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JAN
9
9 MOS

HBO's 'Silicon Valley' Hopes to be 'Entourage' for the Startup Scene

During a TCA panel, executive producers Mike Judge and Alec Berg reveal plans and theories about the Bay Area startup scene and its enormously wealthy residents.

Winter TCA HBO Alec Berg Mike Judge - H 2014
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Mike Judge and Alec Berg

If all goes as planned, Silicon Valley will be to the San Francisco-area startup scene what Entourage was to Hollywood.

The upcoming HBO comedy is set in the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley, where the people who are the most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success. Much like the Mark Wahlberg-inspired entertainment industry romp, the half-hour entry from Mike Judge (Office Space) will offer an insider's window into that world, complete with a foursome of close-knit friends and cameos from real-life Silicon Valley players.

To accurately portray the world, Judge and fellow executive producer Alec Berg did extensive research on the startup mecca and its reigning class of entrepreneurs, a process that entailed watching several TED Talks, interviews and other footage. The pair relied on their own relationships and personal history too, suggesting that between them they know several of these billionaire types. Berg's brother once worked for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, for instance, while Judge, who has a degree in physics, spent time as a test engineer in Silicon Valley early in his career and crossed paths with that crowd again during the first dot-com boom.

Still, the producers revealed during the Television Critics Association on Thursday that they were pleasantly surprised by what they found during the research process. In fact, Berg noted that it is always a promising sign when "the craziest stuff that you think of is not half as crazy as what you are finding in terms of absurdity and eccentricities."

One theme in particular that appealed to Judge and Berg was the dichotomy that they found in the Bay Area residents being portrayed: "They all have to shroud their capitalism with this 'we're making the world a better place' thing," explained Judge, with both men insisting that the leads aren't a representation of any one specific player, but rather emblematic of the broader billionaire culture of the valley.

"You meet enough of them that [you realize that] there is sort of a billionaire vibe," said Judge, suggesting that they typically fall into two categories: the "Asperger-y type" and the "type-A uber-competitive guy."

When the series bows April 6, neither producer is clear on whether viewers will see it as a love letter to Silicon Valley or a poison pen -- in part because they aren't sure how they see it themselves. "It's hard to say what they're doing is bad," Berg said of the impressive and, at times, culture-defining technology for which his subjects are responsible, before adding: "But anyone who takes themselves too seriously and is full of themselves is ripe for a kicking."