Decoding the geek
Computer-coding nerds are the new jocks in Silicon Valley.
With their gigabyte- commanding and data- coding keyboards at arm’s length, geeks are the new TV gods ruling comedies. In Silicon Valley (2014- current; all three seasons so far are available on internet streaming service ShowMax), five 20-something nerds have entered California’s super- cluster of high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley 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 exec producer Mike Judge. “The traditional, footballplaying, 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-like Hooli tech company CEO
Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) reckons that geeks are birds of a feather. “They always travel in groups of five,” he says in episode 1. “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.” The Pied Piper group [the five leads’ company] is the perfect mix of wit, awkwardness and brass.
AMBITION & PANIC
Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), the mastermind behind Pied Piper, might be a recluse who prefers writing code to socialising, but he has ambitions to conquer the world, one mouse click a time. In episode 1, he proclaims, “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 self-appointed spokesman for Pied Piper.
NOT ALWAYS WEAKLINGS
While nerds are often portrayed as weaklings, some of the Pied Pipers can actually man-up. 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 productarchitecture specialist Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) pulls pranks on him.
The guys are beyond intelligent – they can come up with a brilliant idea even when discussing the most outrageous concept. In season 1’s final episode, 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 do (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 that’s not needed because Richard realises what he needs to do before the final showdown and he spends the entire night re- coding his software from top to bottom.
Erlich is the king of wit and there’s no limit (apparently) to how crude or rude he can be. In season 2 episode 2 (2015), Erlich and Richard are meeting with investors. But instead of keeping it professional, Erlich hurls insults but his misguided tactic – to put off investors who’re trying to take advantage of Richard’s business inexperience – doesn’t pay off. Erlich’s wit prevails and it catches the attention of an investor who makes them an offer that’s almost impossible to turn down: help from an established Silicon Valley giant.
From left: Guilfoyle, Erich, Richard, Jared (Zach Woods) and Dinesh.