Rebecca Barry Hill: Get with the programme

Silicon Valley - where the programmers travel in groups of five.
Silicon Valley - where the programmers travel in groups of five.

Silicon Valley might seem to have a lot in common with The Big Bang Theory but its resident brainboxes make the Bang guys look like cartoons.

In the HBO series screening on SoHo (Fridays, 8.30pm) Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge hones in on a group of co-habiting computer nerds. He also satirises the corporate culture that powered his big screen comedy Office Space, and combines it with the on-the-brink-of-success testosterone rush of Entourage.

Okay, so far, there's not a lot of testosterone despite its overly male-skewed dynamic but the dialogue is authentic enough to believe it was written by a cynical ex-Silicon insider.

Turns out it was. Judge worked there for all of three months before it drove him to despair.

Strangely, for a script that demands its actors spout such mouthfuls as "theoretical limit of lossless compression" and "multi-platform functionality" it's also very funny.

That's thanks to the talented cast playing Richard, (Thomas Middleditch) and "Bighead", (Josh Brener) and their mates, who live together in a sort of innovation incubator that looks much like any guys' flat. These underdogs might be terrifyingly academic, but they have universal desires: to be successful, liked and respected.

The group's fantastically knob-headed mentor Erlich Bachman (TJ Miller), who oversees his minions like a mean David Brent, even has a T-shirt that reads I Know H.T.M.L (how to meet ladies). And just like the real Silicon Valley, everyone just wants to "make the world a better place".

Judge isn't shy about sticking the boot in. The Valley itself is portrayed as something of a futuristic noddy town, where wealthy tech-heads dream up revolutions while wearing ugly shoe socks and get about in smart-cars as narrow as iPads, (much like those that populate Google's carpark.) Inherent is the irony that the richest and most powerful guys who run the place were once the most picked- on. In the self-loathing but brilliant Richard's case, they still are.

He works full-time at Hooli, a sort of pseudo-Google with its never-ending space-white walls, "bike meetings" and retreats. But he dreams that one day he and his buddies could take his music copyright website Pied Piper to the masses.

"We could be the Vikings of our Day," he enthuses in a rare moment of confidence.

That's if the socially awkward genius can find it within himself to make the right decision. Many of the laughs came when he struggled not to vomit or pee his pants as Hooli head Gavin Belson, a megalomaniac who has his own spiritual advisor, and Peter Gregory, a billionaire who gives outrageous anti-college TED talks, make him life-changing offers.

The show is only one ep in, yet it already feels one step ahead. Just when you're thinking the guys who roam the Hooli compound fit all the nerd stereotypes, Belson acknowledges it.

"The always travel in groups of five, these programmers. There's always a tall skinny white guy, a short skinny Asian guy, a fat guy with a ponytail, some guy with crazy facial hair and then an East Indian guy. It's like they trade guys until they all have the right group."

Thankfully the show's only half an hour or you'd overdose on apps and algorithms.

But even if you don't have a technical bone in your body, it's easy to relate to a world in which you can search for a punchline on your smartphone.

As the guys embark on a quest to build their own company in a plot that feels quite familiar - Social Network-esque even - the only quibble is that there are, (so far), no powerful females around. Sure Gregory's assistant Monica knows her stuff (and may eventually turn out to play a love interest) but where are the Sheryl Sandbergs, the Victoria Ransoms? Hopefully coming up in future eps. Plug in and geek out. Silicon Valley rules.

- TimeOut

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