Mike Judge seems to know more about computer program than almost anyone in Hollywood put together. They imagine that the job of a software engineer is this glamorous job in which people are writing these cool new programs all the time. Basically, they imagine life as a software engineer in the manner of someone who just graduated from college in that field.
Back in the now-historic 1980s, Mike Judge was a Silicon Valley engineer. He has been able to use that experience to create some truly excellent programming. Naturally, his experiences also undoubtedly helped inspire the cult favorite Office Space. I loved this movie back in 1999, and I still love it. So it was really exciting to see even more output from Mike Judge on the subject of computer programming.
I’m not the only programmer who absolutely loves this show. It’s gotten plenty of other positive ratings from other programmers, who probably recognized some of the characters as if they were their own coworkers. Hopefully, they couldn’t personally relate to most of them. It’s always off-putting when I meet fellow geeks who say that they can completely identify with, say, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, which is not a show that I particularly like.
Obviously, the main draw of a show like Silicon Valley is going to be the comedy aspect, and the show is a huge success on that score. Mike Judge somehow has always managed to make his jokes extremely broad and yet extremely insightful. He’s good at mocking antisocial people without making his humor itself seem too antisocial or mean-spirited, and that’s a really difficult balance to strike. Mike Judge managed to hit that note with Beavis and Butthead as well as King of the Hill, and now he manages to do it again, while aiming at a very different target.
He was mocking broad aspects of culture with Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, which targeted Generation X in general and Texas culture, respectively. Now, he’s targeted one of the subcultures that we all know and some of us love, and it’s a subculture that has a lot of privilege. I’d say that Mike Judge in general is very good at making sure that he directs his acerbic wit at the appropriate targets.
He aims for the privileged folks in society for the most part, and there are few people more privileged in today’s society than the people who have found success in Silicon Valley. According to some definitions, some of these people might actually be more powerful than many government officials, since they have the money to help determine the direction that elections can take. People with that kind of privilege really should be targeted.
The actors manage to be convincing as members of this group, which surprised me. Hollywood actors usually give themselves away as Hollywood actors in many different ways, but I believed these guys. The characters didn’t feel like carbon copies of one another, which represents good writing and good storytelling. It also helped ground the situation, making the whole thing a lot more believable.
Some people watch television for the sake of escapism only, which I can understand. I like escapist entertainment myself. It’s fun to imagine yourself saving the world from a demon apocalypse after you get home after a day of coding or pretending to code. However, sometimes I would also like to see my own experiences reflected on television, and Silicon Valley comes closer than most other programs have in the past.
Naturally, like most programmers, I haven’t gotten anywhere near as far as these people have, so it’s also fun to see them knocked down to size a little. The world of computer programming is pyramid-shaped. I’m somewhere in the middle of the pyramid, and these Silicon Valley guys have reached the very apex. Those of us who are always staring up at the apex are going to appreciate it getting shaved down more than anyone else.