In the new HBO deadpan comedy series “Silicon Valley,” creator Mike Judge attempts to do for Internet startup culture what he has already done for North Texas suburbia (“King of the Hill”), teenage stoners (“Beavis and Butt-head”), and, of course, corporate drones everywhere (“Office Space”). Unfortunately, based on the first five episodes sent for review, “Silicon Valley” only hints at the hilariously subversive brilliance those projects displayed at their best.
Thomas Middleditch is Richard, a shy, nervous computer nerd laboring over a new app called Pied Piper that he’s developing at an incubator, a Silicon Valley home shared with several other guys working on apps of their own and overseen by obnoxious Erlich (T.J. Miller). After a couple of bullying “brogrammers” from the Internet giant Hooli’s get ahold of Richad’s app and discover how revolutionary it is, a bidding war erupts for his talents.
The owner of Hooli, Gavin Belson (Matt Ross, “Big Love”), wants to throw $10 million at him to buy it outright while rival tech visionary Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) wants to give him a lesser amount to fund a company that Richard would run. Against this backdrop, Richard has to deal with the rest of his nerd herd at the incubator, including his less talented best friend Big Head (Josh Brenner), who’s working on something that’s a more explicit version of the Tinder dating app. Then there’s Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), who doesn’t get along with Satanist-with-Christian-tendencies Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Erlich, who wants 10 percent of anything Richard earns.
There is some humor that works that’s pure Judge: “Don’t think of it as a cubicle. Just think of it as a neutral-colored enclosure, about yea high, around your workspace.” But much of it comes across as inside baseball — or, since we’re dealing with geek culture, kickball — that could leave those outside the tech loop scratching their heads.
Certainly, there are many issues “Silicon Valley” could tackle and mock — from the lack of women in both the corporate and social spheres to culture clashes between American-born and Asian-born programmers and engineers, as well as how non-tech locals who predated the boom are dealing with the changes. There are signs that “Silicon Valley” will grow into something a bit more broad-based.
These are inspired moments that show “Silicon Valley” has the potential to be much more than “The Big Bang Theory,” with more tech jargon and cruder sex jokes.