. BBT showed that it's possible to make a successful sitcom about a nerdy topic, it's only natural (in the world of television) that HBO should want a piece of that pie. As for SV's quality as a sitcom, the jury's out - I've only watched the first episode.
posted by absolutelynot at 7:26 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


A few gags in the show made me laugh but they are such local things that I can't imagine anyone out of the area getting the reference, such as the Eichler filled with Swedish teak furniture that the incubator is housed in.

The getting-pitched-by-one's-doctor-during-an-exam happened to me with my now-ex OB/Gyn (talk about awkward).
posted by jamaro at 7:39 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]




I'd rather see a show about the first dot-com bubble where all of the ideas were outlandishly stupid and everyone was doing X at the weekly Organic parties.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:11 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also: does anyone remember Grandaddy playing the Webbies in 2001 to a mostly empty San Francisco Opera House auditorium?
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:40 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought it was okay and pretty on target for Silicon Valley culture. The brogrammers vs beta nerds thing rang horribly true to life, and there were lots of little details to discover. I kinda hope they don't rely so much on mining social anxiety and spectrum-y behavior for humor, though? Like I just want to hug the main character, not laugh at him retreating into his turtle shell and not looking people in the eye. I've never watched Big Bang Theory but I've seen criticism of the show along those grounds. There's so much to eviscerate about tech and SV culture without resorting to that sort of thing. (Also I get the gender disparity but it wouldn't kill them to have one woman programmer in the mix. Maybe that's in a future story arc.)
posted by naju at 9:05 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


BBT is more about the nerd subculture than it is about the actual science that the nerds are doing (other than broad generalities for the usual CBS sitcom audience). A lot of the material in this pilot episode seemed like fairly common territory for actual denizens of Silicon Valley, but at least it goes into the culture of technology and business, rather than staying at the surface. So it's definitely deeper than BBT.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:30 PM on April 7, 2014


If this makes me worry that I might be a brogrammer, does that mean I definitely am or definitely am not?

Brogrammers aren't self-aware, are they?
posted by b1tr0t at 9:33 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


As somebody inside the culture, yet in the Chicago version mostly, I enjoyed it. I've dealt with the CA version, and I think they were accurate but appropriately over the top with the CEO worship. I worked way under Ellen Hancock in the 90s and she milked it, and her understudies did too. I like a lot of it but for me it's just outside the strike zone as was The Circle by David Eggers. Unless I'm missing a different kind of satire than they are serving up.

Wow I've really rambled and too many sports metaphors. It's worth it for me to keep going though.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2014


> I'd like to see a series set in the tech world of the mid to late 90s--it wouldn't be satirical, but with all the raver/bike messenger/techy freaks that hopped on the web gravy train there are some great stories to be told.

Oh fuck yes! Someone option jwz's old blog entries. Get D'Cuckoo and Big Bird Magoo for the soundtrack.
posted by morganw at 9:39 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


And Betas is much better.

I just saw the pilot of that show last night, and I'm impressed by how- at least superficially- they've managed to capture at least the idea of SV startup-striver culture, with the sets, the cultural references, and even the costuming. Interestingly, Betas would be a less gentle introduction for non-SV people into that world than Silicon Valley people. Unfortunately, in doing so, the dialogue sorta turns into a cross between a tech-accented Juno and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (with all of the irritation that would entail), and the main actor appears to be a young clone of Jay Baruchel. The characters are definitely a younger set compared to the ones in Mike Judge's pilot.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:40 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


> The one thing that almost took me out of the story, realism-wise: Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper.

Yeah, my fruity company basically says that. The training materials make a hand wave about California law sort of allowing you to work on unrelated stuff on your own time with your own equipment, then the next 10 slides are a huge overreach saying that anything using bits or atoms is related, so don't fucking bother.

Also, no one's going to invent a better compression algorithm and not realize its value. It's a sitcom and that mcguffin stands in for the general idea of undiscovered gold buried in something less attractive, but I'd bet that's pretty rare.
posted by morganw at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The $10 million vs. $200,000 + 5% stake broke my suspension of disbelief too. The latter is an insulting offer, no question about it.
posted by naju at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


“I was just having a meeting with my information security team, and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude ..."

