After taking the tech world by storm last season at TechCrunch Disrupt, Richard and rest of the Pied Piper team – Erlich, Jared, Dinesh and Gilfoyle – look ahead to a bright and profitable future. But their success may be in jeopardy, thanks to big changes at Raviga, the company created by Peter Gregory, and Nucleus, the competing compression platform launched by Hooli CEO Gavin Belson.
Starring a talented ensemble of series regulars, including Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks; T.J. Miller as Erlich; Josh Brener as Big Head; Martin Starr as Gilfoyle; Kumail Nanjiani as Dinesh; Zach Woods as Jared; Amanda Crew as Monica; Matt Ross as Gavin Belson; Suzanne Cryer, who joins the cast as Raviga managing partner Laurie Bream; and Jimmy O. Yang as Jian-Yang. Guest star Ben Feldman returns as Ron LaFlamme; new guest stars include Chris Diamantopoulos as Russ Hanneman and Alice Wetterlund as Carla.
Watching Mike Judge kick around his characters in 'Silicon Valley' is an utter delight. Poor Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch). Like Yossarian from Joseph Heller’s "Catch-22," Richard is an innocent cog caught in a bureaucratic nightmare from which there is no escape. Judge and company have turned Palo Alto, California into a terrifying hellscape of corporate greed and capital investment run amok.
The first season of the show introduced us to Richard and his friends as they tried fruitlessly to build their own company focusing on lossless compression. The second season begins as their primary investor Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) has unexpectedly died. Welch passed away in real life, and the way the show treated his passing was touching in the show’s own irreverent way.
Now Richard must find new investors soon or his tech could be dead. Rival CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) runs tech behemoth Hooli. He’s trying desperately to beat Richard to market, but no one can match his algorithm. And when all else fails, Gavin attempts to sue Richard.
This creates a perfect storm of unfairness that rains down on Richard and his fledgling company. One of the best aspects of 'Silicon Valley’ is the juxtaposition of Richard and the world around him. Here’s a socially awkward genius coder who just wants to share his ideas with the world. However, even though Silicon Valley is a hotbed of innovation there’s also a seedy underbelly of corporations stamping out good ideas for the sake of survival. Surrounded by self-made billionaires, Richard soon finds out that getting his company up and running won’t be as easy as he once thought.
Like Judge’s 'Office Space,’ these characters are constantly beat down by the corporate system. Only this time around, the corporations practice open office plans, free food for employees, and an endless array of millennial-wooing perks. Yet, even with all the out-of-the-box type of office management these characters can’t help but get sucked right back into a lifeless corporate culture.
It’s the damned if they do, damned if they don’t scenario that Yossarian was all too familiar with. Richard and his friends are stopped at every turn. 'Silicon Valley’ almost feels like the comedic equivalent of 'Breaking Bad,’ where the writers write the characters into seemingly insurmountable situations. So, while you’re laughing at their plight you’re also wondering, "How in the world are they going to get out of this one?"
I didn’t think it was possible for this show to get funnier than its first season. Judge, along with his team of writers, have taken the ridiculousness of Silicon Valley’s unique corporate culture and magnified it a hundred-fold. That said, anyone who has worked in these sorts of environments will easily identify with these people, their bosses, and the asinine way some things are done.
Then there’s that cast. What a comedic troupe. T.J. Miller as the boorish and clueless Erlich Bachman is one of my favorite characters on television at the moment. Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani are the best one-two duo of the entire show. They feed off each other brilliantly, creating some of the funniest scenes in the entire show. Also, in this season the guys meet up with tech billionaire Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos) who happens to be the idiot who put radio on the internet. He’s an awful human being and a perfect addition to an already stellar cast.
While 'Silicon Valley,’ like HBO’s 'Veep,’ is a satire, there are many scenarios and characters that hit very close to home. It’s clever satire. It understands its subject and creates hilarious comedy specific for the idiosyncratic world these people inhabit. But mostly, it makes me laugh. A lot.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-dics release from HBO. There are 10 half-hour episodes spread across two discs (five episodes per disc). They are packaged in a standard keepcase and are provided a cardboard slipcover. An UltraViolet Digital Copy code is provided.
The 1080p presentation provided by HBO mirrors the crispness and vividness of the first season release. If you own that season then you know exactly what to expect here.
Detail is immaculate. Most shots are mid-range to close-up and they feature a heavy amount of fine detail. You can see the individual hairs of Ehrlich’s ungainly sideburns. You can make out small letters and numbers on computer screens. Colors are spot-on as well. Skin tones appear perfectly natural.
Black areas are nicely delineated. Shadows are never crushing like they were when I was watching the broadcast version of the show while it was airing. Clarity is near perfect. White areas never appear too hot. Overall, this is a great looking show.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also pretty impressive. Something that might catch you a little off guard is the fact that this mix actually features a lot of immersive surround sound. You wouldn’t think a talk-heavy comedy would make use of the rear channels as much as this one does.
Busy offices are constantly piping ambient noise to the rear speakers. During the funeral at the start of the season the echoes can be heard reverberating through the microphone in the rears. It’s a great effect. LFE is nice and deep. Each episode ends with a hip-hop or rap song, and the bass is really solid during those moments. Also, the HBO logo has some nice deep oomph right before an episode starts.
Dialogue is always clear and intelligible. Directionality is on point. Wherever characters are on screen is where the mix places their voices. Since there are constantly multiple people in the same shot the rapid-fire dialogue comes from all three front channels simultaneously. There aren’t many opportunities for seamless panning effects, but the directionality is pretty seamless and that will do.
Audio Commentaries – There are six audio commentaries included here. They are substantial, and often funny. It seems that lately audio commentaries are either phoned in by one person or skipped completely. Here we get great information from actors, writers, and creators. The following commentaries are included: Episode 1 with Middleditch, Amanda Crew (Monica), Starr, and Judge; Episode 2 with Middleditch, Suzanne Cryer (Laurie Bream), Nanjani, Miller, and Judge; Episode 3 with Middleditch, Diamantopoulos, Zach Woods (Jared Dunn), writer/director Alec Berg; Episode 8 with Middleditch, Diamantopoulos, Woods, Crew, Jimmy O. Yang (Jian Yang), and Berg; Episode 9 with Matt McCoy (Pete Monahan), Miller, Josh Brener (Big Head), and Judge; Episode 10 with Middleditch, McCoy, Nanjani, Starr, and Berg.
Deleted Scenes (HD) – Deleted scenes are scattered throughout the set on episodes: 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9. Many of them offer some funny asides, but it’s easy to see why they were cut.
Reality Bytes: The Art and Science Behind 'Silicon Valley’ (HD, 3 min.) – This is a disappointingly short behind-the-scenes look at how they ground the comedy of the show in real-world tech and coding jargon.
'Silicon Valley’ makes me laugh constantly. It’s like an 'Office Space’ for a new generation. It's timely and funny. I was surprised that Judge and his crew of writers were able to outdo their efforts from the first season. They’ve gone above and beyond. Hopefully, the show just keeps getting funnier. With really solid video and strong audio season two of 'Silicon Valley,’ comes recommended.