TELEVISION CONSENSUS: Silicon Valley Gets Its Close-up

April 9, 2014

Television shows can serve as snapshot or microcosm of the life and times of the current day. They can also mark a high point in the cycle of a cultural or economic phenomenon. In the late 90’s as the stock market ramped up to record highs, a little show called “Traders” that tracked the trials and tribulations of Bay Street financiers was thrown out to the masses and developed a cult following for a couple of years. It wasn’t long after the show started airing that the stock market proceeded to crash out thanks to the dot com bubble bursting.

Flash forward to today and the flavor of the moment is the resurrection of Silicon Valley after a decade of dormancy thanks to the dot bomb. The current iteration of Web 2.0 has seen the emergence of technology as a tool for mass social communication. The Pets.com and Go.com’s have been replaced with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The Nasdaq Composite has returned to near record highs thanks to highly publicized and hyped IPO’s by these social media darlings. Hollywood has caught on and decided to try to capture the essence first through the movie The Social Network and now HBO has jumped in with its version Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is an American sitcom that centers on six programmers who are living together and trying to make it big in Silicon Valley. The series premiered April 6, 2014, on HBO. The first season will consist of eight episodes.

The show’s creator Mike Judge, who also made the cult film Office Space, had been planning a television comedy about the Palo Alto world of "geeks" for 14 years but decided that the fruit was now ripe for picking. "There are a lot of people getting rich very quickly now and it has become more of a zeitgeist thing," he told an audience at a recent public event in Los Angeles.

Me doth wonder if the arrival of Silicon Valley, the TV show is marking a Jump The Shark moment for Web 2.0 and the whole social media scene. The series opens under a backdrop where companies like Facebook are using their inflated stock to buy and overpay for companies that generate minimal wealth but have massive followers such as WhatsApp as well companies that are conceptual such as Oculus that have no revenue at all, much like in 1997-99. Many observers have commented that technology stocks and the companies behind them have been showing the same symptoms as in the late 90’s and that a similar disappointment awaits investors who have been drinking the same Kool-Aid as years past. From critic reviews, Silicon Valley appears to have done a masterful job capturing the essence of the moment which is find an area, write an app, get a lot of people to use it even if they don’t pay and then IPO post haste. As I put thoughts to screen the Nasdaq has been in a meaningful pullback. One has to wonder if indirectly the arrival of Silicon Valley has marked that turning point where investors wake up from their Red Bull induced haze and are now seeing these stocks for what they are.