Lots of love this year for Game of Thrones. Not so much for my picks…


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It’s that time of year when the Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen and the verdicts are in.

* My pick.  W! Winner.

Continue reading “WINNERS – EMMYS – 2016”

L. Warner on Emmys 2016

In the Age of Peak TV, does it get any better than this?

                                                                     EMMYS – 2016

It’s that time of year when the Television Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen.

No predictions from me; I’m known to not get a true or false question right until the third try, so I’m sure I wouldn’t know.

This is just my wish list.
Continue reading “L. Warner on Emmys 2016”

Snowden – A Movie Review by Liz Warner

Oliver Stone’s latest movie, Snowden, may not be his best, but isn’t lacking in intrigue and drama.
It’s worth the time and price of ticket.

SNOWDEN – A MOVIE REVIEW by Liz Warnersnowden-movie-pic

Director/screenwriter Oliver Stone’s (and Kieran Fitzgerald’s) latest movie, Snowden, might not be the best of his films, though I confess to being partial to Stone’s prolific works. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016 and was released in the United States on September 16.

Left to Right: Joseph Gordon-Levitt [Edward Snowden], Shailene Woodley [Lindsay Mills], and Oliver Stone [director/screenwriter] at Snowden premiere in New York City-September 14, 2016. © L. Warner.

Continue reading “Snowden – A Movie Review by Liz Warner”

Silicon Valley “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” S-3, E-3 Synopsis & Review

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb. Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee.

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb.  Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee. 


John shows Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh their future in a box. 


Opening scene of a mole-ish, pony-tailed guy named John, giving Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle a tour of Maliant, a data center. This is your life and where one of the PP boxes would go, he says.  And another.  When they state that seeing one is like seeing them all, John says that’s what he thought, till he saw them all.  John then asks if they’d like to see the desks, where they’d install a PP engineer.  Huh?  Your sales team told me we’d have a PP engineer on site for maintenance 24 hours a day for at least the first year, he tells them.  The guys are horrified.

Even at night?  Gilfoyle asks. There’s no difference between day and night, John observes. Richard suggests it might be a good time to leave.  John asks which of the 16 staircases would they like to go out of.  Richard suggests John’s favorite. John thinks about it for a beat, then escorts them, but the guys get lost in the maze of racks, their calls for John echoing and unanswered.


Jack Barker reads Richard the riot act. 

After opening credits, Richard approaches Jack in his office, saying he doesn’t want to bury his algorithm in boxes at Maliant.  Short-term, he says, it’s okay, but not long-term. Jack’s more worried a fish in his aquarium might be dead.  He points out his Conjoined Triangles of Success chart on the wall.  They’re in a box, he notes. Admiring the serendipity of the coincidence, he instructs secretary, Gloria, to call the fish guy.

If we build the box, will you promise to let us build the platform?  Richard asks.  We’ll worry about that then, Jack says.

Hearing the meeting with Jack went poorly, Gilfoyle tells Richard he’s changing his LinkedIn status to “Looking for Work,” asserting the box is “artless commerce.”  Jared tells him there’s paperwork in quitting.

At the house, Gilfoyle gets swag delivered from new companies trying to recruit him, including hoverboards and an Oculus. He catches Erlich eating his Popcornopolis and Dinesh wearing a gold chain around his neck and rags on them.

Richard tells Gilfoyle to return the gift baskets because Monica just called and got him in to see Laurie. Jared questions the wisdom of breaking protocol by going over the CEO’s head, but Richard tells him when you push a man so far he goes out and buys a gun and shots and robs a bank.  “I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  I’m not. I’m not going to,” he backpedals.

By the pool, Erlich asks Richard if he’s angry with him.  When he wasn’t invited along to the new offices, Erlich was hurt.  He wants Richard to want him to talk to [Jack] Barker. Richard reluctantly agrees.

In Jack’s office, Erlich pronounces Jack’s fish as dead and says he’s sorry for his loss.   He calls to Gloria to take “this daughter of Neptune to whence she belongs.”  When she gives him a quizzical look, he clarifies, “the toilet, dear.”  He then broaches the problem.  “What information do I not already have?” Jack demands.  He doesn’t want to hear any “free-form, jazz-odyssey of masturbatory bullshit” from Erlich.  Unsuccessful, Erlich reports to Richard that he needs to either build the box or talk to Laurie.  On his way out, Erlich speaks Japanese to the gardener.


Erlich prepares Jack’s dead fish for her last rites. 