I tried, but I couldn't figure out this sentence in a way that made sense to me. At first I thought maybe he was talking about a guy who used to be a passionate dude rancher before giving it up for Silicon Valley. But, wait, no, being in California maybe he means the worker used to be a dude in like a Lebowski sense, but now that worker is most certainly not a dude, and despite being a good engineering has become a real jerk. ... but what sort of sense does that make, either?!

I just never, never, never even came close to reading it as (after reading everyone else) I now see he meant it. Didn't even enter my mind that he'd be going there!

As rtha said, "what"
posted by barnacles at 10:06 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


“I was just having a meeting with my information security team, and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”

Okay, everybody is (rightfully) piling on the "one used to be a dude" bit, but I don't understand what "super small" means. Is it a typo, and it's supposed to be "super smart", and then the next person is "hyper-smart" by way of contrast?

Or is it just literally having a short stature? As if that's something you'd point out? Or maybe not just short, but actually a little person? And why would you say either of those things?

I'm pretty sure if I understood what he meant, I'd think it was shitty, I just don't even know what he tried to say.

I dunno guys, I think SpaceX is pretty cool but now I feel weird and conflicted.
posted by jcreigh at 10:23 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The show was well done for a sit-com. They nailed the satire in some scenes and required the usual suspension of disbelief when it came to technical details. I suspect the haters are mainly people on opposite ends of the spectrum — they either have no real understanding of startup culture and are just doing the usual grousing about computer culture or they are so deeply involved that the show hits too close to home.

I haven't seen the show yet. Is this character based on Paul Graham to the degree that it sounds like here?

Erlich definitely isn't but Peter Gregory seemed like an obvious fit to me.
posted by stp123 at 10:23 PM on April 7, 2014


Looking forward to seeing this show when it is no longer geographically blockaded. Without seeing a full episode (only trailers and highlights) I can perceive the point that Musk is making. The show doesn't look like it is trying to capture the full weirdness of ALL silicon valley startup culture. It seems to be deliberately more "big bang theory' than it needs to be.
posted by vicx at 11:00 PM on April 7, 2014



> The one thing that almost took me out of the story, realism-wise: Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper.

>>Yeah, my fruity company basically says that.


I am very fortunate to work for a company with an invention assignment that explicitly states "we do not own what you do on your time, even if you use our hardware to make it." I hope that the current lopsided bargaining power that engineering hires seem to have is used to influence more actually important things like this, and not just salary numbers.
posted by thedaniel at 11:07 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Apple Designer Jonathan Ive Talks About Steve Jobs and New Products - "Ive really does keep a low profile — or at least as low a profile as you'd expect one of the world's most highly paid designers to keep. He has only one house — in the swanky Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, where his neighbors include Oracle's Larry Ellison, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and actor Nicolas Cage."

How to end the tech culture wars: Ben Horowitz on the future of the Internet economy
Obviously, if we have a globalized world through the Internet, we have to rethink everything from employment to income equality. San Francisco has become this huge lightning rod for this.

One of the things that fascinates me is the difference between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Because in Silicon Valley, the only culture is the tech culture, but in San Francisco there is a culture and a tech culture and they are not integrated. One simple but very powerful thing that needs to happen in my view is just integrating the two cultures in San Francisco. Tech people need to get more involved, they need to understand the problems they are creating. The complete lack of mixing between the two cultures is a very dangerous thing. And then there is the whole issue of appropriate government policies to deal with these problems. We're in the pretty early days so I don't know if I have good answers on that, but it is definitely a big deal. And the changes are not slowing down in the short term.
Forces of Divergence - "In 2011, Apple's Tim Cook received three hundred and seventy-eight million dollars in salary, stock, and other benefits, which was sixty-two hundred and fifty-eight times the wage of an average Apple employee. A typical worker at Walmart earns less than twenty-five thousand dollars a year; Michael Duke, the retailer's former chief executive, was paid more than twenty-three million dollars in 2012. The trend is evident everywhere. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the richest eighty-five people in the world—the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Carlos Slim—own more wealth than the roughly 3.5 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world's population."
posted by kliuless at 11:11 PM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is room for this and Betas.

