"Letís just think different. Donít 'think different,' thatís Apple."
— Richard Hendrix
comedy created by Mike Judgenote
about programmers in Silicon Valley, partially based on his own experience.
The show follows Richard Hendrix, a meek computer programmer who inadvertently creates a lossless file compression algorithm. His invention quickly sparks a bidding war between his employer, Gavin Belson, and billionaire tech investor Peter Gregory. Gavin offers him $10 million to sell, but Peter Gregory convinces him to accept an investment and create a start-up around his new product. Richard soon finds himself in over his head as he struggles to build a potential billion-dollar business.
The cast is rounded out by Richard's friends, a bunch of eccentric programmers. They all live in the home of Erlich, a former programmer who sold his company for a few million and now uses his house as an "incubator" for ambitious programmers in exchange for 10% of their profits.
Tropes included in Silicon Valley:
- Apologises a Lot: Jared is constantly apologizing and self-deprecating.
- Artifact Title: An In-Universe example, Pied Piper was originally a music search engine, but kept its name after it pivoted its focus into cloud-based compression.
- Awesome but Impractical: The fact that programmers create such products (to try and be way waaay ahead of the curve) and how developers pay big money to be early adopters (and to shut out the competition) because of their potential, rather than practical, applications is mocked on the show.
- Gavin Belson uses a holographic conferencing tool (that he paid $20 million to own outright) to talk to Big Head. Big head sees him as a hologram, but the effect isn't two-way. Then the tech craps out and they end up teleconferencing with a Skype expy that quickly crashes. They end up having to talk over a long distance call with bad reception.
- Peter Gregory has a self driving car that Jared takes to get back to Erlich's house. Unfortunately, a programming error sends the car, with passenger, onto a cargo ship headed for an artificial island in the middle of the Pacific with no way to override it. He can leave the container once it arrives, but it appears as if the island is entirely automated as well.
- Bait and Switch: The beginning of the first episode opens on Kid Rock at what appears to be a concert. It pulls out to show that he is actually playing at a party for a bunch of bored looking programmers, thus setting the tone of the entire show.
- Batter Up: Dinesh clutches a cricket bat for defense when he expects a fight to break out.
- Beyond the Impossible: After Richard tweaks Pied Piper, it achieves a data compression rate previously thought to be impossible.
- The Big Board: Jared uses one, along with some reverse psychology, in an attempt to get Dinesh and Guilfoyle to do some work. Despite its transparency it works, much to Dinesh's disgust.
- Bland-Name Product: The production team said one of the hardest parts of character design was the company names. Nearly everything they came up with was taken. They settled on things like "Hooli" and "Goolibib" which sound like "Google" being twisted around a bit.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Peter Gregory has no social skills at all, but he's a brilliant investor.
- Butt Monkey: Jared certainly is shaping up to be this, especially in the later part of season 1 with him being accidentally "kidnapped" and sent to a floating island by Peter Gregory's self driving car, leading to more bad stuff in the season finale.
- Conspicuous Consumption: Hooli is a big perpetrator of this.
- After Jared defects to Pied Piper, Gavin offers Big Head a promotion pretty much in retaliation for this (and Richard turning down a $10 million buyout in favor of Peter Gregory's offer) and given an annual salary of $600,000 a year. One character refers to him as the VP of spite.
- Hooli employs a large number of "unassigned" employees with no tasks. They hang out on the roof, collecting large paychecks for doing nothing. Gavin seems to think that they'll be shamed into quitting, but they laugh off that idea.
- Discussed by Monica who tells Richard that the standard MO for billionaires is to throw a bunch of money some times millions into no other purpose other than humiliating their rivals.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: Downplayed Trope after Erlich gets attacked by one of the Techcrunch judges during their first presentation, for sleeping with his wife in part one of the season 1 finale. The second part opens with Pied Piper being allowed to continue because Erlich threatened to sue Techcrunch for allowing the judge to attack him.
- The Ghost: Due to the actor's passing, Peter Gregory is only ever referred to via his assistant for the last three episodes of season 1 (and presumably the rest of the show).
- Hacker Cave: The Incubator is a house populated by programmers and their computers.
- Harpo Does Something Funny: The core cast is made up of seasoned improv comedians so much of the show comes from them riffing off of one another.
- The Illegal: Guilfoyle is Canadian and was briefly in the US illegally. This pisses Dinesh off because he thought the guys immediately assumed it would be him. Once Guilfoyle quickly sorts things out, Dinesh is pissed off even further because of the implied racism and how long into him and his family to legally earn their citizenship.
- Erlich to a degree. He makes a point that Richard, in order to be CEO, needs to be more of an asshole.
- Gavin is one big time.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Erlich is an egomaniac looking to profit off of others' work and has no moral qualms about sleeping with other men's wives. But he is also protective of Richard and when he finds out that Richard is being bullied by neighborhood children, promptly goes out and beats up a boy who couldn't have been more than 13 years old
- Kavorka Man: Erlich is a fat, arrogant slob, but he's pretty successful with the ladies due to his fearlessness and game. Guilfoyle's girlfriend still wants nothing to do with him, however.
