Mike Judge takes on tech with 'Silicon Valley'

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET

Early in the new series Silicon Valley, a rich company owner peers out his window and observes some of the faceless computer nerds who work for him.

“It's weird, they always travel in groups of five,” the company owner says. “There's always a tall skinny white guy, short skinny Asian guy, fat guy with a ponytail, some guy with crazy facial hair, and then an East Indian guy. It's like they trade guys until they all have the right group.”

But one of those faceless guys is about to become a lot less faceless, and that's where the comedy begins in Silicon Valley, which debuts Sunday, April 6 on HBO Canada.

Created by Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, Office Space), Silicon Valley focuses on a timid computer geek named Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch. Richard has created a compression algorithm that could change the world, but he doesn't know it right away.

Richard's life is tossed upside down when others catch on to what he has done. The question is, does Richard want to instantly get rich by selling his invention to his current employer, a.k.a. the previously mentioned owner who was peering out the window? Or does Richard have the guts to maintain control of what he has created by accepting startup money from someone else and forming his own company with his equally ill-equipped pals (played by Josh Brener, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani)?

Silicon Valley's legitimate tone and pedigree comes from the fact that Judge was an engineer in Silicon Valley in the late 1980s, pre-Beavis and Butt-Head.

“I was a test engineer,” Judge explained. “I got my degree in physics. I worked for a company that did automatic test systems for the F-18 that went on the carriers and on board. Then my second job in Silicon Valley was at a company that made interfaces for the very first high-def screens, as a start-up, actually. And then I worked for a company that made bass and guitar amps.

“So yeah, I worked in that world. We kind of know these personalities.”

That was a long time ago, though, so a ton of effort was put into researching what the high-tech scene is like today.

“Jargon-wise, that was kind of my job, so I wasn't shocked by jargon,” Judge said. “When I go up there now, though, it's funny. You'll see a billboard that'll say, 'Is your multi-platform integration blah, blah, blah?' It's just a giant billboard that I guess most people driving down the freeway there understand, but most people in America wouldn't.

“So I guess I'm saying I feel a bit of culture shock when I go back there now.”

Don't get the impression, though, that Silicon Valley is an egghead comedy. It pokes fun at everyone, from the quirky or aggressive billionaires to the slob worker bees who are brilliant in the grand scheme but disposable and interchangeable in this atmosphere.

Until they come up with something like Richard does.

That's when the nerds in Silicon Valley become kings, if they can stop vomiting long enough to be crowned.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @billharris_tv


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