Richard goes to Laurie, who views art with Monica–a question mark harvested from human hair from dead Indians.  “It’s a pun,” she informs him, about asking the big, hairy questions. She agrees the box is an “uninspirational application of technology,” and says she’ll call Jack.  “I was never here,” he tells her. “You are here, now,” she notes. Monica explains Richard meant he’d prefer she didn’t say anything to Jack. “Yes, because the other meaning makes no sense,” she replies.


Laurie critiques artwork. 

She calls Jack after Richard returns to the office with the guys. Richard is called into Jack’s office.  He asks Richard who he thought he just got of the phone with.  Richard feigns ignorance.  He tells him it was Laurie, and she said she thought the box was “woefully misguided,” and wanted a plan for the consumer platform Richard and his team wanted to build within 48 hours.  Richard agrees, but Jack says no, build the box.  But Laurie’s the investor, Richard protests.  Yes, Jack agrees, but he told Laurie if she did that, she’d have to fire him, and she wasn’t willing to do that at this time.  Get a prototype in 12 weeks, Jack demands.  On Richard’s way out, he warns, “If you’re going to shoot the king, you’d better be goddamn sure you kill him.”

Back at the house, Jian Yang answers the door.  A TwinX recruiter delivers liquor to Gilfoyle, telling him he must take a meeting first.  He agrees.

Meanwhile, Richard approaches Monica about Laurie firing Jack. She can’t fire Jack, she says, it would look chaotic after she just fired Richard.

Unbeknownst to him, Gilfoyle’s interview is with Endframe.  You stole half our algorithm, he says. He’s told they already have the other half of code for middle out, showing him a diagram, thanks to Nevine and Eric from Nucleus. They want Gilfoyle because he’s a full-stack engineer.


Gilfoyle interviews with Pied Piper’s nemeses. 

Cut to the diagram at the house. They have the entire prediction loop “down to the last semicolon.” Richard laments that they’re building a box, while Endframe is building their platform.  At least we’ll make a little money, says Dinesh.  To buy gold chains, Gilfoyle taunts.  He sees Dinesh isn’t wearing the one he had earlier and even Jared busts his balls.

Dinesh concludes they must do as Jack wants.  Erlich enters the room, booming, “Or do we?”  He’s ignored.  Jared agrees with Dinesh. “Or do we?!” Erlich repeats.  Erlich calls on the team to build the platform the way they motherfucking want to.  Just tell Jack what he wants to hear.   Richard reasons that Jack wouldn’t be able to complain after the fact because to do so, he’d be admitting he didn’t know what was going on in his own company, and meanwhile, Laurie was already on board with it.


The guys plan a skunk works. 

Dinesh still needs some convincing.  A skunk works is underway.  They plan it out as a team.  Dinesh points out they’re shorthanded, but Erlich knows just the man for the job.

Cut to the pool at night.  Carla’s there.  She wants back wages, lost wages from the old job, and damages from “Jared’s sexual harassment her into being friends with that Monica-chick”   simply for not telling Jack about their plan.  They pay her off with most of their remaining cash, about $20,000, in what they dubbed extortion.


Carla Walton extorts Pied Piper. 

In a time-lapsed scene, the guys finish their plan.  Even Dinesh is in on the condition his gold chain isn’t made fun of ever again.  They realize they have to fake liking going to work.  Jared calls it Meinerzhagen’s Habersack, which he explains is a principle of military deception of pretending.  This also means, Gilfoyle insists, they have to keep on making fun of Dinesh’s gold chain.  At 7:30 AM, they drink to the plan. Except Jared, who pours his shot back in the bottle.

The guys go to the PP offices.  Richard has a file folder in hand.  They get off the elevator and Richard trips over the gardener’s watering hose.  The papers go flying, and Keith picks them up.  Skunkworks?    Keith takes the papers to Jack.  Richard brought the papers into the office to shred.  Jack comes out of his office:  “Guys?  My office.  Now.”


The guys are caught in the act of sabotaging Pied Piper. 


It’s hard to not be impressed by Richard’s development throughout this season as he asserts himself, but this episode shows Erlich at his very best.  (Spoiler alert, he reverts to being an arrogant prick soon!)  Here, he’s about as humble as he could possibly be, and manages to inspire an action that will be instrumental for Richard and the guys throughout the season.

Jack, conversely, is an asshole this episode when he seemed like a reasonable guy when he first arrives on the scene.  He’s growing impatient with the development of the box and becomes downright petulant with setbacks from Richard, and later, Laurie.  His admonition to Richard about killing the king was foreboding.  By episode’s end, Jack’s positively apoplectic when he learns of the skunk works.  He has a great arc.

