Trials, Tribulations and Tone Deafness Feed HBO's 'Silicon Valley'
Venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers just put an embarrassing gender-discrimination lawsuit behind it. Now, thanks to the HBO show "Silicon Valley," it's about to get dinged Hollywood-style.
The lawsuit that thrust the firm into the headlines last month caught show creator Mike Judge's eye, but played out too late for the current season, he said in an interview Wednesday night ahead of the show's Bay Area premiere. "Silicon Valley" has attracted a loyal following in the region for its incisive and accurate skewering of the culture around technology companies.
Instead, look for a spoof on Kleiner co-founder Tom Perkins, whose comparison last year between the persecution of European Jews in the 1930s and taxation touched off a storm of criticism.
Other real-life events parodied in this season's plotline include the high-profile protests around the buses that ferry workers in San Francisco to jobs at big technology companies in Silicon Valley. In particular, Judge and executive producer Alec Berg said, one scene will reference an unnamed protestor who gained notoriety for his tendency to jump astride the buses and vomit on demand.
Some of the jibes will take aim at the fetishism of failure around Silicon Valley, where entrepreneurs laud the ability of fiascos to teach valuable lessons.
"It's usually talked about from successful billionaires' point of view," Judge said. "For people who are so intelligent I think they are missing the mark on that one."
Entrepreneurs' tendency to position their startups as altruistic endeavors will also take a hit or two.
"Everything we're doing up here, we're doing for philanthropy," said Berg, rolling his eyes at the notion profits don't matter.
The premiere attracted several Silicon Valley players, including Marc Pincus, the Zynga Inc founder who is taking back the reins at the gaming company, and Yelp Inc founder Jeremy Stoppelman. Noticeably absent was Elon Musk, who attended last year's premiere and pronounced the show not realistic enough.
Still, the show's creators sometimes bounce ideas off Musk, they said, along with leading venture capitalists Marc Andreessen, Roger McNamee and Peter Thiel.
And, they said, the Kleiner Perkins gender trial still might feed into future seasons.
"We're starting to think about Season Three a little bit," Judge said, adding it wasn't certain the show would extend beyond the current one.
Season Two premieres Sunday on the premium cable channel owned by Time Warner Inc.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Christian Plumb)