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‘Silicon Valley’ Interview: How Editors Cut the Pied Piper Gang of Cut-Ups (Emmy Watch)

'Silicon Valley' Interview: How Editors Cut the Pied Piper Gang of Cut-Ups (Emmy Watch)

Hapless Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) has finally regained CEO status, but he’s still struggling to wrestle control of his startup, Pied Piper. And so it goes on “Silicon Valley.” Just when you think Richard and the gang are headed off a cliff, they not only avert disaster but also make progress. The trick for editors Brian Merken and Tim Roche is advancing the plot while being funny.

“For me, the story really starts to take shape for the Pied Piper team,” said Merden, who edits the even-numbered episodes. “My biggest challenge for the first half of the season was keeping it in that place, in that tone, in that world that is ‘Silicon Valley,’ even though the entire environment has changed.”

Indeed, the series has moved beyond its underdog emphasis to tackle corporate ambition, selling out and bro loyalty amid the larger Silicon Valley ethos. Richard fights to keep Pied Piper small and consumer-driven as they expand into a Google-like environment, but still bungles every conceivable opportunity for success because of his inept behavior, whether its accidentally striking a quadruped Stanford ‘bot or ineptly confronting a tech blogger.

“You see Richard do things that he normally wouldn’t do, both in a business and personal sense. He’s in a very desperate place,” said Merden. One of his highlights was editing the second episode (“Two in the Box”) in which two horses mate, to undercut a serious conversation between Richard and CEO successor Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky).

READ MORE: Review: ‘Silicon Valley’ Season 3 Superbly Delivers the Unexpected You’ve Come to Expect — And More

The hardest thing for Merden: sustaining interest in the evolution of the startup whose IP is a music app containing the holy grail of compression algorithms. “We have our jokes to keep everyone laughing but we want to keep the story smart and keep the story going forward,” he said. “And at one point, it has to become a fully-functioning company, right?”

According to Roche, the master of the reaction shot, who edits the odd-numbered episodes, there are already signals in the second-half of the current season. “The story shifts and our guys are much more in demand, and what I find really cool is we start to progress where a startup would go,” he said. “Also, they’re getting a lot more involved in how this product works and why it’s interesting.”

Roche, who also edits “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” suggested that Richard grows more confident as well. “It’s very subtle, it’s very understated and very Mike Judge.”

READ MORE: Watch: The Cast of ‘Silicon Valley’ Thinks That Wired is ‘Men’s Health for Virgins’

For Roche, playing with the improv is fun, especially when an episode needs to be livened up, yet he’s constantly cutting out and putting back jokes. He said producer Alec Berg eventually comes in with fresh eyes and story tracking. For instance, he might clue them in on an upcoming story point that gives them a reason to put a discarded moment back in.

Taking a sneak peek at the end of season three, Roche said to look for surprising empathy for blowhard Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller, who’s terrific at playing the class clown). “You’re pushing humor,” he said, “but the biggest challenge is finding the balance between narrative and comedy so that it feels very natural.”

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