If there’s one thing that really defines Silicon Valley’s third season premiere, it’s undeniably “RIGBY.” What we’ve begun to see through Mike Judge’s best idea since Office Space is a propensity for the show’s writers to create potential cultural signposts through its comedy. When Seinfeld was truly at its best, we remembered “yada yada yada” and “master of his domain” and “they’re real and they’re spectacular.” Just as one more instance of many you could think up as examples, Friends had memorable pieces within it that remained strong and still do to this day in syndication.
While it isn’t a necessity to have that kind of thing, it does tend to be the brand of comedy that often results in something lasting and special. We will look back on Frasier and Modern Family kindly forever, but when we think of the reasons why, it will be much less specific. In the case of Silicon Valley, some of these characters and the intricacies of the episodes are starting to weave their way into our very souls as purveyors of entertainment.
Think back to the “snack dick” or the jerkoff equation to end Season 1, the existence of Russ Hanneman, or any number of other parts of the Silicon run to this point, and you can see particular items that will stick around as talking points. “RIGBY” is one of those, and I could see it being used in some circles without a Richard in the group. Not only was it a smart concept, it was also accurate in the manner of employment. If you go back and watch the episode, take note of every occasion Dinesh and Gilfoyle used the acronym, and then expand out the words as “Richard is great, but you know,” and the sentences work. There’s no bogus application. That’s an infinitesimally small detail, but it was sound. I appreciate that as a viewer.
Another one… Forking. When a comedy develops terminology, explains it, and it’s funny, it’s in rarefied air.
Now for what we will always have to deal with as we continue to enjoy this series: Awkward, mind numbingly stupid mistakes from the on-screen characters. Richard is a victim of bad timing, as is everyone else on the show. Comedy can come from many starting points, but what keeps a show fresh is the variety of those strategies. Three’s Company relied on misunderstandings, Kimmy Schmidt usually banks on highbrow or absurd placement of silly, almost slapstick brand comedy, and The Office used Bakhtin’s carnival, mixed it with the subversion of hierarchy through buffoonery, and whammo, there’s your killer app.
Silicon Valley uses all of them, but if there’s one particular style to be found in almost any snippet of the series, it’s timing. Richard hears the one thing he doesn’t need to after Erlich finally coaxes him into meeting Jack Barker at Raviga. We’ve seen phone calls that are either just barely on time or microscopically tardy, with potentially catastrophic results. And, along with the clock conundrum, the inhabitants of our fictional universe almost always become their most bombastic, douchebag selves before they’re able to hear or comprehend the one thing that would have brought the ire down to a reasonable level.
Case in point, Richard’s explosion at Dinesh and Gilfoyle for being honest with him about their plans. Here, he’s a total ass, but so are they, because they mistakenly believe they’re more valuable than they are. And, Erlich’s motivation is always Erlich, so not a single person in that room had the full picture and took the requisite time to think through all sides of a crucial decision.
What’s the result of all of this square peg-round hole nonsense and the “missed it by THAT much” approach?
A freaking hilarious comedy, written with an eye for everything from a quotable, memorable term like “RIGBY” to a sight gag inside the Hooli offices where Gavin Belson and his team come to understand that one out of every five employees are useless and should be fired. Immediately we see a five-shot, and the young guy at the end of the table reveals he wasn’t paying attention. That’s freaking clever, and the seconds after aren’t wasted beating the viewer over the head with the joke. You pay attention, you laugh at Silicon Valley.
Just as with Office Space, Silicon Valley gives us a great base cast, then expands upon it, but never to a level that feels as if they’re stretched their timeframe too thin. Big Head’s future is interesting, and we’ll see what he does with 20 million dollars. My head tells me he eventually ends up funding a future project from our guys, but we’ll see.
Jack Barker, played by the exquisitely talented Stephen Tobolowsky, is immediately approachable in the anti-Lumbergh way. I kept waiting for him to reveal himself to be a complete jack wagon, but it never happened. Is it possible he’s just a good CEO who isn’t out to run Richard Hendricks and his crew out of Dodge?
Even though she doesn’t always get all that much screen-time, Suzanne Cryer is an absolute delight as the Raymond Holt of HBO. I could see her turning him straight if we ever got a Brooklyn Nine-Nine crossover episode. Nothing entertains me more than deadpan amidst sheer ridiculousness, and she’s really got that character down.
Still no forced romance between Monica and Richard, and while that’s likely to come at some point down the road, it feels very natural as a relationship right now. She likes him, knows he’s a little lacking in the confidence department, and she’s trying to look out for him and be a friend. Even in the Silicon Valley world, eventually he will recognize it…and then they’ll probably shag.
Of course Gavin Belson laid off the entire Nucleus team and made them complete scapegoats, because he’s our real villain, and Matt Ross even LOOKS like a prick. It just works. The tech industry gets the lampooning it deserves, and there’s plenty left over for those who don’t necessarily care about that side of the story. It’s a fully-realized, well-rounded experience.
We know Mike Judge is good at writing stories about everyday folks falling on their faces and finding ways to circumvent systems to find their own brand of happiness, so we knew from the start Silicon Valley would be much less about success and much more about failure. But, following the pretty dark ending to Season 2, there’s already renewed hope to bring us back in toting our respective hope emotions by our sides. There was believable conflict to be found, but the laughs were still all over the place.
Erlich reciting old man clichÃ©s to Jack Barker was an immediate highlight. T.J. Miller is a riot. Zach Woods cleaning out the bong is pretty excellent in its own right, but that dude can’t NOT be funny, except in a bad role on The Office.
A great start to be sure, as Silicon Valley picks right back up where it left off in 2015…
…as one of the finest comedies on television. It’s so good to have our HBO comedy block back. Let us bask in the laughter together.
I’m @GuyNamedJason. Poppy wants a follow because mommy already got hers. We are now living in a post-RIGBY world.