Laurie exhibits character growth, as well.  While she sees the inadvisability of the box, she can’t quite nix it, coldly calculating the business risk of firing a second CEO so quickly.  She amplifies she has the wherewithal to contribute to PP’s anticipated short-term success.

Third, we had what seems to be a semi-satisfying conclusion to Carla’s arc when she learns of the skunk works planned and uses the information for “self-help.”   It was a bit of a stretch to think the guys wouldn’t foresee this, although it could be attributed to the characters’ overall social ineptitude.

The funniest moment perhaps belongs to Laurie when she drolly replies to Richard’s request to keep their meeting to herself.  All the characters in this show have very unique voices, but Laurie’s (and Jared’s) are probably my favorites.  They’re inherently funny characters.

Erlich’s oratory skills almost always delight, and here, he elicits some laughs with his pronouncement of death of the fish, requesting that Jack’s secretary take care of final arrangements.

John delivered some memorably humorous lines, too.  It all starts with a great script, of course, but when combined with a great cast, the show becomes a master class for the crafts of screenwriting and acting.

The most touching moments were, unexpectedly, Erlich’s.  His wanting Richard to want him to talk to Jack shows a level of desperation inconsistent with his typical cockiness.

The coolest moment was when the guys got lost in the opening scene because it displayed the hermit life so many of these people live in the vast wasteland that is a data center with its sameness and drudgery.

The dumbest moments throughout the season are Big Head’s and Jian Yang’s.  Big Head has been effectively infantilized, even though last season, he and Richard were BFFs.  I didn’t buy it. And, in this episode, Jian Yang is again a completely dispensable character.

Fortunately, Dinesh’s gold chain gag didn’t come up again this season.  It played out quickly.

The wonderful twist in this episode was Gilfoyle’s unintended interview with the Nucleus/End Frame engineers.  As we as an audience gleaned they had put together the missing piece of middle-out compression, watching Gilfoyle realize it for the first time was instructive as to just how loyal to Richard and PP he really is.

This episode delivered the goods both in terms of comedy and drama.  The actors, even those with minor roles, are so perfectly cast, and the interplay and interaction are all spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy.  It’s an exceptional viewing experience as a result.

All images Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Screenshots are reproduced pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine of the Copyright Act.

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016? In the Age of Peak TV, the choices are pretty good…


Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

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The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has released its 2016 Emmy Award nominees.  In the Age of Peak TV, it’s no easy task.  By and large, their choices were good.  (My picks, if any, are asterisked or listed in italics.)


The Americans FX

Better Call Saul AMC

Downton Abbey PBS

Game of Thrones HBO

Homeland Showtime

House of Cards Netflix

*Mr. Robot USA

(They’re ALL good picks, and I won’t be disappointed.)


Kyle Chandler Bloodline

Rami Malek Mr. Robot

*Bob Odenkirk Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys The Americans

Liev Schreiber Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey House of Cards

(All very acceptable picks.)


Claire Danes Homeland

Viola Davis How to Get Away with Murder

Taraji P. Henson Empire

Tatiana Maslany Orphan Black

Keri Russell The Americans

*Robin Wright House of Cards


*Jonathan Banks Better Call Saul

Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones

Ben Mendelsohn Bloodline

Christian Slater Mr. Robot

Kit Harington Game of Thrones

Michael Kelly House of Cards

Jon Voight Ray Donovan

(These are all very passable choices, but I would nominate Michael McKean as well as Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul.)


Maura Tierney The Affair

*Maggie Smith Downton Abbey

Lena Headey Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke Game of Thrones

Maisie Williams Game of Thrones

Constance Zimmer UnREAL


Joel Fields, Joe Weisberg The Americans

Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss Game of Thrones

Robert King, Michelle King The Good Wife

*Sam Esmail Mr. Robot

Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro UnREAL

(Noticeably absent were any Better Call Saul writers.)


black-ish ABC

Master of None Netflix

Modern Family ABC

*Silicon Valley HBO

Transparent Amazon

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix

Veep HBO

(To me, this is a no-brainer selection.)


Anthony Anderson black-ish

Aziz Ansari Master of None

Will Forte Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy Shameless

*Thomas Middleditch Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor Transparent

(Another easy one.)


Julia Louis-Dreyfus Veep

Ellie Kemper The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tracee Ellis Ross black-ish

Laurie Metcalf Getting On

Amy Schumer Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin Grace and Frankie

(This category could go any way, and I’m okay with that.)


Louie Anderson Baskets

Andre Braugher Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key Key & Peele

Ty Burrell Modern Family

Tituss Burgess Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale Veep

Matt Walsh Veep

(I would’ve selected all the usual suspects in Silicon Valley, an exceptional cast, but I guess that’s just me.)


