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Review — SILICON VALLEY (S2E1): Sand Hill Blues

Review — SILICON VALLEY (S2E1): Sand Hill Blues

When I (happily) accepted the Silicon Valley Season 2 assignment I did what any professional, thorough, and fastidious writer would do: I plowed through the first season without getting up once. Given the caliber of the folks on both sides of the camera, I was fairly certain I’d have a good time the show — and I was not disappointed. On one side of the equation we get Mike Judge’s dry, sarcastic, and satirical tone — and on the other we get a relatively traditional ensemble sitcom that’s populated by some very funny actors. And since Silicon Valley is an HBO program, there’s ample opportunity for everyone to toss around some decidedly R-rated material, which is always fun.

Pretty much everyone is back for Silicon Valley‘s second season — aside from Christopher Evan Welch, who played Peter Gregory in the first season, but passed away (way too young) in late 2013. Mr. Welch’s wonderfully weird presence will be sorely missed as the second season progresses, but of course the show must go on, and based only on “Sand Hill Blues,” it looks the show will go on in highly entertaining fashion. (And hey, it was just renewed for a third season, so there’s some good news.)

Silicon Valley‘s first season ended with a big victory for our jittery hero Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) and his ever-bickering team of tech geeks; forced to “pivot” on to a new idea after the brilliant but despicable Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) steals his concept, the “Pied Piper” chief hatches a new idea (almost) out of thin air, and just like that — Richard, Erlich (T.J. Miller), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), and Jared (Zach Woods) are back on top of the world. Or so they think. (Cue ominous music!)

The first season of Silicon Valley seemed to get funnier, cockier, and a lot more confident with each successive episode, and the trend continues as we kick off season two. At this point, Richard and the Pied Piper team are the toast of the town, and every venture capital firm is dying to throw huge stacks of cash at their revolutionary data compression program. But if the first eight episodes taught us anything, it’s that virtually nothing seems to go right for these guys, partially because they’re working in a monumentally competitive field — but also because they’re lazy, childish wise-asses who enjoy marijuana, bickering, and video games just a little too much.

While the bulk of the episode is dedicated to a (pretty hilarious) series of meetings in which Richard and Erlich go out of their way to offend a bunch of millionaires, we also get two brilliantly-written moments from Peter Gregory, a few great contributions from Amanda Crew (as Monica, the show’s sole voice of reason, and a really funny one, too), and the arrival of Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer), a CEO who speaks like a brilliant robot with impeccable English. (I think she’s hilarious.) Plus a bunch of bickering between Dinesh and Gilfoyle over who should be able to claim the title of Chief Technical Officer, and frankly I could watch those two guys bitch at each other for an hour straight.

Beyond the simple pleasures of well-written comedy performed by talented people, what’s most appealing about Silicon Valley is its roller-coaster-y plot construction. You don’t need to be a tech geek to appreciate the stresses, struggles, and setbacks that these guys go through, but the writers have done a great job of tossing every conceivable roadblock in front of Pied Piper, Inc. Richard and his team have almost snagged the brass ring a half-dozen times, only to have it snatched away at the last minute. This is what makes Silicon Valley funny and surprisingly compelling, instead of just funny.

I’ll highlight a different actor/character each week as our coverage of Silicon Valley S2 continues, but for now I’ll just say this: there’s nothing more entertaining than an ensemble full of funny actors who know when to take center stage — and when to let someone else have the spotlight. And I noticed a lot of that as I sat and watched all nine episodes of Silicon Valley. In one sitting.

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