"Maybe women don't know how to make nerds feel comfortable!"
So shouted a faux-angry T.J. Miller after being told tech nerds don't know how to talk to women during the lively Q&A portion of Monday afternoon's world premiere screening of "Silicon Valley," the new comedy from King ("of the Hill") Mike Judge. Miller was pretending to get worked up over the first audience question from a woman who wanted to know why the show about a group of friends launching a tech start-up didn't feature any female engineers.
"Well, that's a good, challenging question, and no, absolutely not," Miller joked. "Women in society live with a glass ceiling so you can see what's above you, but you'll never be able to get there. Thank you. Next question."
"What do you think the ratio is of men to women as engineers in the actual Silicon Valley?" Miller asked after some joking around with the questioner. Someone in the audience shouted out "Not enough!" and Miller said, "Well, I know it's not enough," before pointing out they were basing the show on what they've actually seen in the Silicon Valley.
"The tech world as you know is like that," said Judge. "I have a picture I took at the Tech Crunch Disrupt of the audience and it's maybe two percent female. My ex-wife was an engineer and also worked in the tech world, so I know they're there. We've talked about it. We're just starting."
The cast of the half-hour comedy does include one female character who could end up being much more involved in the tech world than she initially appears. Played by Amanda Crew, Monica works for the company that ends up funding our lead character's startup. Her boss is a little... off, and it seemed, at least initially, she knew much more about the business than she let on. We'll be able to dissect the show's gender politics more as the season progresses, but for now it's safe to say Judge has crafted a sharp comedy with a delightful cast and characters who have room to grow.
Unlike the other tech-related Episodic screening at SXSW, "Halt and Catch Fire," "Silicon Valley" is set in modern day San Francisco Bay and makes no pretensions of drama. It's a comedy through and through with various levels of humor running consistently through both episodes screened at the Vimeo Theater in Austin. Frankly, the pilot is absolutely hysterical. The crowd was thrown into fits of laughter threatening to drown out the next joke, but Judge and co-creators John Altshuler and Dave Krinsky throw in plenty of visual gags along in front of some lively sets.
Focusing on Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and his group of housemates lead by homeowner Erlich (T.J. Miller), "Silicon Valley" tracks the awkward, quiet engineer's overnight rise from worker bee to CEO of his own company. Judge and his co-writers don't make it easy for him. The eight-episode first season isn't going to skip the company's development a la "The Wolf of Wall Street" with it's fast-forward rise from garage to the 50th floor. After the pilot successfully establishes the premise, the second episode deals with building a business plan -- an idea that sounds boring in concept, but is executed with witty verve. While not as laden with jokes as the first episode, it sets up an intriguing new plot line and compelling character dynamics.
It's a fun show, and the cast was ready for a fun time during the post-screening Q&A (in case you couldn't tell from the lighthearted exchange above). After Judge was asked a question regarding how long the series was intended to run, the cast started prodding the HBO representatives in the audience for an answer.
"How many seasons are you guys thinking?" asked Martin Starr before the rest of the cast jumped in. "Yeah, what do you think guys?" "What's going on?" MIller, who appeared to be sporting gold teeth he said were "corrective," stated, "I don't want to spend too much money on gold," before Kumail Nanjani proclaimed, "I bought boats!"
Here's hoping for a long run in "Silicon Valley," which premieres April 6 at 10pm on HBO.