Why Silicon Valley was The Perfect Show for The 2010s

In a decade of technological saturation, HBO’s raunchy comedy never bought the hype.

As it closes out its sixth and final season, HBO’s Silicon Valley is an odd relic of a more idyllic time for the tech industry. When it first debuted in 2014, our culture was in a radically different emotional space regarding its relationship to the technology at the center of our daily lives. Instagram and Snapchat were the hot new kids on the block, Facebook hadn’t yet been accused of destroying Western democracy, and Elon Musk wasn’t labeling his haters pedophiles on Twitter. But as the middle of the decade drew on, people began to recognize that the tech-evangelists of the California bay might not be as sincere about “making the world a better place” as they claimed. At no time in human history did technology increase its forward march at so rapid a pace, and at no time did each new app feel more redundant and soul-sucking than the last. The time was ripe for Mike Judge and Alec Berg’s darkly comedic takedown of the industry.

“Making the world a better place” is one of many empty tech catechisms that Silicon Valley mocked mercilessly in its first season, and the show’s ability to lay bare the cynical hollowness of such language is what allowed its comedy to land with such a brutal punch. But as the industry has shifted over the past six years from language of hope to that of necessity (“look what we can do for you” became “you need us and you’re never going to leave”), Silicon Valley sputtered and grasped for new angles of attack.

But even through its low points, Silicon Valley proved capable of breathtaking highs. It coasted on the pure inertia of its debauched humor (from dick-jerk algorithms to CEOs with unsettling interests in horse breeding) and the absurdity of its plots, which were rendered all the more surreal by the reality they mimicked.

Now, although Judge claims the show could have gone on for longer, it seems a fitting time for a final bow. Silicon Valley was a harbinger of the reality to come, the first pang of our national digital hangover, an uproariously edgy and unflinching look into the moral void of the tech industry long before that void revealed itself in the form of terrifying sway over our government and endless refusals to mitigate their own power.

The final episode of Silicon Valley airs Sunday, Dec. 8 on HBO.

Former Managing Editor at Columbia Journal; news/features at CBR. Columbia University MFA. (Contact via Twitter for freelance pricing or other inquiries.)

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