The first season of Mike Judge's Silicon Valley was a pretty good start for a comedy series, most of which seem to find a harder time breaking out than dramas these days. People should point out more that this "golden age of television" so many critics refer to really just applies to one genre- the golden age of TV comedy probably still belongs to the 1970's, when shows like MASH, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore and Taxi were changing television in their own right.
But this show has managed to put together a solid ensemble cast and really just seemed to be hitting its stride as it neared the end of its truncated, eight episode first season. Set in the male-oriented Silicon Valley, Thomas Middleditch stars as the mild-mannered and decent Richard Hendrix, who is offered millions of dollars for his compression algorithm in the first episode and instead chooses to start his own company with his roommates, all of whom are coders trying to make it big, ala Mark Zuckerberg. Richard is a fairly appealing lead, functioning as the straight man to his wacky pals, all of whom are well cast and have immediate chemistry with each other, the standouts being TJ Miller and Zach Woods. In the first half of the season Miller was poised to be the obvious scene stealer as Erlich, a kind of bombastic, arrogant, bluntly honest stoner who loves comparing himself to Steve Jobs and owns the house, thereby demanding his share of ownership of the company. Erlich's definitely funny but in some ways his presence was a little too overpowering in the early episodes, threatening to take over the show when a little of him went a very long way. But the show gradually made the character into much more of an asset by having him prove his true worth to Richard as the invaluable yin to his yang and revealing slightly more of a heart and brain than he originally let on. I actually grew to like Erlich and Richard's opposites attract partnership and can see that becoming the unlikely heart of the show as it goes forward.
Also great was Zach Woods, who's been popping up in bit parts on various comedy shows and movies for the last few years (you might remember him as Gabe on The Office). I've always thought if used properly his uniquely awkward persona could be really funny, and here he comes closest, especially in the last few episodes as he was given more and zanier material to play with (him interrogating random passers by in the finale while high on adderall was hilarious). Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani as Gilfoyle and Dinesh fill out the rest of the coders in support, and each are perfect at delivering the deadpan, Mike Judge dialogue that I freely admit might not be everyone's cup of tea. The tone of the show is low key and subtly funny at first, but Judge's humor is very particular and won't necessarily appeal to everyone. Still, for me this was a good start for a series that has loads of potential and a great cast that's clearly game for whatever comes their way. Unlike the other all guy-centered HBO show Entourage, the geekiness and self-consciousness of the guys on this one allow me find them a much more likable and appealing bunch (or maybe I just like nerds more than jocks, I don't know).
There was some criticism from some corners in the media this year that at least one female voice would be an improvement to the series, and there actually is one on the show in the form of Monica (Amanda Crew), who works with the guys on behalf of investor Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch, who sadly passed away before the end of the first season and had created a pretty funny supporting character himself), but as of yet she's even more of a straight man than Richard and hasn't gotten anything particularly funny to do or say. But that could change, as they seemed to be increasing Monica's presence in the last half of the season, as well as planting the seeds of a potential romance with Richard. And rival investor Gavin Belson is hilarious in his supporting part as the new age, full of himself founder of Hooli (or "fake google" as I think of it), where non-working employees hang out on the roof hoping no one notices the paycheck they continue to cash for doing nothing. You can see that Judge and his writers really know what they're satirizing, as they take all kinds of shots at the tech industry and the culture surrounding it, to varying but mostly dead on effect. I enjoyed pretty much all of the first season of Silicon Valley and look forward to it coming back some time next year, hopefully with a longer run and a bigger (and funnier) role for Amanda Crew (at least give her a shot to see what she can do), but mostly this was an unqualified success for a debut comedy.