'Silicon Valley' recap: Episode 1, minimal viable product

ITworld's Melissa Shaw watched episode 1 of "Silicon Valley" so you don't have to.

Credit: HBO

Welcome to Silicon Valley, HBO’s new comedy that name checks Elon Musk, who notably criticized the show after attending the premiere, saying it didn’t portray the tech Mecca as outlandish enough. And, somehow, that seems right in line with the premise of the show. And away we go:

Credit: HBO
Pity poor Kid Rock

We open at the not-crazy-enough-according-to-Musk party at a Silicon Valley mansion of a gentleman who just sold a company to Google for $200 million. Kid Rock is the backyard entertainment that everyone is either too cool or too nerdy to enjoy, since he draws, like, 13 spectators, despite excellent pyro. Although - unless they’re being ironic - would Kid Rock really be a choice for such a gig? Is Musk right already?

Credit: HBO
Meet your main cast, members of an incubator

“There’s money flying over Silicon Valley but none of it ever seems to hit us,” notes Big Head, who just demonstrated the concept of foreshadowing. It seems odd that anyone in Silicon Valley would actually say “Silicon Valley” in that sentence. Why not “here”? Are the writers concerned we’ve already forgotten the setting, 1:20 into the first episode of a show named “Silicon Valley”? Gilfoyle is drinking liquid shrimp, which costs $200 a quart. We will not tell you what it tastes like.

Credit: HBO
Name checks and an Eric Schmidt cameo

Incubator head Erlich Bachman name checks gurus those on either coast may recognize but may be akin to the Charlie Brown teacher voice for everyone in between: Dustin Moskovitz, Elon Musk and Eric Schmidt. And there is Schmidt! In a cameo! And a blazer! HBO: Home of Tony Soprano, Daenerys Targaryen and Eric Schmidt.

Credit: HBO
Party like it's sixth grade

Richard, our protagonist, notes the party is as naturally segregated as a sixth-grade dance. Adds Dinesh: “Every party in Silicon Valley ends up like a Hasidic wedding.” Are you still with us, Ohio? This show takes place in Silicon Valley (2:27 in for those playing at home). Maybe the writers are concerned that some folks in North Dakota would think Silicon Valley is yet another kingdom in Game of Thrones – hang a left at King’s Landing, stop when you see all the smart cars.

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Exposition scene

Erlich tells Richard he has to start delivering for the incubator. Richard talks about his site, Pied Piper, which is described as “the Google of music”, allowing songwriters to check and see if they infringe on any copyrights. Erlich reminds Richard that he developed and sold a company, Aviato, which delivered the money to start said incubator. The best part of this scene is Erlich trying to pronounce “Aviato” with an Italian accent, like newscasters who try to sound like native Spanish speakers when they say “Nicaragua.”

Credit: HBO
Dissin' on Jobs

This is Erlich’s face when Richard meekly notes: “Jobs was a poser, he didn’t even write code.” Erlich also looks like a cross between Danny Bonaduce and Shaun White.

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Hoolier than thou

Richard and Big Head show up for their jobs at hooli, which messianic founder Gavin Belson – and his Gordon Gekko hairdo - describes as “innovative technology that makes a makes a difference, transforming the world as we know it. Making the world a better place through minimal message oriented transport layers.” But, let’s be honest, we all know who they’re referring to, yes?

Credit: HBO
It's really, really not Google

Absolutely not Google, you hear? Idaho, you’ve heard of Google, right? Someone, quick, mention “Silicon Valley” again.

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Let there be mocking

Richard, who has the self-confidence of a toddler at a haunted house, is mocked by two brogrammers at the caf, which is to the left of the climbing wall and right next to the candy dispensers. They offer to help him out with Pied Piper and he sends them the link because he cannot tell when people are mocking him.

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Dropouts rule

Richard and Big Head attend a TED talk by VC guru Peter Gregory, who notes (9:14):  “Silicon Valley is the cradle of innovation because of dropouts.” Phew, thank you. We were totally losing Mississippi.

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The best sight gag of the show

Richard approaches Gregory after the talk to pitch Pied Piper. His right-hand woman, Monica, promises to look it up on GitHub. Monica also promises to be the lone female supporting cast member, we suspect. The scene delivers the best sight gag of the show (even better than Schmidt): Gregory driving away in what appears to be a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. Even better, whoever did the music had him driving away to this Snoop Dogg-esque instrumental that made it even funnier.

Credit: HBO
The applications could be endless

The brogrammers check out Pied Piper and realize the algorithm has massive potential beyond music. Or, as Belson’s aid says, “You take something like this, make it business-facing and use it for the enterprise? The applications could be endless.” And everyone in New Mexico wonders what Star Trek has to do with this show.

Credit: HBO
The offers start rolling in

Hooli calls Richard in for a meeting with Belson. While waiting, he gets a call from Gregory, who offers him $200,000 for 5% of the company, which he would help Richard build. Belson comes out and escalates his offer for Pied Piper, which starts at a raise and a promotion and ends at $10 million. Gregory tells Richard he has 24 hours to decide. Richard leaves the meeting and promptly vomits in a trashcan outside hooli HQ.

Credit: HBO
Go ahead, panic. It's Silicon Valley.

That sends Richard to a doctor, who diagnoses him with a panic attack and then shares a disturbing tale of another patient who also faced a sell-or-DIY decision and ultimately shot himself in the head, leaving him blind. He then gives Richard advice on how to shoot oneself in the head without hitting the optic nerves, then delivers an investment pitch on an early warning panic attack app he’s developing. “Welcome to Silicon Valley,” the doctor notes,  “we see people like you all the time.” (21:16: Hello, Minnesota!)

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Goin' it alone

Richard decides to go with Gregory, develop Pied Piper and his own company. He’s worried about Erlich’s reaction, as he owns 10% of the company, thus Richard’s choice will cost him $1 million. Surprisingly, Erlich is cool with it. Bonus: He also does that bad pronunciation of “Aviato” again.

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How high can they fly?

Erlich says he’s excited about the prospect of building a company rather than netting $1 million because he sold Aviato and never knew what it would be like to build a company. “Let’s see how high this rocket can fly, partner,” he notes. This is surprising given it flies in the face of what you’d suspect Erlich would say. Either it’s great character development or he’s super high, which is possible as he’s huffing from a basketball-sized bong in the next scene. Toss-up. He is also wearing a hair clip to keep his curls out of his noodles.

Credit: HBO
No corporate cult here, folks

The episode ends with the incubarians around a monitor-filled table, playing with a ball, drinking beer and getting high (Erlich). Richard says he doesn’t want to develop another typical corporate cult with his new venture – we suspect this will be easier said than done. Although we are impressed he didn’t note: “Let’s not turn this into a corporate cult - here in Silicon Valley.”