Niecy Nash Getting On

Allison Janney Mom

Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live

Judith Light Transparent

Gaby Hoffmann Transparent

Anna Chlumsky Veep

(I really liked Suzanne Cryer in Silicon Valley myself.)


Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan Catastrophe

Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang Master of None

Dan O’Keefe Silicon Valley

*Alec Berg Silicon Valley

David Mandel Veep

Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck Veep

(Though Dan O’Keefe would work, too.)


American Crime


*The Night Manager

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story


(Though Fargo was pretty good.)


Some miscellaneous mentions: Downton Abbey should merit “production design for a (one-hour) narrative period program,” and “costumes for a period/fantasy series.”

Silicon Valley easily earns “production design for a (half-hour) narrative period program” and is an easy shoo-in for “casting for a comedy series.”  (Exceptional!)  Both Mike Judge and Alec Berg of Silicon Valley are up for “directing for a comedy.”

Mr. Robot competes for best “casting for a drama series.”

Better Call Saul’s Kelley Dixon, and the team of Kelley Dixon, Chris McCaleb are deserving of “single-camera picture editing for a drama.”

There are other categories, of course, but these are the ones I’ll be most closely watching on September 18th.

Until then …

SIlicon Valley – Season 3/Episode 2 “Two in the Box”

Synopsis and Review of Silicon Valley Season 3 Episode 2 “Two in the Box.”

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Silicon Valley, HBO’s highly successful comedy, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, finished its third season in June. This is my continuing synopsis and review — for Episode 2 “Two in the Box” written by Ron Weiner and directed by Mike Judge.


The episode opens with Richard back at the doctor [Andrew Daly]. He is either hypochondriacal or a glutton for punishment. The doc proclaims him to be healthy, so much so, he tells him if he didn’t know better, he’d say Richard was pregnant. He asks if he’s had any lifestyle changes. Richard explains he got fired and now works as CTO under a new CEO at Pied Piper (PP), Jack Barker, and is optimistic about it. The doc is incredulous he’d work under anyone at his own company, and tells Richard he needs to check his testicles. Richard asks why, a hernia or something? He starts to prepare for the exam. Just want to make sure they’re still there, the doc gaffaws at his gallows humor. To opening credits.

Erlich, Dinesh, Gilfoyle, Jared, and Richard take the elevator to the posh Pied Piper office for the first time, and see the new logo Jack had made. The old one, he claims, was “a little phallic.” Jack gives them a tour. Haroki, a Japanese gardener, works on an indoor water feature for proper feng shui. A micro-kitchen will be catered by a Chef Amy so the guys are never hungry at work. Richard inquires if they can afford it.

Jack sits Richard down in his office and explains the miracle that is Google and how by providing cuisine and massages, they succeeded in retaining the best and the brightest. He points out a plaque on the wall called “The Conjoined Triangles of Success,” something he invented and was now taught in business schools. “Growth” is at its foundation.

Meanwhile, Dinesh and Gilfoyle get themselves settled in engineering. They play Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who gets the big monitor. Dinesh wins, provoking Gilfoyle to ask if he doesn’t just play Rock, Rock, Rock, like what they’d do in Pakistan. Jack and Richard overhear them and Jack tells Gilfoyle to just order a large monitor. He asks Jared if he’d like one, too. No, Jared says, he’s a BYOC guy.

After Jack leaves, Jared shyly asks if he could have the box the monitor came in. Why? Dinesh asks, So you can sleep in it? No, Jared, replies, not missing a beat, he hasn’t slept in a box for years. He’s been living in Noah’s guesthouse. Now, with Piped Piper’s success, he can afford to move back into his condo, which he had been Airbnb-ing to cover the mortgage. He’s been missing his tub, and Noah’s been using a lot of hate speech lately. Erlich takes his leave, obviously useless, and tells them, “I gave you this.” He takes cartons of coconut water with him.

Cut to Hooli, where, in front of his staff, Gavin Belson searches himself on Hooli Search, as he does every morning. To his consternation, he sees inflammatory articles appearing, such as “Nucleus is Tanking.” He tells the team he no longer wants to be confronted with such things. An employee asks him incredulously if he’s instructing them to fundamentally alter the neutrality of the Hooli search algorithm in violation of the public trust. Google, he notes, is being sued for that very thing by Yelp. Of course not, Gavin reassures them. Moments later, staff tells Nucleus division employees Gavin’s wishes. They balk, saying they don’t work there anymore (they had been fired in Episode 1.) You do for the next ten days, they’re reminded, and they must do it unless they wish to quit and forego their severance packages. Gavin loyalist, Patrice [Jill E. Alexander], looks disgusted with them.

