Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
From the offbeat mind of Alec Berg (HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Mike Judge (Office Space), Silicon Valley is an all-new comedy series set in the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley, where the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success. Starring a talented ensemble of young comic actors and veterans,Silicon Valley charts the rising fortunes of Richard (Thomas Middleditch), an introverted computer programmer who lives in a "Hacker Hostel" start-up incubator along with his friends Big Head (Josh Brener), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani). When a mid-level Hooli executive named Jared (Zach Woods) discovers the value of the novel compression algorithm in a site Richard has created, Richard finds himself caught in the middle of an extreme bidding war between Hooli founder Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and independent billionaire venture capitalist Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch).
Show (4 out of 5 stars)
Richard (Thomas Middleditch) lives in a hacker house with his closest friends.  The other guys are Big Head (Josh Brener) The house, The Incubator, is owned by Erlich (T.J. Miller).  Erlich had a hit with his company Aviato.   Most of the guys work at a company named hooli while working to develop something of their own.  For the pleasure of living in Erlich’s home in Silicon Valley he owns a percentage of their apps.

Richard’s program is called Pied Piper.  It was intended to let the user know if their music infringes on previously copyrighted material but the compression makes it a game changer.  Richard’s co-workers at hooli realize what he has and soon there is a bidding war.  Billionaire Investor Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) is introduced to us at a Ted talk where he urges the listeners to drop out of college.  When Peter Gregory’s offer to buy a percentage of Pied Piper is accepted, hooli employee Jared (Zach Woods) asks to join the team. 

Amanda Crew (Monica) works with Peter Gregory and is the one who convinced Richard to partner with them.  Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) are valued members of the team but Big Head fails to find a use.  Luckily hooli founder and CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) gives Big Head a $600,000 a year salary to spite Richard. Pied Piper has many problems getting off the ground and luckily Jared is there to help.  He reminds Richard that the pied piper was actually “a predatory flautist who murders children in a cave” but he won’t change the name.  

When Richard learns that the company name is already taken, he goes to great lengths to keep his company name.  After all, the t shirts he printed cannot be returned. Because Richard sent his program to employees at hooli for advice they race to copy and release the product, which they name “nucleus”.  The products will compete at a conference called Techcrunch: Disrupt!

The Blu-ray contains the following eight episodes on two discs:
  1. Minimum Viable Product – Richard and his app are courted by two major investors.
  2. The Cap Table – Peter Gregory has signed on but demands a business plan and solid details for the new company.
  3.  Articles of Incorporation – Richard fights for the Pied Piper name.
  4.  Fiduciary Duties – Richard is unsure of his choice to put Erlich on the Pied Piper board and we learn more about the relationship between Peter Gregory and Gavin Bellson.
  5. Signaling Risk – Erlich hires a graffiti artist to create the Pied Piper logo with unexpected results while Jared works to organize and increase the company’s efficiency.
  6. Third Party Insourcing –  Gilfoyle’s girlfriend visits The Incubator and Jared proves his dedication to the company under extreme circumstances.
  7. Proof of Concept -  Erlich’s past with a judge’s wife threatens to hurt Pied Piper’s scores at TechCrunch: Disrupt!
  8. Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency – The competition happens at TechCrunch: Disrupt! The show is cleverly written so that you realize that the tech details are accurate but you don’t need to be tech savvy to appreciate the humor.  The actors have great chemistry together and the commentary reveals that the chemistry is due to the fact that they are friends in real life. 
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment in 1080p high definition with a 16:9 1.78:1 ratio. The offices of hooli offer bright colors, while the hacker hostel has a dark seventies feel. The textures of the hostel’s art, as well as skin imperfections and stubble point out the level of fine detail apparent throughout.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix fairs very well on Blu-ray.  Dialogue and the underlying music are both very important in the series and they work well together.  At TechCrunch you can feel the size and weight of the crowd, and there are no major audio complaints.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
While there are only a few features a majority of the episodes have full length, detailed commentaries. The commentaries reveal that the cast members are real nerds, playing Magic the Gathering on set.  In the episode one commentary, Mike Judge discusses the hexadecimals, showing his smart side.  Commentators offer many interesting anecdotes and details.  All commentaries are worth watching if you have the time, after you’ve already viewed the season of course.

Audio Commentaries
  • Disc One:
    • Episode 1 Minimum Viable Product with Thomas Middleditch (Richard) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director).
    • Episode 2 The Cap Table with Thomas Middleditch (Richard), Zach Woods (Jared), TJ Miller (Erlich), Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
    • Episode 3 Articles of Incorporation with Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), Alec Berg (Executive Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
    • Episode 4 Fiduciary Duties with Zach Woods (Jared), T.J. Miller (Erlich), Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), Alec Berg (Executive Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
    • Episode 5 Signaling Risk with Thomas Middleditch (Richard), Zach Woods (Jared), T.J. Miller (Erlich), Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), Alec Berg (Executive Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
  • Disc Two:
    • Episode 6 Third Party Insourcing with Thomas Middleditch (Richard), Zach Woods (Jared), T.J. Miller (Erlich), Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), Martin Starr (Gilfoyle), Alec Berg (Executive Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
    • Episode 7 Proof of Concept with Thomas Middleditch (Richard), and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
    • Episode 8 Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency with Thomas Middleditch (Richard) Zach Woods (Jared), TJ Miller (Erlich), Kumali Nanjiani (Dinesh), Martin Starr (Gilfoyle), Alec Berg (Executive Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Judge (Creator/Executive Producer/Director)
  • Making Silicon Valley (12:29) – A behind the scenes featurette including cast and crew interviews. The cast explains their characters and the season’s story arch is explained. They explore the difference between nerds and geeks and which characters belong in each category.
  • Techcrunch: Disrupt! (3:43) – A look at the exact replica of the real conference created for the film. Many real startup companies were used and the filmmakers went as far as to use the same printing vendors for signage and name badges.
  • The Hacker Hostel (6:20) - T.J. Miller welcomes you to Erlich’s home including tours of the bathroom, bedrooms, kitchen and workspace.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season is far more humorous and interesting than I expected.  It’s a shame that the actor who played the odd billionaire Peter Gregory passed away before the end of the season.  I was looking forward to seeing him return in season two.  The Pied Piper team of lovable geeks and nerds will grow on you quickly.  Even Erlich, who appears to have few redeeming qualities, becomes a fan favorite.  I recommend the show whether or not you are tech savvy or not.  The show contains numerous f-bombs and is intended for adult audiences.

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