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While the majority of the tech players who attended the Redwood City premiere Wednesday were won over by the spot-on portrayal of the lucrative geek culture — Craigslist founder Craig Newmark told castmembers the show was “on the money” — there was one vocal detractor: Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk.
“I really feel like Mike Judge [the show’s creator] has never been to Burning Man, which is Silicon Valley,” Musk said at the Northern California afterparty, according to Re/code. “If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it. You could take the craziest L.A. party and multiply it by a thousand, and it doesn’t even get f—ing close to what’s in Silicon Valley. The show didn’t have any of that.” The billionaire entrepreneur, who was name-checked in the premiere episode, allegedly remarked that programmers in real life are more helpful than they are portrayed in the show.
The following night, as Silicon Valley had its premiere in Hollywood, producer Alec Berg was still trying to make sense of Musk’s criticisms. “I’m not quite sure what going to Burning Man has to do with anything that was in the show,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I feel like [Musk] may have a slightly skewed opinion of people because he’s a billionaire and everyone wants to be helpful to him. It’s like he’s the most beautiful woman in the world and he’s saying, ‘Gosh, men are so helpful. They carry your bag and they get the door for you.’ If no one ever says ‘no’ to you and everyone is following you around trying to help you, you probably lose perspective pretty f—ing fast.”
He added: “I also feel like the people that disliked it the most are the ones we were most going after, so it seemed like we probably hit the target if they got irked.”
Judge appeared less bothered by Musk’s remarks. “I would not claim to know Silicon Valley better than he does. I’m just going off of what I’ve observed,” he told THR, joking: “Maybe I’ll go to Burning Man with him and smooth it over.”
The show — which has been dubbed “Entourage with Asperger’s” by those involved — follows Richard (Thomas Middleditch), a young, socially awkward programmer who creates a search engine that allows musicians to see if their songs are too similar to existing ones. When a bidding war erupts between two tech billionaires over the algorithm behind the app, Richard has to decide between accepting $10 million or taking a risk and possibly making billions. Judge relied on his past experiences working as a test engineer for a Silicon Valley startup and a few tours of modern tech companies, including Google, to create the series.
While Musk may not have found the satire entirely accurate, he still was able to appreciate the humor. “Some of these billionaires, we have to poke fun at them. That’s the idea,” noted actor T.J. Miller. “They may not love that we’re poking fun at them, but I said to [Musk], ‘Did you think it was funny?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, it was funny. I was laughing.’ ”
The biggest laugh at the Silicon Valley screening came with one of Dinesh’s (Kumail Nanjiani) lines, in which he joked that Google co-founder Sergey Brin‘s partner, Larry Page, actually does nothing. (The line didn’t play quite as well with Thursday’s Hollywood audience.)
“What was neat is all the inside-baseball tech stuff – all stuff we were thinking, ‘Is this right? Are people going to get this?’ – they got all that stuff,” added star Middleditch of a reception he found rewarding, acknowledging: “We were kind of nervous premiering Silicon Valley to the Silicon Valley.”
Silicon Valley premieres Sunday, April 6, at 10 p.m. on HBO.
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