In an attractive building, Jared tries to unlock the door to his condo, but the inside chain prevents this. His tenant peers out. Jared politely says he’s confused: he thought the tenant would be out according to their agreement. A change of plans, he’s told. The tenant says he can’t afford to move or to pay rent, so… Through some convoluted logic, he explains to Jared that he can’t afford to pay because of all the tech companies moved in, raising rents and since he, Jared, works in tech, it all kinda evens out. “That makes no sense,” Jared says. “I know, right?” the tenant replies. Jared kindly offers to let him stay a couple more weeks max, but then he’d have to take legal action. The tenant slams the door on him.

Jared relays his ordeal to Richard back at the house, who asks where he slept last night. “I did not,” Jared admits, keeping a stiff upper lip. Then he, Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle leave for a surprise breakfast at work, leaving Erlich behind. Jared reveals the surprise is gluten-free waffles, saying he had requested them from Chef Amy since he had too many dietary restrictions to leave it to chance.

Erlich interviews a new potential “incubee” who catalogs malware, trying to entice with him with the expensive unpasturized coconut beverages in the fridge. That’s not the concern, the incubee tells him, it’s the room–it’s kind of a dump. Erlich reassures him it will look great next month, but the incubee tells him he’ll need it earlier than planned. In background, Jian Yang purposely spills water out on the floor.

At Pied Piper, Jack has hired a sales staff, who are introduced to the guys at the company pool table for the first time: You’re not hiring engineers first? Richard asks. “God, no!” Jack exclaims.

At the PP conference room table, Keith (from Northeast Regional) [Shannon McClung], Don (of Systems Integration) [Phillip Jeanmarie], Jan “the Man,” (Director of Inside Sales) [Erin Breen], and Doug, (shadowing Keith) [Eddie Liu] listen to Richard’s presentation about PP.

Jack is mysteriously called out of the meeting and Richard learns from Sales that Jack told them Pied Piper would be business facing, not consumer facing. It’s a misunderstanding, Richard says, the plan is for PP to be marketed as “freemium” to people first and sold at a premium to businesses later. Then why are we here? they ask. Richard leaves to find Jack at the elevator, and Jack confirms he said it would be enterprise. Talk to your guys, he urges Richard, promising he won’t compromise the platform. Profitability cannot wait.

Back at the house, Erlich presents Jian Yang with a Japanese kimono (even though he’s Chinese) along with a request to leave, even requesting he bow in acceptance. Jian Yang is pissed and ceremoniously throws out the kimono.

Richard informs Dinesh and Gilfoyle of Jack’s switch to enterprise, which they agree to since it seems like Jack knows what he’s doing. Gilfoyle notes they’ll still be building the neural net and not scrapping peer-to-peer delivery.

Jared learns eviction will take a year. Richard fumes having to rewrite a part of the business plan, hoping it doesn’t delay them. Gilfoyle isn’t worried since “Endframe sucks and Nucleus shit the bed.”

Back at Hooli, an Endframe engineer asks another how he script digested all the strings so fast. It’s just a predictive loop, like a context tree, he’s told. They have a Eureka! moment.

Erlich gives Jared his garage to live in pending the eviction. Jared appreciates the cozy quarters. Jian Yang observes, demanding to know why Erlich is giving Jared the garage when he must leave. Erlich explains Jared’s tenant won’t move out. Jian Yang asks why he can’t go to the police. Erlich explains he got fucked over and must go to court, but the legal process will take a year. “Do you understand?” Erlich demands. He does. Jian Yang responds that he, too, will hold over for a year rent-free, like Jared’s tenant. “No recourse,” he tells Erlich.

The Hooli engineers figure out that if they stack that same loop (from earlier) on top of the bitlevel encoder they stole from Richard and then tethered it to the routine, they’d get a huge jump in speed, like Richard did at Tech Crunch (season 1). We just cracked middle out, they realize. Should we tell Gavin? they wonder. No, they decide, since they’d been fired, and realizing how much they could get from taking the idea somewhere else.

Richard learns at a sales meeting that they now want to take away the neural net but he doesn’t want to delete machine learning or get rid of cloud peer-to-peer. No, those go, says Keith. Why don’t we just do a box, Richard asks sarcastically. “A rack-mounted server-type device?” Doug asks seriously. “That’s fucking stupid,” Richard says, leaving the meeting.

The receptionist [Chelsea Ireland] tells Richard Jack is at the vets. Richard races out to find Jack in a barn where two horses mate. Jack’s breeding mare is in heat. Richard explains there is a problem with Sales. If they’re such good salespeople, then they should be able to sell the platform as envisaged, he reasons. No, Jack says, you have to give them easy things to sell or they’ll just leave.