Please renew Betas, o gods of internet tv!
posted by Joe Chip at 11:41 PM on April 7, 2014


tough crowd. I liked episode one, laughed good and loud a few times. Or as this exchange suggests ...

Looks like more of the same from Judge.

I haven't seen the show yet, but that sounds like praising by faint damnation.


I tend to like whatever Mike Judge does, particularly what he pulled off in Office Space, a movie that definitely grew on me with repeated viewings, his humor managing to be both humane and merciless at the same time. Looking forward to more ...
posted by philip-random at 12:19 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a good parody of the corporate / entrepreneur aspect of Silicon Valley, but I don't see how it's an accurate depiction of software engineers, as Musk said.

To start with, these particular engineers wouldn't have a ton of money doing what they do at an incubator. As such, they would be unlikely to make it to a Silicon Valley party with big name CEOs, Kid Rock... or, even less likely, to TED.

I mean, seriously... you have to be invited or convince them of your uber-ness, and even then, it costs $6000 to attend. Absolutely no discounts. Oh, and good luck criticizing TED, however deservedly, because there's no way you'd get near the mic.
posted by markkraft at 12:44 AM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"The one thing that almost took me out of the story, realism-wise: Hooli might have a legal argument that they already own Pied Piper."

Actually, I thought about that... and I suspect it's likely Mike Judge did too.

It's not unrealistic... that kind of thing happens in Silicon Valley all the time. What's unrealistic is that Hooli won't get litigious on their ass, before settling for a piece of the pie.

In other words, it's a plot device.

And that suggests the fundamental storyline right there... the overarching plot for the whole show.

Think about it... Mike Judge is doing this show with HBO. And what kind of shows does HBO usually do?!

Well, they do ones that are more involved, more real, more gritty, etc... but primarily, they do shows that are designed to have a beginning and an end. This is in fact the most sitcom-like show they've done in recent times... but the storyline is almost certainly limited and pre-defined, just as most of Mike Judge's projects are.

What's the plot for Office Space?
Hardworking techies stumble upon a way to get rich quick. They challenge authority, try to break the rules and make it big... all their plans go horribly wrong, and they pretty much wind up back where they started.

I'm sure you can take a look at several of his other projects and come to a similar conclusion, too. This, to me, is likely to be satire straight out of Voltaire's Candide, where you experience strange, tragi-comic misadventures in the badlands of Silicon Valley... only to come back home again.

" had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts."

"Excellently observed," answered Candide; "but let us cultivate our garden."


So, if you were a smart satirist like Mike Judge, how would you tell the story of a Silicon Valley dotcom? Well, you'd tell it a bit like a contained comical mini-epic, perhaps a bit like Candide. But you'd define it the ideals vs. the reality the way Silicon Valley defines it... percentage of ownership... and lofty ideals, and how they get left by the wayside, on the way to "success".

Let's be honest about who is ultimately going to do really well here... not the main characters. Their product is so revolutionary, frankly, that it might not even ship. It might even be bought out or sued to death so it never ships.

This is a story about how a bunch of brave, idealistic adventurers go on a journey, only to lose control of that journey and find their ideals challenged, in the pursuit of "success", before finally falling back to earth and deciding what to do next. Maybe some will get the hell out of the valley... or maybe they will -- in classic Silicon Valley fashion -- try to do it all over again.

When the doctor said he couldn't remember whether the guy took the big money or kept control, there was almost certainly a point being made... the choice doesn't matter.

(Think different! No, wait...!)
posted by markkraft at 2:27 AM on April 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I haven't seen the show yet. Is this character based on Paul Graham to the degree that it sounds like here?

Erlich definitely isn't but Peter Gregory seemed like an obvious fit to me.


