Cracking the geek code

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.

Find out whether the Pied Piper team sink or swim in Season 3!

Sign up for your free 14-day Showmax trial now »

Original African stories by local talent

One Weeks S1 on Showmax

One Weeks

One Weeks follows Fana, a charming high-school dropout from Soweto, who can’t believe his luck when he finds himself dating successful lawyer Lihle. Stream from 22 July 2024.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
The Mommy Club Sugar & Spice on Showmax

The Mommy Club: Sugar & Spice

The Mommy Club: Sugar & Spice is a brand-new Showmax Original reality series, following affluent moms in Durban’s Indian community. Watch from 8 August 2024.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
Beaulah Queens van die Kaap on Showmax

Beaulah: Queens van die Kaap

Meet Cape Town’s most charismatic drag queens in this eye-opening reality series. Now streaming, with new episodes every Thursday.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
016FM S1 is on Showmax


016FM follows rival DJs at a beloved Vaal radio station threatened with closure, starring the late Mpho Sebeng, and Joseph Sedibo. Stream now, with new episodes every Wednesday.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
Jiji is on Showmax


Jiji follows the lives of four girls in the streets of Jericho, forced into a life of crime to make ends meet. Stream now, with new episodes on Mondays and Tuesdays.

/images/ke.svgMade in Kenya
Born Into Fame is on Showmax

Born Into Fame

Born Into Fame follows six South Africans with famous parents, as they try to live up to their family legacies while discovering their own unique paths to success. Stream now, with new episodes every Tuesday.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip - South Africa on Showmax

The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip – South Africa

The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip – South Africa is the spin off that fans have been waiting for. Stream now on Showmax, with new episodes every Monday.

/images/za.svgMade in South Africa
Nilichoma on Showmax


The Kenyan Showmax Original docuseries features celebs who received an unexpected windfall, and then blew it all. Stream now on Showmax.

/images/ke.svgMade in Kenya
One Weeks, coming soon
The Mommy Club Sugar & Spice: Meet the moms