'Silicon Valley' Season 3: TV Review

As brilliant as ever (though it could use some women).
4/24/2016

HBO's top-tier satire continues to skillfully skewer everything about tech in its third season.

If you live anywhere near the real Silicon Valley, the notion that triumphantly funny HBO comedy Silicon Valley — with its machine-gun onslaught of jokes —could run out of things to skewer might sound ridiculous. If, however, Silicon Valley itself and the tech industry in general seem a bit foreign, some distant land where young people get rich off of good ideas, you might be wondering how the show could have any targets left after two brilliant seasons.

Oh, trust us — we folk who encounter the tech world and its people on a regular basis — they are only getting started over at Silicon Valley.

In season three the most welcome addition is new Pied Piper CEO Jack Barker and the perfect casting of Stephen Tobolowsky in that role. Barker is a very successful and relatable CEO who has taken small companies public with not just successful IPOs but insanely successful IPOs. He's got the Midas touch. But what soon becomes hilariously evident is that Barker is best at selling products that don't necessarily exist.

For series co-creator Mike Judge, who worked in the tech world way back when and who has a keen understanding of its absurdities, this might be the most spot-on send-up ever, because the tech business is rife with promises of software and hardware that will revolutionize the world — once they go from concept to reality (which is oftentimes never).

Of course, as we know, the boys from Pied Piper really do have a product — and a very good one at that. Which is the blade that makes the humor in season three cut sharply. The Silicon Valley writers have found a concept so ridiculously inconceivable — what if you had a great product but someone took its least ambitious and practical aspects and sold that as an even better product, and people believed him because he'd done it before (more than once) and made billions of dollars fall from the sky?

Judge and showrunner Alec Berg have seemingly understood from the beginning that cynicism can be soul-sucking to witness in real life but also a wonderful source of humor. Season three comes out of the gates on April 24 so furiously the assured sense of self is almost breathtaking.

We start with Richard (Thomas Middleditch) balking at being ousted as CEO of his own company, a decision made by Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer), who replaced Peter Gregory at Raviga Capital Management. (By the way, Cryer is wonderful in this role and it would be great to see more of her; the writers clearly wanted to keep exploring the idea of a non-people person, possibly on the spectrum, pulling the strings and being a single-minded oddity, and they've succeeded with the Laurie character).

Everyone else on the PP team seems perfectly fine with Richard being CTO instead of CEO, partly because Barker immediately moves them out of the incubator house that Erlich (T.J. Miller) has lorded over them and into an absurd-yet-accurate corporate tech office. Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) are overjoyed while nice guy Jared (Zach Woods), feels a little bad for Richard and sets him up with interviews at other companies. It only takes one, and its idiotic product — not ruined here — to convince Richard that maybe staying with Pied Piper isn't a bad idea.

Or is it?

Things have never been easy for Richard and his friends, whether its Gavin Benson (Matt Ross) over at Hooli stealing (half of) his idea, or Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopolous) and his poisonous investment money or Richard's doctor (Andy Daly) not helping in any way. But the writers may have outdone themselves as season three gets deeper into the hellish part of tech heaven (finally making it).

Along the way the rapid-fire jokes each seem to hit — Silicon Valley is preposterously accurate in that regard. Nanjiani, Starr, Woods, Miller, Middleditch — the cast knows how to kill it.

Although critics were only sent three episodes, it doesn't seem like the show has addressed its problem of (kind of pointlessly) not having a female programmer to share in all the joy and jokes. Last season we had Carla (Alice Wetterlund) but she disappeared quickly (and though she returns in season three, it's brief and her exit seems final). The aforementioned Cryer as Laurie Bream could use more screen time as could Amanda Crew as Monica, who has been there from the start. If Pied Piper is taking the next step in expansion, it will need more programmers, and getting the female perspective seems a no-brainer for fertile comedic opportunity — but again, HBO only sent three so maybe that will happen in coming episodes.

Beyond that, the early season three offerings are as funny as ever and a welcome return to the schedule.

Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods
Creators: Mike Judge, Alec Berg, Dave Krinsky

Airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO.

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