I thought Peter Gregory was pretty much Peter Thiel with the mention of him wanting to start his own Libertarian island and telling people not to go to college.
posted by gyc at 5:37 AM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]




I had to leave halfway through but they had me with the little napster balloon which crashed in the titles.
posted by shothotbot at 6:48 AM on April 8, 2014


"King of the Hill" was the only animated series I think that could have been done completely as a live show with real actors, I've never seen anything in it that called for animation, no laws of physics were ever undermined.
posted by koebelin at 7:03 AM on April 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't consider Silicon Valley a brilliant satire, but the more it got going (I've seen the first five), the more it made me laugh, especially the Starr/Nanjiani stuff. I agree that it's not an incredibly knowledgeable skewering of tech culture, but I think it's a very good skewering of the way culture looks at tech companies, if that makes sense. When Steve Jobs died, I wrote a thing about how there was a tech Apple and a cultural Apple, meaning the place in the popular imagination that the company has. I think Silicon Valley is better at satirizing the intersection of tech and culture than it is at being insider-y about how tech companies work, and that's okay with me.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:52 AM on April 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Isn't it pronounced "silic'n", or have I been away too long?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:40 AM on April 8, 2014


I've lived in SV since 1997 and been in the startup game the whole time. It seems pretty close to me. The most accurate thing is these guys that think they are really saving the world with their new framework/middleware/app/whatever.
posted by ill3 at 9:55 AM on April 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


On the inside, we all have huge shoes and a stupid red nose.
posted by WalkingAround at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2014


Slightly off topic but I Just realised that this is the same Kumail Nanjiani that treated myself and my (now) wife to the worst stand-up comedy experience of our lives. Not because of his routine, but rather that he mysteriously didn't show up after we'd booked the tickets for the San Jose Improv the week before. We had a groupon or something like that which let us go to any show excluding Friday to Sunday with dinner and drinks. We looked through the schedule to find a show we thought we'd like, watched a few of his clips on youtube and thought he'd be decent. We get to the club, grab our drinks and food and watch the warm-up act (who was pretty terrible). The warm-up act turned into two warm-up acts, then three (all terrible) until finally the MC announced the headliner for the night...was some dude we'd never heard of.

After a terrible show of the worst comedy, full of old, tired, crude routines (I have no problem with crude, I have a big problem with crude in place of actually being funny) we stood outside a little shocked wondering what we had just seen and what we had paid for. I checked the schedule and the two nights that Kumail Nanjiani had been slotted for were no longer there, replaced on the Friday night by someone else starting a four night residence and on Thursday by 'Local Heroes' - obviuosly meaning the few friends the owners could find at the last minute on a Thursday night to fill in.

I looked him up on Twitter and found him live-tweeting Dancing With the Stars or something equally lame. No mention of cancelled shows, or changed plans. I felt like sending him an angry tweet saying 'Why aren't you in San Jose??' but never bothered.

So yeah, it might take me a while to warm up to his character on this show. For what it's worth, I did enjoy the first episode for what it was and it's not that far off the mark.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:39 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the first episode a lot and laughed out loud at the narrow car and the bike meeting, and the Paris, TX gag. Disappointed in the same old tired "group of white guys with one token minority" make up though. I agree with the Slate article that it's played out and disappointing. There was even some commentary about that (when Hooli's CEO muses with his spiritual advisor about how they all travel in packs of five). That doesn't excuse the lame cast of characters and the fact that the only woman is a hot chick whose motivations and career are kind of unclear - she's clearly the prize to be won at the end of the day, which is SO ANNOYING. However, the rest of the criticism sounds like sour grapes to me, it's a relatively lighthearted and yet clever satire of a culture that really needs it. I only wish it had a fresher perspective demographically - but I don't have high expectations of Mike Judge on that front.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:56 AM on April 8, 2014


I've been here through a few bubbles and I thought OFFICE SPACE got big Texas tech right so I'm hoping that this show gets a whole lot more biting because I've seen a lot worse/more extreme than everything in the first episode in person - well, replace Smashmouth with Kid Rock...

I'd agree with the need for a '90s series if the BBC show "Nathan Barley" hadn't done such a spectacular job of skewing '90s "new media."
posted by Gucky at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]




"Disappointed in the same old tired "group of white guys with one token minority" make up though."

