• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

TV review: Silicon Valley and the trouble with geeks

They say geeks are cool now.

You can find fashion magazines analysing their 'normcore' style or featuring snaps of Mark Zuckerberg's wedding but, no matter how cool they become, they'll always have that one maddening habit: correcting everything you say. They can't bear for someone to be misquoted or mistaken. They won't just shrug if you confuse the hairy ones from Star Wars with the furry ones from Star Trek. They'll barge in to correct you.

I live with such a geek, one so pedantic he takes offence at Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, arguing if the chances of anything coming from Mars are 'a million to one, but still they come', then the chances are actually one to one. There's nothing to be done in the face of such obdurate geekiness but lie back and think of Essex.

Normally, such pedantry is infuriating, but you might be glad to have a geek with you if you watch Silicon Valley.

For those who're new to it, Silicon Valley (Sky Atlantic) is an American sitcom about a group of socially awkward, nervous, clever young men (yes, geeks) working in the nerdy nirvana of Palo Alto. Written by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead, it's brilliantly funny but contains a lot of tech jokes that I just don't get. Hence the value of a resident geek.

The show centres around Richard, a shy nerd with mournful eyes and soft curling hair. He invents an app called Pied Piper. The app is useless; even its name is mocked - Pied Piper is 'a predatory flautist who murders children in a cave,' his friends say. 'You need a name you can shout out during intercourse!' - but the app contains an algorithm which is of incredible value to the internet giants. A bidding war is sparked and Richard is offered $10 million, but then the quietly sly venture capitalist Peter Gregory (played by Christopher Evan Welch who died after filming only five episodes) slips in, offering $200,000 as an investment, allowing Richard to retain ownership in return for a stake. Richard, all naivete and curls, opts for the investment and tries frantically to become a hard-nosed corporate type, but his decency keeps getting in the way.

It's like a comedy version of The Apprentice but without those yowling lapdancers they select to represent women.

There are very few women in Silicon Valley, which is fair enough as the tech-world is male-dominated, but tonight's episode happened to feature two beautiful girls who were chatting to the geeks at a party. The gathering had a 'Roman Orgy' theme and the boys stood around awkwardly in bedsheets, agonising over whether it was correct to wear underpants, as these two Goddesses flirted with them. Then they discovered the women were simply being paid to mingle. It was a crushing moment where the two symbols of California collided: the geeks and the girls.

And that was the sad theme of Episode 3: trying - unsuccessfully - to escape from yourself. We saw that all the money in the world couldn't make the awkward geek into a cool playboy. The geeks were uneasy in their home-made togas, and will never get the girls. Even the most confident of the bunch, Erlich, starts wearing black polo necks in pathetic imitation of Steve Jobs. When this doesn't prompt a miracle he goes into the desert to take drugs, trying to jog a better creativity, or a better personality, from his dissatisfied mind. As he trips in the desert, cross-legged, with ideas for company slogans being chanted madly in his head - 'integrated open data spaces tech bit data cross platform technologies! Technolo-jesus!' - he is the opposite of the older generation of San Francisco hippies although their stories are the same: fleeing to the West Coast to become someone else. The Silicon Valley boys try it via drugs, apps, polo necks and togas, but they always have to bump back to earth: back to being virginal, tech-obsessed geeks whom all the money in the world can't make cool.

Silicon Valley is packed with awkwardness and loaded silences which fans of The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm will relish. Of course, it's funny too, though I do recommend watching with a geek if you want to get all the jokes. Naturally, the downside to this is that if you ask a geek for an explanation he'll give you one, which means going into excessive detail, and by the time he's done so is the programme. You pick up the remote to rewind it and the geek mocks you for saying words like 'rewind'. Then he points out you're using the wrong remote and you need the other one. No, not that one, that's for the Playstation! No, not that one either, that's for the DVD player! You pick up another. That's not a remote, he says! That's the Microsoft Xbox 360 2.4 gHz wireless band controller utilising nickel-metal hydride batteries with dual analogue sticks! So you smash it on the floor and scream you want a divorce and the geek points out you're not married because he's always got to correct you, hasn't he? So - actually - don't watch it with a geek.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

251343