De­cod­ing the geek

Com­puter-cod­ing nerds are the new jocks in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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