My advice: try to avoid Silicon Valley itself. There are plenty of minorities who live there, but when it comes to the startup culture, it does tend to feel that way.
posted by markkraft at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Deleted scene from episode 1, which seems like more of a teaser for episode 2, or a nod to the direction of the series to come.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:56 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Started hating it at "This house talks to girls for you." Felt like it was pretty problematic when they got to the bit mocking the Aperger's personal ad woman. Turned it off when they heckled the middle aged woman on the folding bike.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out the bit about the woman on the bike. Can someone more clued-in explain the in-joke to me? What were they going for there?
posted by nacho fries at 12:19 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took it as "hahalol women who aren't sexy supermodels exist, what NERVE", but I'll admit that I'm already very biased against the show. The only thing that would have redeemed the joke for me -- which I didn't stick around long enough to find out -- would be if that woman later turned out to be a venture capitalist they are trying to impress.
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2014


I assumed it had something to do with the relative scarcity of women in their tech-centric world, so that any "sighting" of a woman in the wild was a noteworthy event...plus the truly gross dig at her appearance being non-super-modelish. Pretty lame attempt at a joke either way.

The sad and annoying thing is, there is so much ripe material for smart, funny humor via having real roles for women in that show. I'm thinking of women I've worked with in startups who were so sharp and funny, riffing on the workplace culture, outsmarting the biz-dev bros and laying down the LAW with the bro-coders.... and just in general being larger-than-life characters. The jokes write themselves.

Missed opportunity!
posted by nacho fries at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I misunderstood the joke, and I do have a bit of a hearing problem, but I thought they were making fun of the bike.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:34 AM on April 11, 2014


Yep, I originally thought it was poking fun of sensible bicycle commuters who rock the dorky helmet and non-fixie / non-triathlete high end bike...but I'm not seeing the Miss Palo Alto connection. I was hoping it was a benign reference to something SV-specific.

I get that if the joke is the less-benign one, that perhaps the writers are just trying to tell it like it is, from the POV of young guys in that milieu, but FFS, it's hardly original or satirical or anything else remotely redemptive, comedy-wise. Sheesh.
posted by nacho fries at 11:36 AM on April 11, 2014


I took it that they were young and assholish and completely out of touch with others who happened to live in their community that didn't fit with their narrow, dominantly male, tech-driven demographic. In other words, an accurate reflection of very many of the immature guys I've met who work in the tech biz.

Like so many other aspects of the discussion in this thread, I can't help but feel that folks are looking very hard for things not to like about what I felt was a mostly astute half-hour of satire that looks like a good set-up for a thorough but not entirely inhumane skewering of Silicon Valley.

I mean, if you're looking for something to hate on, check out that Alex Jones where Mike Judge, horror of horrors, reveals that his politics have a bit of a libertarian lean.
posted by philip-random at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought about the "tell it like it is" defense of the misogyny of the show, and here's what I came away with (as a radical feminist man-hater, I'll grant):

* There are plenty of other shows that take place in male-dominated environments, even male-dominated environments that have a history of sexism on par with Silicon Valley, which do not include this level of misogynist humor. I mean, when your show about technology in the 21st century is MORE SEXIST THAN MAD MEN, that's not great.

* There are plenty of other TV shows, period. I guess a lot of people just don't notice the extent to which they're swimming in a sea of shit, but I'd rather go watch some other show that doesn't base a significant portion of its humor "telling it like it is" in this way.

* Is the show really telling it like it is? I know plenty of men who work in tech. My brother, several uncles, my current boyfriend, men I've dated in the past, male platonic friends, girlfriends' male partners, my brothers' techy friends, etc. Some work in SV itself, while others work in the tech communities of other cities. Most of them are not like this.

* Is the show even "telling it like it is" in terms of how male dominated things are, aside from just the propensity for sexist attitudes and jokes? Along with all the tech dudes I know in real life, I know plenty of women who work in tech. I've visited startups and there always seem to be women working there. One of my aunts has worked in a tech field since the 80s. A lot of my female friends from high school days (I went to a STEM-heavy high school) are software engineers. What is the benefit of having a TV show that presents a misogynist portrait of the tech industry and then defends it as "just being true to life", when it's not actually true to life?
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't help but feel that folks are looking very hard for things not to like about what I felt was a mostly astute half-hour of satire that looks like a good set-up for a thorough but not entirely inhumane skewering of Silicon Valley.

