Next TV: Judge Says Accuracy Aids 'Silicon Valley'

Creator Believes HBO Comedy Benefits from Tech Truth

Santa Monica, Calif. -- For Mike Judge, one of the keys to success for his HBO series, Silicon Valley, comes down to accuracy.

Judge, co-creator, executive producer, writer and director of the comedy which was recently renewed for a second campaign, during a keynote address at NewBay Media's "Next TV Summit & Expo" here Tuesday, credited the success of the series, to extensive research and attention to detail. He told B&C editor in chief Melissa Grego that the series has been well-received by prominent members of the tech community for its accurate representation of its namesake. 

“I wanted to try to get this right because I’ve seen it done wrong in so many movies and TV shows,” said Judge, who briefly worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley during a previous career. 

Judge cited feature films The Social Network and Primer as the only two examples in which that world was depicted in an accurate manner. 

He also said that modern viewers with the ability to pause, record and watch TV online force creators to portray things more correctly. He pointed to a scene from Silicon Valley's first season in which a young programmer crashes the main characters’ system as an example in which a Twitter user criticized the show for being inaccurate. According to Judge, the user criticized the writers for failing to suggest that the characters could have simply gone back to an earlier build. Judge claimed that the writers had actually included dialogue referencing that solution but decided to cut it because it didn’t make sense in the context of the show. 

“It’s just a little half hour sitcom; everyone settle down,” Judge joked. 

Judge also commented on the changing landscape of television in general, remarking that the majority of his video consumption is done from his Mac laptop and that YouTube and Google make conducting research and reaching an audience — especially a niche one — much easier. 

He also compared the modern phenomenon of content going viral to the ways in which his animated shorts for Beavis and Butthead and Office Space were circulated before being picked up by MTV and 20th Century Fox, respectively. 

“Things did go viral back then in a very slow, different way. I’ve talked to people later who have said I have a 20th generation VHS tape of your first Beavis and Butthead cartoon,” said Judge. 

He also noted that the Internet has negatively impacted the industry in some aspects, claiming that the ratings for King of the Hill in its heyday compared to ratings for shows now “would be like the Super Bowl or something.”

Although Judge has worked extensively with both broadcast and basic-cable on MTV’s Beavis and Butthead and Fox’s King of the Hill, he claims that HBO has been an ideal home for a comedy like Silicon Valley

“The network notes have been helpful at HBO which is the opposite of how it is at Fox or MTV,” said Judge, “They really get behind their filmmakers and they’ve been successful with that as well.”

Judge told an anecdote about the randomness of MTV's standards protocol during the days of Beavis and Butthead, explaining that the network's animal rights campaign caused them to veto a scene in which a character stepped on an ant while a rape scene was considered acceptable. 

When asked whether or not he would consider a return to broadcast television, Judge sounded reluctant.

“Those kinds of network notes can be so annoying and make it not fun. I don’t think I’d want to go back to that any time soon unless it was something that just totally fit that kind of world,” said Judge.

For now, Judge has been working on Silicon Valley's second season by meeting with members of the tech industry in Northern California. "I had lunch with the Winkelvoss twins a few weeks ago," said Judge, who also claimed "we have a little idea" for how they may factor into the series' newer episodes.