Richard confidently makes an impassioned plea to Jack, reminding him he promised he’d never compromise the product. Jack asks him what he thinks the product is. It’s not the platform, the algorithm, or the software he says. “Is it me?” Richard asks. God, no, Jack says, the product is the company’s stock. Worry about changing the world, making the world a better place, and miracles later. Meanwhile, he says, he paid $150,000 for that semen to come out of the stallion and he intends to watch it happen. Jack then tells Richard he got a text from Keith, who said he loved Richard’s idea. Richard’s baffled.

Cut to a Sales meeting, where Richard watches a video about how PP can help companies wanting to protect their data from spies (showing Snowden), thieves (an Occupied person in a Guy Fawkes mask), and criminals (a handcuffed man), and foreigners (Dinesh). The video promises a secure data storage solution, and then shows a black box with the PP logo, and slogan, “Think inside the box. Powered by Pied Piper.”

Dinesh and Gilfoyle enter the scene gushing over a Chef Amy creation. They see the projection of the box. What’s that, they wonder? A VCR? Why does it say Pied Piper on it? And why does everyone look so happy? The episode ends.


Thankfully, (and spoiler alert!) this will be the last doctor visit Richard has this season. At this point, it’s established he has untreated panic disorder, but Richard helps himself more than the doc will, so this has played out. We’re happy to see Richard learning to live with the situation at PP and stand up for himself and his vision.

The worst part remains the opening theme music, which I think I’ll stop mentioning as we’re stuck with it. It’s some sort of electronic piece called “Stretch Your Face” by Tobacco.

The plot advanced well in this episode with Jack basically pulling the rug out from under Richard by abandoning the peer-to-peer and neural net from the platform and replacing the whole thing with, of all things, an unoriginal black box. So much for remaining loyal to Richard’s vision.

The best character growth continues to be Richard, who stands up to Jack three times in this episode. The first time, he backs down a little, the second, he’s more adamant, and the third, he makes a passionate appeal to Jack. At the end, though, he’s thwarted when the sales department goes ahead and makes a marketing video for what it is they want to sell rather than what Richard and his team planned to develop.

A close second in terms of character growth was Jian Yang, who, despite slow English has a quick wit. Not thinking, Erlich explains Jared’s plight to him, which Jian Yang throws back at Erlich, telling him he’s staying a year, too, rent-free, like Jared’s tenant. It’s debatable whether an audience would be pleased to see him develop beyond a weak, seemingly exploited immigrant into an annoying, destructive asshole. I wasn’t.

Third, we had homesick Jared, who characteristically tried to work with his Airbnb tenant amicably, but who he decided he would, in fact, have to evict. He’s still a pushover, but is at least beginning to grow a pair. Way to go, Jared!

The funniest moment goes to Jared, too, when he laughs off Dinesh’s inquiry about sleeping in the box, and soberly explains he hasn’t slept in a box for years. Throughout the season, we’ll get small pieces of his sorry backstory.

A close second was the rationalization of Jared’s tenant as to why he didn’t think he had to vacate. As one expects in this show, the script is funny, but it’s the delivery by the actors that nails it.

The most touching moments were when Jared used magical thinking to cope with almost everything bad that happened to him. His wistful eyes and shy grin make him an almost poignant character.

The coolest moment was the horse-mating scene. This may played differently among the audience, but I kinda dug it. It humorously exhibited the type of over-the-top hobbies high-earning tech execs seemingly enjoy.

The dumbest moments were Jian Yang’s. Personally, I think this character is irritating, but unfortunately, he appears written into the script for a year. Perhaps Erlich will get lucky and come up with some creative and outlandish way to get rid of this thorn in his side. Jian Yang does nothing to develop the story and is just there for a gags, which have played out at this point.

In summary, this episode did more in moving the story and main characters forward than in delivering comedy. That’s not a bad thing. Even though the show is a comedy, there is significant drama to it, as well. Here, we leave many of the major characters in bad places, wondering how they’ll deal with it. As always, the actors have been perfectly cast so the interplay in their roles and interaction with each other are spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy.


Silicon Valley – Season 3/Episode 1 “Founder Friendly”

HBO’s wonderful comedy, Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, wrapped a tremendously successful Season 3 on Sunday night. Below is my synopsis and review of Episode 1, “Founder Friendly,” written by Dan O’Keefe and directed by Mike Judge.