It takes a lot to make me turn off a show I was really excited about, ten minutes into the first episode.
posted by Sara C. at 11:58 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is the benefit of having a TV show that presents a misogynist portrait of the tech industry and then defends it as "just being true to life", when it's not actually true to life?

it's anecdotal all the way but from my perspective, it's all too reflective of the two tech-firms I worked for (nothing since 2008) where, with very few exceptions, the only women ever even seen were either visitors or receptionists. Indeed, it's one of the reasons I've had no interest in going back to that world. I got enough contained-male bullshit in my high school age sports locker rooms, thank you very much.

I understand the frustrations many must feel in this regard, but on the other hand, I can get frustrated when I see an artist (and I consider Mike Judge to be just that) being called to task for not adhering to (for lack of better phrasing) a progressive perspective. The guy's calling it as he sees it and I wouldn't want it any other way.
posted by philip-random at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2014


I thought about the "tell it like it is" defense of the misogyny of the show, and here's what I came away with (as a radical feminist man-hater, I'll grant):

A show containing misogynist characters is not the same the show being misogynist.

It takes a lot to make me turn off a show I was really excited about, ten minutes into the first episode.

Clearly it doesn't.
posted by kafziel at 12:41 PM on April 11, 2014


I wanted to like the show. I love "Betas," sexist warts and all, and was hoping for a different take on the same subject. But the weirdly women-less world "SV" is asking me to buy into doesn't cut it; nor is it even really true to my experience as a woman in tech.

It's possible that I worked for unusually egalitarian start-ups, but women were very much in the game, including in the programming bullpen. And the men I worked alongside with in that bullpen included a high percentage of good guys who treated their female colleagues as peers. Two of those guys are my best friends now. And we still laugh about the workplace antics years after the fact. So, point being, there is comedy gold in writing in women characters, and it's not some sci-fi futuristic scenario to dare to imagine that women actually exist and co-exist peacefully in start-ups.

Pretty exasperating to be treated as an invisible sub-species.
posted by nacho fries at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kafziel, to me there's a difference between a show where the joke is on the bigoted characters/we're not supposed to sympathize with them, vs. a show where the characters' bigotry is meant to actually be funny.

I'm a comedy writer. I'd like to think I can tell who the butt of a joke is.

Watching Silicon Valley -- a show I heavily anticipated and even applied to work on -- I figured out pretty quickly that the bigoted characters are not the butt of the jokes.

Now, it's true that I'm not going to like censor Mike Judge or anything. He's an artist, sure, and he has a right to create whatever stupid misogynist bullshit he wants.

But I'm not required to watch it, or have any respect for it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:22 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't help but feel that folks are looking very hard for things not to like

I love the show, but the lack of female characters bugs me.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2014


Had to turn off 2nd episode 1/2 way through ["entrepreneurs" who lookup "business plan" on wikipedia!?], but after a breather,

"You're being a complete tool right now. I need you to be a complete asshole. Do you understand the difference?"
posted by morganw at 7:04 AM on April 15, 2014


Two favorite moments of episode 2:

Gavin Belson tells his speech recognition-enabled music player to "play John Lennon's Imagine" and it responds "Searching for John Wayne's mansion". I work on the speech interface for a music player and that happens more often than I like.

"I write sleek, performant, low-overhead Scala code with higher-order functions that will run on anything. Period." I had just been telling my wife about "hipster"/trendy programming languages, including Scala.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:08 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Period. End of Sentence."
posted by azarbayejani at 8:25 PM on April 16, 2014


Got sent here to post the website for Pied Piper!
posted by divabat at 8:07 PM on April 21, 2014


I laughed pretty hard at this latest episode. I thought the scenes with the irrigation installer dude were hilarious. Actually, the whole episode seems like the show finally hitting its stride.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:37 PM on April 21, 2014


Yeah, I said I'd give the show a second chance in Episode 3, so I watched this one. It's definitely better than the pilot, in that at least at this point not all the humor is "punching down", and they finally learned the art of the reversal joke (for example the brown guy not turning out to be the "illegal" one, and instead letting him spend the episode mocking the white guy for being a lazy job stealing immigrant).

That said, I don't know if I'm in love with it, yet.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 PM on April 21, 2014


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