Today, we look at how Silicon Valley took a crass concept and leaned into it beautifully.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
Silicon Valley was an interesting series about a group of programmers led by Richard (Thomas Middleditch) who start a company called Pied Piper that slowly but surely becomes a success over five seasons (the sixth season is set after they’ve finally succeeded, and I think it probably was the worst season of the show).
At the end of the first season, in “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”, Pied Piper has a compression system that it plans to take to market, and is competing in the Disrupt competition. The problem is that a giant company led by Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) has used some underhanded methods to essentially reverse-engineered their system, and has the same exact compression score as Pied Piper. The company is set to present in the Disrupt finals (the show cleverly came up with a reason why Pied Piper would get a bye through to the finals, so they didn’t have to present until AFTER Gavin presents his compression package that he stole from them), but none of Richard’s co-workers (or Richard himself) believe that they have any chance (as, again, a giant company now has the exact same product as them, but has integrated it with all of its other products, while they’re just offering simply the compression system). Erlich (T.J. Miller), a guy who runs incubators for new companies (and who has 10% of Pied Piper, as a result), plans to present for the team (the fact that he slept with one of the judge’s wife, which led to the judge attacking him publicly, is why Pied Piper was allowed to get a bye until the finals, in exchange for not suing the competition for one of its judges assaulting Erlich), but since he knows they’re screwed, he jokes that the only way they could possibly win at this point is if he just gave everyone in the audience handjobs. The other members of Pied Piper’s team, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), note that there’s no way he would be able to do that to the 800 men in the audience in the ten minutes they have to present in the competition. Erlich argues that he could, and then they start coming up with a mathematical formula to determine the most efficient way for Erlich to give 800 handjobs to see if he COULD theoretically get it done in ten minutes.
The nonsense actually made Richard come up with an idea, and so he rewrites their whole program, and comes up with a compression score higher than even the theoretical limit of how high compression scores could go. So Pied Pipers wins, but of course, now Richard realizes that with success comes even MORE pressure, and he throws up in a garbage can as the episode ends.
Written by Alec Berg and directed by show co-creator Mike Judge, the episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. It was hilarious how the show took such an absurd and crass concept and actually made it WORK, while at the same time, undercutting the feel good nature of the victory by showing how, for someone like Richard, success might be SCARIER than failure!
Okay, if I’m going to have 352 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!