HBO’s wonderful comedy, Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, wrapped a tremendously successful Season 3 on Sunday night.  Below is my synopsis and review of Episode 1, “Founder Friendly,” written by Dan O’Keefe and directed by Mike Judge.


Opening Title.  

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Pied Piper (PP) founder, Richard Hendricks [Thomas Middleditch], is out as CEO.  Erlich Bachman [T.J. Miller] characteristically and selfishly asks him, “What about me?”  En route to Raviga, Erlich’s van hits a Stanford robotics student’s “Bambot,” a highly resilient and slightly aggressive robotic deer.

After the credits, we open with Richard and Erlich going to the Raviga conference room for a meeting with Laurie Bream [Suzanne Cryer], Monica [Amanda Crew], and attorney Ron LaFlamme [Ben Feldman].  Laurie congratulates Richard on Series A financing of $5 million based on a valuation of $50 million, dryly saying he should feel good about having created a company too valuable for him to run, and offers him a position of Chief Technology Officer, thereby keeping his board seat and allowing his option to vest.  Richard balks.

Outside, Richard asks LaFlamme if she can do that.  She just did, LaFlamme observes, citing the bad deal Richard made against his advice with Russ Hanneman [Chris Diamantopoulos], who later sold his shares to Laurie, giving her effective control of PP’s board.

Arrogantly, Erlich thinks he should be considered for CEO, but Laurie quickly dissuades him of this ridiculous notion, assuring him he will never be CEO.  She suggests to Richard he give his input into the CEO hiring, but Richard quits instead, threatening to sue. LaFlamme then informs Richard he can no longer represent him, being PP’s corporate counsel, not his.

Later, at the house, Monica explains to Richard she didn’t have the power to stop Laurie, but that she stayed on in hopes of changing things in the future.  She informs him Raviga already brought a new highly qualified CEO aboard — “Action” Jack Barker — since Richard claimed he didn’t want any input.  The guys quickly Google Jack and confirm his bona fides.

Monica reminds Richard that no VC will fund a new venture of his for fear of being sued.  Richard counters by saying Jared, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle won’t go without him.  This is news to Dinesh Chugtai [Kumail Nanjiani] and Bertram Gilfoyle [Martin Starr]. Jared, though, doesn’t think twice about remaining loyal.

Meanwhile, at Hooli Gavin Belson [Matt Ross] makes a goodbye announcement, with Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti [Josh Brener] and Gavin’s spiritual advisor, Denpok [Bernard White], sitting front row in the audience, drinking Big Gulps.  But it’s not Gavin who’s leaving — he’s saying goodbye to all Nucleus employees, who he promptly fires.  In cultish adulation, employees gush, “Amazing!”  Denpok and Big Head, depart.

By the pool that night, Dinesh and Gilfoyle conspire, using the acronym, RIGBY, (“Richard Is Great, But Y’know…”) to qualify their conclusions that Richard was presumptuous in assuming they’d give up their jobs for Richard out of principle.

Always the external optimist, Jared finds Richard laying on the floor the next day, depressed.  He plops down a plastic case full of CTO job offers for Richard elsewhere in the Valley, among them, Flutterbeam.

Erlich meanwhile demands to meet Barker [Stephen Tobolowsky] at Raviga. After insulting him about his age, Barker claims to be a big fan of Aviato.  “My Aviato?” Erlich beams.  Indeed.

On Bloomberg TV, we see anchor Emily Chang lauding Gavin for boldly disbanding the failing Nucleus division.  In a Hooli legal meeting, Gavin is informed that the noncompete clause of the employees’ contracts have the same problems caused by the arbitration with PP (resulting in Big Head’s promotion,) but told that he can fire underperforming personnel without cause, which Gavin calculates is about one in five.  The fifth lawyer at the table looks up, saying he’s sorry, he missed what Gavin said. Gavin glares.  (This lawyer doesn’t appear at the next meeting.)

At the house, Jared sets up a meet for Richard at Flutterbeam.  Erlich appears, telling Richard he must meet Barker, who can turn PP from just a unicorn into a deca-corn.  On their way out the door, Dinesh and Gilfoyle notify Richard of their intent to stay with PP.   Richard is livid, angrily questioning their ability to scale the platform without him.  He was the one who coded it.

At Flutterbeam, Richard is introduced to the “rad” new project called “‘Stashe” he’d be overseeing.   He’s dismayed to see it’s a high latency plugin that can put a mustache on anyone’s photos. It’s fine to have his own attorney look over the terms, he’s told.

Cut to Richard entering a correctional facility.  “Are you a lawyer here to see your client?” an officer asks him.  No, he says, I’m a client here to see my lawyer.  The officer lets him in without further inquiry.


