• Addie Horowicz

"SILICON VALLEY:" Murphy's Law in Comedy

There are both vague and specific spoilers below. You’ve been warned!

“Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Murphy’s law is a principle and a common adage that advises planning for the worst because anything has the potential to bring misfortune. In comedy, Murphy’s law is used to heighten traditionally simple situations through subverting expectations. For example, the seemingly simple prank of changing a competitor’s screensaver to a comedic image quickly spirals out of control when the rival suspects that his computer has been hacked, calls security and sends a pack of impassioned tech geeks to hunt down the supposed hacker. This team, of course, discovers the highly illegal, data-stealing routers that you hid in the building earlier, so you end up facing potential legal repercussions and the possible confiscation of your company. This example and many more are representations of how “Silicon Valley” uses the principle of Murphy’s law to build its plotlines.

From the beginning of the series in 2014 to the upcoming finale of season six, “Silicon Valley” follows the growth of the main character Richard Hendrick’s data compression company, PiedPiper. Starting out as unknown coders in a makeshift think tank, Richard and an accompanying cast of increasingly hilarious and ridiculous characters navigate the money-infused bubble that is the tech mecca Palo Alto. The fictional world of “Silicon Valley” is true to real life, only heightened. Every event in the show, character or odd detail holds roots in the area’s actuality; the happenings of the show are simply caricatures of reality.

That said, the extent to which the show exaggerates can be great. It seems like every inch of progress Richard makes incites a new conflict or misfortune. His excitement over a breakthrough in creating a new, decentralized internet that could potentially revolutionize not only his company but also the way the world interacts with the web is quickly tempered with faulty investors, complete denial of the validity of his idea and patent issues. It seems that every step forward for Richard is met with five thousand steps back until he happens to stumble into a new idea and the cycle repeats.

This trend is common throughout the series. Episodes never end on a victory; episodes end with a supposed win followed directly by a two-minute scene that details exactly how the supposed victory will go wrong. While it seems that this constant regression would be frustrating, the dynamic surprisingly works for the show. The comedic talents of Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods, T. J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani and more open every setback and downfall to be an opportunity for ridiculous character reactions and hilarious joke deliveries. The balance of the Murphy’s law-driven misfortune with a talented and Emmy-award winning cast makes the show enjoyable and outlandishly funny. Utilizing the principle of Murphy’s law, the writers for “Silicon Valley” shift the focus from the progression of the plot to how the characters react to it. Most of the comedy is commentative and reactional based on the situation at hand.

While the viewer is still rooting for the characters to succeed, at the same time he or she revels in their spectacular missteps because those mess-ups provide the best jokes and comedic sequences on television. Often, the viewer is thoroughly enjoying the characters’ tragedy. In “Silicon Valley,” everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and that’s all the viewer could hope for.

Three things you should watch whether you’re a tech geek or not:

“The Social Network”: This is in my top 5 favorite movies. “The Social Network” follows Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook, both genius and criminal sides included. With a script partially adapted from the actual depositions, a stellar cast that gave an incredible performance (except for Justin Timberlake, sorry) and an all-around tight production, this film has influenced our perception of the events of the founding scandal. Seriously, this thing shaped our culture.

“The Great Hack”: Surprise! This one is about Facebook too. Have you heard of Cambridge Analytica? This is about that. The documentary (on Netflix) centers on data privacy and the gray areas of tech companies’ usage of it. Though it could have gone more in-depth about the topic and explored more sides of it not based on personal testimony, it’s a good introduction to the topic. I highly suggest reading more about the topic after you watch it to find out more about your data and why you should care about it.

“Bad Blood”: Not about Facebook! This documentary is a really well-produced deep dive into the Theranos scandal and the supposed ‘mastermind’ behind it, Elizabeth Holmes. Don’t know who she is or what Theranos did? You don’t need to - the documentary explains the whole unbelievable story. I would say more about how mind-boggling this scandal is, but I honestly do not want to reveal any spoilers. Watch the documentary or read the book it’s based off for an even more in-depth explanation.

“Bad Blood”: Not about Facebook! This documentary is a really well-produced deep dive into the Theranos scandal and the supposed ‘mastermind’ behind it, Elizabeth Holmes. Don’t know who she is or what Theranos did? You don’t need to - the documentary explains the whole unbelievable story. I would say more about how mind-boggling this scandal is, but I honestly do not want to reveal any spoilers. Watch the documentary or read the book it’s based off for an even more in-depth explanation.

Photo:

“Silicon Valley Season 2 Header.” HBO, HBO, 2015, Silicon Valley Season 2 Header.