Silicon Valley has made the world a better place

30 June, 2015 — by Ben Davis0

That famous humblebrag of the archetypal late-20th-century pseud “I don’t have a television” is almost entirely extinct.

#GoT, Transparent, True Detective, it feels like it’s all been interesting of late. And it’s Silicon Valley that has been the best of all.

Silicon_valley opening titles

‘With watercooler television dominated by dark drama (reaching its parodic apotheosis on British channels in Broadchurch and the crap The Missing), Mike Judge et al. have created exceptional comedy that stands out as Event TV, just when we had almost forgotten that great comedy is truly the best TV.

My perception of a current aversion to comedy on television and in film may well be caused by ‘sneer goggles’, something I’ve just invented to explain the outlook of thirtysomethings who think things are getting shitter. They allow the wearer to see bad things in social media, unexceptional art, lauded, in a flood of hashtags that we have no hope of stopping unless someone creates a fucking sandbag emoji.

Goggles or not, I believe we have been scraping comedy from the insides of heavier vessels. Safe laughs are ‘knowing’ and ‘generation-defining’. It’s done in Girls, the work of Noah Baumbach, and is becoming mainstream through elements of Wes Anderson.

It’s often dependent on the idea of loneliness in metropolis. I like this stuff, it’s just not comedy, it’s something else. That’s fine. I am applying labels and the label of comedy is reserved for a show that makes your eyes gleam for the entire duration. That gleam means there’s a gag coming, and it’s going to be rich, deep and long-lasting because of its basis in character and long-running plot development.

Within the box, only the best comedies do this. Orange is The New Black does not do this. I have heard that Broad City may do. Park and Recreation is superbly acted and written but plot lines exist as a paper stage on which the characters perform. The Big Bang Theory is well written but it’s a dreamland. Nothing bad can happen to the characters, it is all about the security of a watcher’s groove. It is dinner-time television. It contains no ideas. Glee was Event TV for many but it was high camp for kids. It was televisual laughing gas.

Rev is probably the most recent comedy, outside of Silicon Valley, that threatened to align as proper, full-throated comedy. It just didn’t have such a strong story arc as Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper.

silicon valley tv show t-shirt with logo
“It looks like he’s sucking a dick and his feather looks like another dick that he’s saving for later”

I did not mean to judge so many things. I hate reviews.

I cannot tell you what is great about Silicon Valley. I will not analyse it, because you can just go and watch it. Suffice to say that one glorious moment with a lemon in the final episode beautifully allows the viewer to pull back, to get perspective and realise how immersed they have been in the whole show and how it felt so much more than some characters and dangerously good jokes that teeter between topical and prescient.

Proper laugh-out-loud TV like Silicon Valley is difficult to get right. That’s why British TV is ignoring it. But it’s possible, it’s glorious and it’s definitely Event TV.

Event TV doesn’t have a definition any more, it’s just good enough to be watched by many and receive some critical acclaim. On-demand means the ‘Event’ of Event TV has ceased to be a concept routed in time defined as a constant. To me it means that whenever you get round to watching it, it promises to be an Event, bookmarking periods in your life the way that albums as objects used to do.

This article is intended only to make you go and watch Silicon Valley. To make you experience such an event. To deliver you of Strange and Norrell or even of No Offence, which though terrifically written is a Channel 4 fence-sitter of a police drama that straddles ‘dark’ and ‘pithy’ yet cannot escape the clichés of its genre.

I’m off track again, I must rail against the light, in favour of the properly hilarious.

Check out more in-depth and slightly wayward small-screen analysis in our Television section, including why ‘Allo ‘Allo may be the best sitcom ever made.

Silicon Valley has made the world a better place
Silicon Valley has made the world a better place
Proper laugh-out-loud TV like Silicon Valley is difficult to get right. That's why British TV is ignoring it. But it's possible, and it's glorious.
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