HBO's Sunday night comedy block this spring was a pretty good lineup, topped by the excellent second season of Mike Judge's Silicon Valley, a show that started out good but wobbly last year, then got on a roll, and continued its smoothness right off the bat this time around for one of the best comedy seasons in recent memory. The ensemble cast is so perfectly matched, with every character bound to recite at least one hilarious zinger per episode, but often two or three, and the rest of the supporting characters follow along in rhythmic fashion to make it look effortless.
The second season dealt with the lawsuit lodged by Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross, now co-starring) against Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and PIed Piper for intellectual property ownership, and Richard's attempts to fight off every strike thrown at him to launch his company. To tell you the truth, I know absolutely nothing about this industry and I can occasionally get lost in some of the technobabble (this is Mike Judge's area, not mine), but you know a show is damn good when that doesn't even matter and you can still find it funny. The jokes work on a satirical level but also just on a laugh out loud, gag and dry humor level. The chemistry between the cast is top notch, with Middleditch as the perfect straight man (the key to which is always in his befuddled reactions to the madness around him), and his coders and partners the sometimes annoying, always bickering, drily sardonic (Martin Starr really steps it up this year as the cynically deadpan Gilfoyle) group that can deliver any number of wisecracks the writers toss at them. Dinesh is forever put upon and unlucky in love, Jared is gloriously and cheerfully awkward, and TJ Miller, well...what is there to say about him, really? Miller's Erlich shines like no other in a cast filled with A-list scene stealers, and he makes me laugh out loud at least once every single week. If there's any kind of awards god for comedy, I wouldn't be surprised if his climactic episode where he testifies on behalf of Richard but of course runs afoul of everything he shouldn't say puts him in prime Emmy contention.
On top of all this perfection, the guest stars this season were also dynamite, with Suzanne Cryer coming in as the new CEO of Raviga and Peter Gregory replacement (who was of course portrayed by the late Christopher Evan Welch, whose death is handled in the first episode in an appropriately funny and respectful manner that shapes several punchlines around it without once missing the mark in tone), and she's a twitchy, strange presence that fits the show completely and doesn't get nearly enough screen time for how much potential she brings with her. And Richard's new benefactor, douchebag billionaire Russ Hanneman (think of a Mark Cuban-type), the guy who put "radio on the Internet" is played by Chris Diamantopoulos in sleazy, bombastic, insulting pompousness that he obviously relishes, while getting the chance to chomp at the scenery and unintentionally sabotage every move Richard makes. While there are memorable moments aplenty this season (Dinesh and Gilfoyle's SWAT board, the masturbating monkey, Erlich's epic "charm them with rudeness" tour, and Richard's race in the finale to stop the guys from deleting his algorithm forever), the show still hasn't managed to figure out how to have female characters of substance incorporated into the gang, although to their credit, they did try this season. Amanda Crew is still around as Monica, although she also still doesn't have much to do and is saddled with even more of a straight man role than Richard (the show also surprisingly didn't even follow up with the implied attraction between the two last season), and there's an episode that brings up the need to hire a female coder, since it would be a benefit in making them look good to the public (ha- way to face the critics head on). Sadly, when Alice Wetterland's Carla is hired, she gets a couple good lines for one episode and is then nudged to the side and seemingly forgotten by season's end.
This show is sometimes labeled a "dude-bro" comedy, like Entourage was, but I'd like to say for the record that Mike Judge's humor is nothing like that of Doug Ellin, and as somebody who never really liked Entourage or the characters on it (except occasionally Jeremy Piven's Ari, who did make me laugh, at least at first), I like this show so much that even its male dominated shenanigans don't bother me in the slightest. It's just funny. The idiosyncratic style of humor on this show may not be not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's definitely mine and this run of ten episodes was one of the very best on television this year. Well done, guys.