Nobody knows anything. The writer William Goldman’s famous line about Hollywood having no clue which films will be hits is transferable to a lot of other industries — how about northern California, where everyone’s trying to start up the next Google, Twitter or YouTube?
Almost. Although Silicon Valley — a sharp, hip but tender-hearted HBO comedy from Mike Judge, co-creator of King of the Hill — pitches us into an otherworldly bubble, where billions of dollars are thrown at companies that will burn out within weeks, our hero Richard (Thomas Middleditch) does know something. He knows how to code lossless compression algorithms.
That’s about all he knows. In episode one he responds to being told he’s sitting on a gazillion-dollar idea by vomiting into a bin. He’s a cripplingly nervous nerd who wants to keep his gang of geeky friends together and not be a corporate sell-out, but who has no clue about even the basics of business.
Can this minnow avoid being eaten by sharks? You’ll be willing Richard on as he makes a farcical hash of dealing with the cartoonish gurus who control the money. Chief among them is dotcom billionaire Peter Gregory, an unreadable, wildly capricious venture capitalist brilliantly played by Christopher Evan Welch.
Silicon Valley is worth seeing just to pay tribute: Welch died of cancer during the filming of season one, aged 48.
Welch was channelling the mercurial Peter Thiel, a major player in PayPal and Facebook, but you don’t need to know stuff like that because this is a comedy about coming of age. William Goldman, of course, was talking about adult life generally: Richard’s quest to find his own answers in a world full of scary nonsense is one we can all recognise.