 Richard consults with his disgraced attorney in jail. 

Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Richard enters a visiting room where his prior lawyer, Pete Monahan [Matt McCoy]  sits across from him in a prison orange jumpsuit.  He soberly tells Richard he’s prepared to serve his time after he had consumed alcohol, which he thought was organic tea, and then ran around in a blanket with a meth high, assaulting a police horse with a shovel.  He looks at Richard’s Flutterbeam contract, lamenting he can’t redline it because prisoners aren’t allowed pencils.

Back to the house where Dinesh and Gilfoyle realize they can’t figure out how to scale the PP platform without Richard.  Preposterously, they decide to just pretend they’re giving up the project out of solidarity with Richard, in hopes he’ll take them on at Flutterbeam.

Back to the visiting room where Monahan hasn’t been persuaded Flutterbeam is a good match for Richard. He convinces him to at least meet Barker.  Better to eat shit, because you may end up eating worse, he warns Ricard.


Big Head has been a thorn in Gavin’s side since the beginning.                                                                           Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

At Hooli, Big Head meets with Gary Irving [Gabriel Tigerman] in Human Resources to sign his severance non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement.  He wants to keep his employee ID to visit his friends on the roof. Gary tells him he no longer has friends at Hooli.  Big Head considers not signing it.  It’s a good severance package, Gary assures him.  Big Head agrees $2 million is good.  No, it’s $20 million, Gary informs him.

Meanwhile, Richard meets Jack at his luxury home and the two have a heart-to-heart. Jack understands and appreciates Richard’s honesty and thanks him and walks Richard to his car.  Jack tells Richard the deal won’t go through without him. We get that Richard thought Jack would push for him, but instead, Jack simply says he’ll backs out of PP altogether.  It seems he considers Richard to be indispensable. Richard rethinks his position. The episode concludes with Richard backing up his car to talk to Jack again.


Richard and “Action” Jack Barker at Barker’s home. 

Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.


The premiere lived up to high expectations and picked up at a critical point in the story, propelling the season forward well.  It set up Big Head’s wealth and Jack’s influence.

Whether and to what extent the characters’ facial expressions and mannerisms are scripted, under the influence of the director, or interpreted by the actors themselves matters little to the viewer as it’s done so effortlessly and effectively.  The comedy obviously begins with solid, tight scripts, driven by an inherently intriguing and (to this outsider, at least) bizarre culture and one easy to satire.  And this entire cast is sublimely superb, including new character, Jack Barker, introduced here.

The worst part is the opening: the animation is good, but the cacaphony of the intro music is grating, even if thankfully short.

The best plot advancement was taking PP from the incubator stage to a growth phase with Series A financing.  PP can now be deemed a serious player in Silicon Valley.

The best character growth was unquestionably Richard’s.  Finally, the shy, reclusive tech genius asserts himself, leaving behind panic attacks and enuresis, which had played themselves out comedy-wise last season.  Yet, his social skills remain a challenge, along with nearly everyone else’s.  Here is the charm.

The funniest moment was when Richard entered the correctional facility and was asked if he was an attorney in to see his client.  Without missing a beat, Richard replies he’s a client to see his lawyer, and the guard brushes this off as the most ordinary of things.  Then, straight-faced,  Monahan tells him his tale of woe about circumstances landing him inside.

A close second was when Laurie told Richard his company was too valuable for him to run and that he should be proud of that fact.  The social ineptitude of most of the characters, especially Laurie, is what makes them so appealing and comedic.

The most touching moment was when Jared encouraged him, and compiled job offers for Richard, without regard for his own uncertain future.  [We learn more about Jared’s sorry personal history throughout the season, making his eternal optimism all that more endearing.]

A distant second is the rare camaraderie exhibited by Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who, despite pretexts, are, indeed, each other’s best friends.

The coolest moment was the Bambot.  While it seemed merely a fanciful moment for the writer (or a Stanford student), it had that Valley vibe we expect in the show.

The dumbest moments were Big Head’s confusion, especially as to his severance package. It’s true Richard couldn’t justify keeping him on in Season 1.  True, too, the character clearly stands for the proposition that being lucky is better than being good.  But he must’ve had at least some modicum of intellect and rudimentary math skills to have been Richard’s friend in the first instance — at least enough to know a difference between $5- and $50 million package.  He obviously wasn’t coded MR in school if he was coding at all at work.  [Throughout the season, this characterization of Big Head was, by far, my biggest peeve.]

In summary, the premiere episode launched an extremely satisfying Season 3.  I highly recommend the series as a whole and this season in particular, and will buy the DVDs on release.

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