HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is back!

For the next several weeks I’m going to be watching the final scenes of every episode of the new series of Game of Thrones.

But it isn’t because I’m too lazy to watch anything except the cliffhanger endings, and it’s certainly not because I care about the fate of that weird-looking throne thing – no, I’m tuning into Sky Atlantic every Monday at 10 so that I can watch the long-awaited series two of Silicon Valley, scheduled after GoT.

silicon valley sky atlantic

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but my favourite book of all time is Microserfs by Douglas Coupland; written in the mid-90s, it’s about the employees of a small tech start-up company in California as they try to rediscover themselves following many long and thankless years working at Microsoft. Coupland’s characters are obviously a bunch of weirdos as per their creator, and I always imagined what a great TV series it would make.

Silicon Valley is as close as it gets – co-created by Mike Judge, it shares many of the same hallmarks; a fledgling software company, its neurotic yet relatable employees and the downright bizarre behaviour of a culture that’s building the roads toward a supposed utopia of tech with all the turf wars and misguided predictions it would bring.

And it’s funny as hell, with a great cast and some inspired interplay between them. I already liked Zach Woods from In The Loop and Veep, and especially for his role as Gabe in later, admittedly Carell-less and therefore weaker seasons of The Office, but as the unassuming former corporate exec Jared, he’s a great foil for the boisterous Erlich Bachman, played by TJ Miller, who’s on board as the wannabe-rockstar face of the company. The real brains of the operation are supplied by founder Richard (Thomas Middleditch, who played Dwight Schrute’s brother in that backdoor pilot for The Farm, which thank goodness didn’t get made if it meant missing out on this) and his ‘odd couple’ argumentative staff of Dinesh and Gilfoyle.

The first episode of season two of Silicon Valley neatly (and very funnily) dealt with the offscreen death of Pied Piper backer Peter Gregory, who was played in series one by Christopher Evan Welch until his real-life death halfway through filming the episodes. He’ll really be missed as the programme progresses, but his replacement (played by Suzanne Cryer) was pretty decent in her opening scenes, displaying some of the same social awkwardness as her predecessor.

I really can’t wait to see the rest of the series – it’ll be tough to replace the scene-stealer who was definitely my favourite thing about series one, but I’m confident that the first-season nerves are over and we can now settle in for some even greater stories and jokes.

Christopher Evan Welch will be missed on ‘Silicon Valley’

I definitely had to give Silicon Valley a go when I first saw it advertised on Sky Atlantic; a sitcom about a group of programmers trying to make it in the cut-throat tech industry, created by Mike Judge.

And although the first couple of episodes were pretty slow going, I have to admit I’m absolutely loving it now – but now that the programme has lost its single funniest character it’s going to be a tough few weeks while I try to get my head around the tragic death of actor Christopher Evan Welch and how it will change the show.

peter gregory silicon valley

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Welch acting in anything before, although going by his IMDB page it’s quite possible that he’s just one of the people that makes you point and say “that guy…” whenever he pops up in something else – the first example that springs to mind being…that guy…y’know, the one who was in Bones and 24 and House and Damages and…

But his portrayal of eccentric tech billionaire Peter Gregory is absolutely amazing. He steals every scene he’s in and plays that type so well – an undoubted genius who never learned how to be sociable with it – that the rest of this first season will be all the poorer for Welch’s death.

According to fellow cast members on a Larry King interview, Welch was 48 when he died of a heart attack having recently been treated for lung cancer – a sudden shock when everything was looking brighter. Welch looked in good enough shape in the programme that it had to be sudden – and it was sudden for me too to find out the reason for his reduced role on IMDB after I’d had enough of saying “that guy…” but was laughing so hard in the process.

 

(I strongly recommend you watch this scene too; it’s even better but sadly unembeddable. Yep, that’s a word now.)

For Welch, I can finish that sentence now: “that guy…was an incredible performer.”

Silicon Valley has quickly become one of my favourite programmes, and a good deal of that was down to Christopher Evan Welch. It’s really sad to lose him especially as this was more than a good bet for his breakthrough performance.