'Silicon Valley' Producers Reveal the Storyline They Feared Viewers Wouldn't Comprehend

Ali Page/HBO
'Silicon Valley'

The fifth season of HBO's tech comedy saw the Pied Piper gang trying to decentralize the internet, a concept whose response surprised Mike Judge and Clay Tarver.

HBO's spoof of the Bay Area's male-dominated, self-serious tech scene manages to nab Emmy noms every year, though the comedy has always been in the shadow of the network's other crown jewel (and awards hog), Veep. With the political satire out of the race this year, it could be Silicon Valley's time — but showrunner Mike Judge isn't optimistic, joking to THR that what he's most looking forward to at the Emmys is "losing to someone new."

Silicon Valley writers and producers Judge, 55, and Clay Tarver, 52 (they're nominated with Alec Berg), pick their favorite bit of dialogue from the season, reveal which castmember would make the best politician and the star they'd most like to have as a guest star (Daniel Day-Lewis is free, right?).

What are you most looking forward to at the Emmys this year?

CLAY TARVER It's always seeing my colleagues all buttoned up in fancy dresses and tuxedos. I can barely recognize them. It feels like a last episode of a season of Survivor.

What was your favorite line of dialogue 
this season?

MIKE JUDGE Jared saying to [an unhelpful camper], "How would you like to die today, motherfucker?!"


TARVER Zach Woods came up with it on 
the spot.

What's a joke that you wanted to put on the 
air that you couldn't?

TARVER The alts for [Zach's] joke.

JUDGE HBO pretty much lets us do what we want, so we're not limited by network censors. There are times where we have to make tough choices on alts that the actors have improvised, though. It's a good problem to have.

What's a discussion you had in the writers room that you found particularly interesting?

JUDGE Discussing how we were going to do the 51 percent attack [to destabilize a cryptocurrency] — and make it accessible and exciting to the audience — was interesting to me.

TARVER It was at the beginning of the season when it was clear to everyone that the luminaries of the actual Silicon Valley had basically broken the world. Wittingly or unwittingly. We'd all joked about it happening for years. But everyone was beginning to realize how far it had finally gone.

Who would you most like to see as a guest 
star on the show and why?

JUDGE Daniel Day-Lewis. I met a tech billionaire recently, and while he was talking, I thought, "Daniel Day-Lewis could play this guy." I realize this will never happen. Just answering honestly.

What's the most unexpected response you've gotten to your series this season?

TARVER That people seemed to actually understand our episode about a 51 percent attack from a Chinese phone manufacturer on a fully decentralized internet.

On the Emmy red carpet, what do you hope 
you'll be asked about?

JUDGE I will be avoiding the red carpet. I'm 
not famous enough.

TARVER "What are Mike Judge and Alec Berg really like?"

And what's the one thing you never want to be asked about again?

JUDGE "If you could make any app, what would it be?"

TARVER "Who are you?"

Who would you most like to chat up at Emmy parties?

JUDGE I try not to chat people up. The only time I've ever done that was when I saw three of 
the captains from Deadliest Catch in a bar.

TARVER My date. I'm usually a distracted, 
overwhelmed, vaguely uptight person in a rented tuxedo during the actual event.

Who in your cast is best suited to run for office?

JUDGE None of them are suited to run for office. Except maybe Suzanne Cryer for city comptroller or something like that.

TARVER I enthusiastically endorse Martin Starr. But only if he ran — and governed — in character as Bertram Gilfoyle.

There ought to be an Emmy category for …

JUDGE Dramas posing as comedies.

***

BETA MALE CONTROVERSY:

The March 7 issue of THR featuring the cast of Silicon Valley (with the line "Triumph of the Beta Male") drew the ire of 
the alt-right, including commentator Alex Jones, who went on a tirade saying the cover was a harbinger of "alpha males" being "taken control of and being enslaved." Brit YouTube personality Paul Joseph Watson called the image a "cancer." And comedian Chad Prather spoke about the issue on Fox & Friends: "Why is there such a war on masculinity? I mean, the worst thing you can be today 
in America is a white, heterosexual, Christian male." Appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on March 21, Thomas Middleditch responded to the controversy: "I go to bed in 
full plaid eating a cheeseburger and shooting a gun," the actor quipped of his "alpha male" bona fides. "In all truth, I consider myself more of a theta male. I'm way down there. I'm cucking the cucks."

ODDS ARE:

Kumail Nanjiani may have said it best when he summed up his sitcom's showing in the 2018 Emmy race with this tweet: "Silicon Valley is going to lose SEVEN Emmys!!!" The bloom is indeed off the rose for this tech comedy of errors, in the top category for its fifth consecutive year. There was a time when Silicon Valley could have cracked the series race, but those peak seasons saw it constantly outgunned by HBO sibling Veep. The absence of that contender certainly unlocks a door for Silicon Valley, but it's not exactly open. If it's an HBO show that snaps up the Veep crown, signs point to Barry. Bill Hader's newcomer, also showrun by Silicon Valley exec producer Alec Berg, now looks like the network's strongest hand. Michael O'Connell

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.