- MacGuffin: The entire plot is propelled by Richard's algorithm for loss-less compression. He doesn't even know the full applicability of it — Pied Piper was merely a site to see if musicians were unconsciously plagiarizing other songs.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: The various tech companies seen on the show love to spout out buzzword filled videos and literature to try and seem as if they're doing something to help the world when it's really just an ego trip for everyone involved or desperate attempts at gaining funding. By contrast, it's the socially awkward Richard's plain and somewhat stilted presentation that makes the most impact (helped greatly by the fact that Pied Piper is a revolutionary compression algorithm).
- Mistaken for Gay: Richard is mistaken for gay by his ex-girlfriend who overhears Jared telling Monica that he's Richard's partner (as in business partner).
- Mistaken Nationality: Dinesh is mistaken for Mexican by Chuy, the Mexican-American artist who Erlich wants to hire to design Pied Piper's logo. He initially only agrees to design their logo because he thinks Dinesh is Mexican.
- Mushroom Samba: Erlich takes a fistful of psychotropic mushrooms and trips balls while trying to think up a good company name.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed — Peter Gregory's plan to pay smart kids to drop out of college is a riff on Peter Thiel.
- No Social Skills:
- Peter Gregory, who thinks on a completely different level from other people and doesn't seem to care about how they react to him. He loudly hacks if anything goes even the slightest bit out of whack.
- To a lesser degree, all Silicon Valley programmers are characterized as either abrasive or timid. In the pilot episode, the main characters note how the men and women at the programmer party are not mingling at all.
- Only Known by Their Nickname:
- One of Richard's roommates is only referred to as "Big Head." In the second episode he reveals that his real name is Nelson Bighetti.
- Jared's real name is Donald. Everyone calls him Jared because Gavin Belson mistakenly called him by that name one day and Donald/Jared was too scared to correct him.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Apparently still holding a grudge against Richard, Big Head shows up to casually note how he gets lots of money to do no work at all, while Richard and his crew have no money and have to work really hard.
- Retraux: The opening is in the style of on old version of SimCity
- Running Gag:
- Everyone in Silicon Valley claims that their app is going to "make the world a better place." Often it's left unclear how, for example, "constructing elegant hierarchies for massive code reuse and extendability" will make the world a better place. At TechCrunch Disrupt, the show features a montage of app makers making this dubious claim.
- Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, particularly the main characters, are constantly comparing themselves to Jobs and Wozniak.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Or rather, Seinfeldian Calculation. The guys spend their entire night filling up two whiteboards coming up with an algorithm to calculate the minimum amount of time it would take Erlich to jerk off 800 guys, factoring in such variables as girth, stamina, length and dick-to-floor height. This is subverted, however, when the concept leads to a Eureka Moment for Richard, causing him to invent a completely new type of data compression.
- Shown Their Work: While there are a few slips here and there (and even some of those are justified, such as Elrich, who knows much less than he thinks he does, saying that 9 times F in hexadecimal is 'fleventy five') the show mostly gets the programming, software engineering and technology jargon and facts right.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Erlich sold his company for enough money to live on, so he thinks of himself as a Silicon Valley big-shot and mentor, but the real big-shots don't know who he is and his proteges don't look up to him.
- Sophisticated as Hell: In the season 1 finale, Erlich remarks that even if he personally jerks off every guy in the audience they still won't be able to beat Nucleus. Dinesh then questions how long that would take, since they only have 10 minutes for the presentation. This spirals into them trying to make equations to figure out how Erlich could successfully jerk off every guy in the audience in that time span, using mathematical terms and logistical jargon while talking about dicks.
- The Stoner:
- Erlich can be seen smoking a bong and in the third episode raids Guilfoyle's stash of magic mushrooms. Erlich wants to think that he's an Erudite Stoner, but his marijuana usage is depicted as making his already pretentious personality even more annoying. His attempt at going on a drug fueled spirit quest is also shown to be driven by his own ego and desire to leech off of Richard's potential success rather than a sincere attempt at seeking spiritual awakening.
- Guilfoyle stores mushrooms in a Ben and Jerry's carton in the Incubator's fridge and judging from his comments, and his general demeanor, is almost perpetually high.
- Take That:
- The show implies that developers work on apps for increasingly niche markets in an attempt to get just enough notice to be bought out by one of the giant tech companies at the expense of true innovation. Richard doesn't even consider the greater implications of his compression algorithm because he was so preoccupied with Pied Piper's original incarnation as a music app.
- "You know who else comes from Canada? Justin Bieber, the Hitler of music!"
- Gavin Belson's use of unreliable holoconferencing technology is in reference to CNN's much-derided tendency to trot out such tech during US elections.
- Richard states that no one could watch more than one minute of Cloud Atlas
- Guilfoyle on Big Head: "He's as pointless as Mass Effect 3's multiple endings"
- Teen Genius: Kevin "The Carver" is a teenager who hacked into the Bank of America and took down the system. Subverted. Turns out he was actually just a consultant there who accidentally crashed the entire system.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Big Head is usually holding an oversized soft drink cup.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Dinesh and Guilfoyle never seem to be separated, yet argue constantly.
- We Care: Hooli's company image is all about making the world a better place.
Gavin: If we can make your video and audio files smaller, we can make cancer smaller, and hunger, and AIDS.
- Your Cheating Heart: Erlich slept with one of the Techcrunch judge's wives before the show started. He ends up sleeping with the new one as well.