Can rookie ‘Silicon Valley’ slay Emmy veteran ‘Modern Family’?

Silicon Valley” doesn’t premiere till next Sunday (April 6) but the sitcom about young software developers is already earning rave reviews. Calling it HBO’s best comedy in years, one that is “flat-out brilliant” and “consistently funny,” Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter effusively discusses the series’ “mass-appeal prospects” and says that it has the potential to become “HBO’s first bona-fide, broad-based comedy hit.” And Brian Lowry of Variety echoes that praise, writing that “HBO has its most fully realized and potentially commercial player within [the comedy] genre in some time.”

These early reviews paint “Silicon Valley” as the perfect antidote to potential “Modern Family” fatigue at the Emmys. Last year, that ABC laffer won Best Comedy Series for the fourth year in a row but claimed just one other award (directing). Critical darling “Louie” and top-rated “The Big Bang Theory” were thought to have a chance at the top prize but fell short as the former proved to be too niche while the latter was a throwback to three-camera comedies. 

Mike Judge, best known for the cult classic “Office Space” and MTV’s animated “Beavis and Butt-Head,” co-created “Silicon Valley” and serves as head writer and lead director. As co-creator of “King of the Hill, he shared in the 1999 Emmy win for Best Animated Program. Among the executive producers of “Silicon Valley” are EGOT champ Scott Rudin and five time Emmy nominee Alec Berg.

Judge co-wrote and directed the well-reviewed pilot and may well win two Emmys for his efforts. After all, six of the last 10 comedy directing Emmys went to helmers of pilots as did five of the writing awards.

HBO has an embarrassment of riches in the comedy race, with both “Girls” and “Veep” likely to contend for the third year in a row. However, the paycaster has only won this top Emmy once — for “Sex and the City” in 2001.

While “Silicon Valley” currently has odds of 100/1, it could benefit from airing at the end of the Emmy eligibility cycle. April is the same month that HBO launched “Game of Thrones” in 2011 and “Veep” in 2012. The paycaster has scheduled this new show between those two hits. 

The ensemble is filled to the brim with vaguely recognizable faces, an asset when competing for the best casting Emmy, which favors new series. Thomas Middleditch is the lead and “demonstrates a sly range,” according to Joanne Ostrow of The Denver Post.  Variety says that he “seems to be channeling a young Gene Wilder from ‘The Producers’,“ alluding to a role that garnered an Academy Award nomination. 

The supporting cast includes Christopher Evan Welch who passed away during filming, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods who gives the “personal favorite” performance of Indiewire critic Alison Willmore and Martin Starr, who delivers the trailer’s climactic line: “What do we do?  All those YouPorn ones and zeroes streaming directly to your shitty little smartphone, every dipshit who shits his pants if he can’t get Skrillex in under twelve seconds. It’s not magic; it’s talent and sweat. That’s what the fuck we do.”

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