|Posted on July 15, 2014 at 2:55 AM|
Mike Judge is one of those filmmakers that people who love film love, yet isn’t quite a household name. Sure, people know his work: Office Space, Beavis and Butthead most notably, but his name? Usually not. In fact, certainly not as I mentioned Silicon Valley in a recent conversation and how excited I was that Mike Judge has a show. Their response was that they didn’t know who the hell Mike Judge was, and I’m alright with that. I like it when someone is a fan of a guy’s work yet have no idea who the guy is.
Silicon Valley is in that same boat. I was recently conversing with someone about it and I brought up Mike Judge. “Who?” she asked. Then I went and explained it, noting a few things she’s heard of and a couple she never did (Idiocracy and Extract, the former being brilliant). But that’s fine. Mike Judge has always come across as someone who doesn’t really care if you know him or not, as long as you enjoy his work. With Silicon Valley, it’s Judge and his writers that act like Judge firing on all cylinders: a great blend of relevant, grounded comedy with just a slight nudge of irreverence to usher it along.
At only eight episodes, Silicon Valley is just a wonderfully taught piece of comedy television. It’s never hilarious, Judge’s style has never been gut-busting laughs, but it’s humorous in that memorable, long-road-to-get-to-the-punchline kind of way that was so great in Office Space. Every episode has its memorable moments and every episode is brilliant as we have a number of comedic stylings, such as a comedy of errors (trying to find a logo) spoofs (anything happening at corporate offices with billionaires), satire all over the place and even a slight bit of romantic comedy as our “lead” (for an ensemble) Richard has sparks with Monica, the secretary of one of those big companies who is as socially awkward as Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.
The most notorious episodes, though it’s easily the most conventional out of all of them is the finale where we have the now-meme-famous “dick joke” that goes on for a few minutes. Most likely this is because this, unlike most of the other gags and jokes, is more one long scene than something spread out over an entire episode or multiple episodes to get to a payoff. It’s direct, and it’s brilliant, and I would be remiss to not post a link to it right now.
What’s best here, though, is that Silicon Valley is patient. It’s patient with its story, its character arcs, its scenes and dialogue. It has that Mike Judge methodical method of knowing the material is engaging and able to have the audience wait for that eventual payoff. Even if it’s three episodes down the line, it will happen. This also allows for a “world” to be built here: a world full of start ups, billionaires, tiny cars, awkward social situations and technobabble - it’s like a world on Star Trek discovered by us and we’re trying to make sense of it all.
The cast, too, are full of brilliant players. They embody their characters wonderfully. Nobody here talks with the same voice - by that I mean you can go watch the Big Bang Theory and dialogue is pretty much interchangeable. Smart comedy, like this or Sex in the City or even Community or Veep, are able to put the right players in the right roles. You hear their name and it clicks in your head who they are right away.
Quotable, memorable, brilliant.
Richard is the awkward leader that you both love yet hate because he should be smarter than he comes across, then you realize he simply has no social skills despite being really bright. Erlich is the guy who never grew up and always looking for an angle. Big Head is an underachiever riding coattails. Bertram is just a deadpan asshole. Dinesh (finally giving Kumail Nanjiani a great role to play) has a competitive and often on-edge attitude towards everything. These are all friends in one little house trying to do something to make money, and you can’t help but route for them through every peak and valley they run over. Throw in the other players like Zach and Monica, and you have one of the best ensembles on TV right now.
Oh, and the dialogue as much a trait as well. Silicon Valley is insanely quotable.
It’s brilliantly written and acted. the production value of every episode, full of great sets, backgrounds, computer monitors with all sorts of made up logos and apps and terrific costuming (yes, costuming, because outfits here really define these character traits) are just so well polished and thought out. If Silicon Valley isn’t the best new comedy (or show for that matter) of 2014, I don’t know what is.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Peter Gregory Burger King observations
Sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve missed something until you see it again anew, and boy did I miss the absurd craziness of Jack Bauer and company in 24. The show has never been “serious” or “realistic” and that’s exactly how I like it. Sometimes, you want your Heat, other times you want your Point Break. Simple as that.
But there’s no denying that it’s final few seasons were shaky at best - trying to be too clever for its own good, often taking itself way too seriously. It seemed to forget that it played around best when it knew it was ridiculous. Thankfully, Live Another Day is just that: utter ridiculous junk. And I’ll eat that up any day because, let’s face it, there is still not a single show on television that captures what 24 is able to capture and actually have fun with it.
