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'Silicon Valley's' redundancy problem: Pied Piper's struggles are tiring, not exciting

One of the best improv comedy teachers I had insisted that in our scenes, we should always be good at the jobs we were pretending to have. It’s natural to think that someone constantly screwing up at their jobs equals instant hilarity. In fact, the teacher argued, the funny situations don’t come from the actual job, but the natural relationships that form because of the job.

I think a lot of television shows could use this advice, and as of late, especially HBO’s Silicon Valley. Season one told the story of Richard Hendricks and his attempts to launch his underdog startup, Pied Piper. Naturally, they hit many roadblocks, only to win the Tech Crunch Disrupt and finally establish themselves as a legit, competitive company. I was looking forward to season two in which we would (supposedly) see Pied Piper in action.

We’re seven episodes deep in the second season, and once again Richard and company are floundering because of lawsuits; getting funding, losing funding, and then getting funding again; having to build their own servers; another company stealing their code; and an unethical sponsor company. It’s tiring to watch. Especially when the structure of the show allows the gang to solve the issue of the week within the 30-minute episode, a tired, well-worn trope that the show should rise above.

The characters of Silicon Valley are some of the most unique and interesting characters on television, and I would love to see them succeed, for both them and the audience’s sake. Highlights like last week’s SWOT analysis of “Should we let Blaine die?” showcase the higher-level, quality comedy the show can deliver when the characters are not trying to solve Richard’s mess up of the week. The general consensus is that the best scene of last season was the sophisticated “dick joke,” which had the group working as a team, complimenting each other’s assets as characters.

Think about the early seasons of Parks and Recreation. It started as a “The Office, but with a lady.” Leslie Knope was socially awkward, clumsy, and naive, and she was struggling to manage the incompetent staff of the Parks Department. The show exponentially improved when Leslie became a competent, inspiring leader, and when the parks department moved forward by coming together as a whole to address the problems of its constituents. Many of the Pawnee residents were dysfunctional, but the humor came with how the department handled them, rather than focusing on the internal problems of the department.

Silicon Valley

Now imagine a show in which Pied Piper functions as a working company and the comedic tension comes from interacting with users and the dynamic relationship among the group. Richard stuttering and sweating through another problem until Erlich saves the day becomes repetitive and unappealing. Gilfoyle and Dinesh’s competitive banter is a highlight of the show, but is more about the complicated friendship between them. Carla is an interesting character, and, as we’re told, is a genius coder, but we’ve not had a chance to see her in action yet. The show could highlight these aspects more if the company was functioning and dealing with the everyday challenges of “working.”

I understand and appreciate the show’s commitment to put the viewer in the world of the tech industry, but it is in danger of becoming more about the industry than these actual characters. When a show becomes mostly about a workplace culture and not the people, the only way to go is to make those people stumble at their job.

Silicon Valley is already set to have a third season, and I hope that the “panic of the week” formula is exchanged for a story about a functioning company where the characters thrive and succeed.

Silicon Valley airs at 9pm/8c on HBO.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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