10 April 2017
Cracking the geek code
With their gigabyte-commanding and data-coding keyboards at arm’s length, geeks are the TV gods ruling today’s comedy shows. In Silicon Valley (2014-current; all three seasons so far are available on Showmax), five 20-something nerds have entered California’s super-cluster of high-tech businesses to start up a revolutionary new app. But they’re still learning about the power they wield with each keystroke.
“The whole phenomenon of Silicon Valley changed the way people look at nerdy kids,” explains executive producer Mike Judge.
“The traditional, football-playing, muscled, athletic jock isn’t the big man on campus anymore; it’s the nerd.”
But it’s the total awkwardness – not the success – of the characters that drives the show. “It’s about these guys being uncomfortable, failing and being humiliated. If they become successful and live happily ever after, it will be way less fun,” Mike adds.
How to spot them
In the show, Google-esque Hooli search-engine company CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) reckons that geeks are birds of a feather. “They always travel in groups of five,” he says in the very first episode. “There’s always a tall, skinny white guy; short, skinny Asian guy; fat guy with a ponytail; some guys with crazy facial hair; and then an East Indian guy. It’s like they trade guys until they all have the right group.”
And the Pied Piper group [the five lead characters’ company] is the perfect mix of wit, awkwardness and brass.
Bold ambition … and blind panic
Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), the mastermind behind Pied Piper, might be a recluse who prefers sitting in front of the computer writing code to socialising, but he has big ambitions to conquer the world, one mouse click a time.
In Season 1, episode 1, he proclaims to his geeky team mates, “Look, guys, for thousands of years, guys like us have gotten kicked around. But now, for the first time, we’re living in an era where we can be in charge and build empires. We could be the vikings of our day!” Brave words for a man who has a panic attack at the first mention of a business meeting, spectacularly vomiting in the face of Erlich Bachman (TJ Miller), the supremely confident pot-smoking entrepreneur and spokesman for the group.
They’ve got balls
While nerds are often portrayed as weaklings, some of the Pied Piper group can actually man up when they need to. Beside group guardian Erlich – who slaps a teenager who dares to insult Richard (Season 1, episode 6) – there’s also crackerjack programmer Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani), who’s not scared to speak his mind, especially when product-architecture specialist Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) pulls nasty pranks on him on in pretty much every episode.
They’ve got smarts
The Pied Piper guys are beyond intelligent – they can come up with a brilliant idea even when discussing the most outrageous concept. In the final episode of Season 1, Richard and his team are thrown a curveball right before they have to do a big presentation at the TechCrunch IT competition – their software doesn’t do what they need it to (and they’ve already bragged about it). But Erlich comes up with a (disturbing) idea to make the presentation successful and save the day. Luckily, they don’t need to resort to his plan –Richard realises what needs to be done before the final showdown, and he spends the entire night recoding his software from top to bottom.
… And they can be pretty witty
Erlich is the king of wit and there’s no limit (apparently) to how crude or rude he can be. In episode 2 of Season 2 (2015), Erlich and Richard are meeting with possible investors, but instead of keeping it professional, Erlich hurls insults at them. His misguided tactic to put off investors who are trying to take advantage of Richard’s business inexperience doesn’t pay off – but Erlich’s wit does. It catches the attention of an investor who makes them an offer that is almost impossible to turn down, and gets them what they want – help from an established IT giant.