Come on, stuff like this is just cool. No other show has pulled this type of stuff off. Sure, something like Person of Interest is better written, but not its action necessarily.
This limited run starts a little slow. Patience is a virtue, my friend, but not in this world as we are given far too much time setting things up and explaining everything than having Jack Bauer punch people in the neck. It’s a Game of Drones (zing) as US Drone Planes are hijacked and threatening to destroy London unless President Heller gives himself up to Lady Stark, sorry I mean Margot Al-Harazi, because he…you know I don’t even remember. Something about her husband? And she’s angry and wants to kill him.
It’s 24, that’s all you need know. Screw the details. You got your Jack. You got your Chloe. You got a bad guy. Done deal. Weird motivations and dumb plot threads are kinda true to form.
Of course, that’s how it all starts. Live Another Day, just like when it had a longer season, is ever changing. New players come and go, new villains and old enemies, plot twists and backstabs all to get to the next shootout, car chase or explosion. That’s how it’s always been done.
Oh, and Stephen Fry is the Prime Minister. Let me repeat that. Stephen Fry is the PM.
The big addition is Yvonne Strahovski as “Fem-bauer.” Actually she has the unfortunate character name of “Kate Morgan” but “Feb-Bauer” is much cooler because she is essentially the female version of Jack Bauer. Well, maybe not entirely, but she would probably get there if she had her own series, and I would totally watch that because Kate is simulatensouly a good character and a badass character - Jack is just “badass” these days. His years of being a well-rounded character with a family in the early goings of the series is long over, so Kate is essentially what Jack was back in the early seasons before everything got really screwed up personally for him which probably started around the time his daughter was taking on a mountain lion mid-way through Season 2.
As always, there’s a lot of silliness happening in this show, and Live Another Day absolutely continues that. A lot of contrivances and MacGuffins and stupid things. But nobody cares. Nor should you. Why?
We need more awesome Bauer gifs so here's a couple showing Bauer doing Bauer things.
Now, if memory serves me correctly, and it often does not, I did an entire 24 retrospective around four years ago after the final season, (amazing I found it, it was smart of me to make a list of the bigger blogs I did. I am rather proud of myself. Oh, I’m rambling…I’m running out of time!)
My conclusion was pretty simple: it was a show of diminishing returns. Still, though, it was also the only show like it: completely bonkers fun, often taking itself way too seriously and being unintentionally funny at the same time. The show runners and people involved know that, though. While Jack Bauer may not have little quips and one-liners like a James Bond, he’s also one that will just throw a terrorist out a window because…well you just pissed him off.
Live Another Day is great in a few ways: it’s much tighter than the old seasons, a shorter season has done wonders for it, yet it still is silly and dumb and fun. It’s full of melodrama and action as before, but it doesn’t dwell on it, and it doesn’t (always) stretch plot points than is necessary. It doesn’t quite handle some of the plot points correctly, though. A perfect example is…well, I can’t really say because it’s kind of a “trick” Jack plays, but it was done so unceremoniously that it didn’t land as well as it should have and felt rushed. Another I can say, and it's that our new cool character, Kate, doesn' get all that great of a complete arc which is a shame.
Rushed...as in they're running out of time? Maybe? Hmmm? The rest is nicely paced, though.
Despite the show always being goofy, let’s face it, it ran out of steam around Season 4 or 5. It’s an exhausting show. Does this recapture that fresh element of those early seasons? Not really. Bauer doesn’t do an absolute ton until the end, the supporting cast outside of Strahovski are a little forgettable and not given a ton to do (and even Kate kind of falls off in the final few episodes as she kind of just becomes a tag-along). It’s far from perfect, but the show has always had that to be honest - yes even those much loved seasons were still littered with issues. What it does manage to do is be fun and absurd, and that, to me, is what 24 has always been. In that regards, it captures it perfectly.
Watching Live Another Day really made me want to rewatch the entire series again. It’s a lot of fun and dumbness, but well done action and character personality and relationships, and that’s what 24 is all about. I hope they continue the smaller series in some way, it’s just better paced and more focused. Or maybe do those little one-shot TV movies like they did with 24 Redemption. The show didn’t re-invent the wheel, but we all liked that wheel to begin with and even though the treads are a bit worn, it still runs nicely.
3.5 out of 5 Pinky removals
Part 1: Agents of SHIELD, Person of Interest, Arrow
Part 2: Hannibal, Bob's Burgers, Mad Men