Every time Silicon Valley returns to television, the world becomes more tolerable. Sure, just for about a half-hour (well, fine, an hour, because there’s Veep, too), but it’s pretty amazing. This is an easily proven fact, but it’s going to distract from more nice things that need to be said about the show, so let’s just move on.
But remember – it’s true. On Sunday at 10 p.m., whatever catastrophe of awfulness you’re dealing with will ease up.
One of the elements most easily overlooked about Silicon Valley is that the construction of the seasons are little puzzles of magnificence. Yes, there are the laughs and the character development and then more of the laughs and then some of the visual jokes and callbacks to previous jokes in previous seasons – those are all wonderful and sustain loyal viewers. But it’s easy to forget that the carefully orchestrated seasons hum along in ways that are clever, even if, just like the stories that originate from the real Silicon Valley, they sometime seem ridiculous or unbelievable.
Let’s be honest – constructing a passable plot that allows the jokes to spew from the Silicon Valley cast would be just fine. At the end of the season, if things were kind of a shambles of connected plots and maybe lacked some payoff, would anyone care? Just have the cast work on something, have them marinate in each other’s presence and whatever happens is good enough.
OK, fine, I might be alone there. But part of what makes any series work for more than two seasons is the fact that you want to hang out with the cast, through the screen, in your apartment or house or some Airbnb you might be borrowing. The job of a comedy is to make you laugh first and foremost and, yes, if it wants to be elevated in whatever historical critical analysis that comes later, it should move forward and tell interesting stories. But killer plotting is not the killer app of a comedy. The humor is. That both Silicon Valley and stablemate Veep are pretty exceptional at storytelling on top of all the laughs is a bonus. And I’d be fine just watching Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) sit in the living room and annoy each other while Erlich (T.J. Miller) yells out for Jian Yang (Jimmy O. Yang) and Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and Jared (Zach Woods) nerd out about something.
I’m a simple person that way when it comes to Silicon Valley. Fine, I also wanted bigger plotlines for Monica (Amanda Crew) because I have a crush on Amanda Crew. And I’ve already said that any time the series can get more screen time for Suzanne Cryer as Laurie then it’s a bonus, because Cryer is fantastic and it’s clear the writers like the simplicity of Laurie’s inability to connect to human emotions, which is never not funny.
But the point here is just give them some jokes and I’ll be fine. But no, season after season Silicon Valley manages to create (with the fine guidance of Mike Judge and Alec Berg) storylines that are absurdly believable and compelling to anyone who has ever heard even one story of what happens in Silicon Valley.
In season four, which starts Sunday, Silicon Valley attempts perhaps its trickiest plotline ever, which I won’t spoil but I found clever and weirdly ambitious at the same time.
What’s clear in the first three episodes is that the core group can still get enough jokes and a direction (or three) that will sustain viewers who need to see them in action (arguing, messing something up, being high, not sleeping, etc.) while the writers continue to extend enough lines out to periphery players, deepening their development. For example, there are excellent jokes for Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos); a budding rivalry between corporate cop/spy Hoover (Chris Williams) and Denpok (Bernard White), who plays Hooli’s Spiritual Advisor to Gavin Belson (Matt Ross); another appearance from Andrew Daly as Richard’s doctor; and the hilarious return of disgraced lawyer Pete Monahan (Matt McCoy).
That’s impressive because even though we only see bits of these characters, they are embedded and funny and necessary, and I say that still wanting more work for Crew, and not because I have a crush on her, while also believing the increased representation of female programmers would be wise — though that might happen given that Dinesh actually meets a female hacker (they bond over their dislike of Gilfoyle), which allows Dinesh to say out loud and triumphantly, “I did sex on her.”
So who knows what transpires going forward. The plot is, as mentioned, intriguingly lofty and the jokes are still ever-present. “I’ve always been very adept at taking whatever shape of the shoe pressing down on me,” Jared says in one scene, cementing the fact he’s maybe the stealthiest laugh on the show (“First of all, everyone reads the terms of service and second of all…”).
Pick a character – the laughs are there. Maybe this season we should give more credit to the intricate plotting. But no matter your preference, Silicon Valley is back and the world has once again been made right, at least for the moment.
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Martin Starr, Amanda Crew, Josh Brener, Matt Ross