It's not easy for a new series to attract attention in the tried-and-true world of Emmy voters. But like one of the upstart wunderkinds it skewers, HBO's "Silicon Valley" walked away with television's equivalent of a successful IPO on Thursday morning: a slot on Emmy's comedy series shortlist alongside blue chips like "Modern Family" and "The Big Bang Theory."
The news left creator Mike Judge seeing a few parallels.
"There really are all kinds of meta things going on right now," he said after learning of the nomination. "Like the characters we were kind of the new kids on the block, and in the second season we're writing now, the characters are getting a lot of attention, which is a little like the Emmys."
A newcomer to live-action TV (he created the animated cult favorite "Beavis & Butt-head" and the Emmy-decorated "King of the Hill"), Judge said he wasn't always sure "Silicon Valley" would resonate. Hollywood has long struggled with how to chronicle the tech boom; the industry's mix of introverted personalities and not-exactly-cinematic activities don't immediately lend themselves to strong drama.
But voters sparked to the show's depiction of preternatural genius and easily bruised egos among the residents of a Northern California home incubator, as shy lead character Richard (Thomas Middleditch) accidentally invents a sought-after app and then must navigate those who want to help him — maybe — capitalize on it.
Though neither Middleditch nor the late Christopher Evan Welch made the Emmys list (the latter, who played an enigmatic CEO, died of lung cancer after shooting five episodes) "Silicon Valley" did nab four additional nominations, including for writing, directing and in a pair of below-the-line categories.
Audiences, too, have embraced the show's low-key pleasures: "Silicon Valley" notched HBO's biggest audience for a comedy debut in five years when it premiered in April.
The series, which HBO has renewed for a second season, marks Judge's latest poke at modern office culture. His 1999 movie "Office Space" became a cult hit and was widely recognized for its sendup of low-end corporate foibles. While characters on "Silicon Valley" are decidedly more well-off, they're often similarly thwarted by the quirks of their subculture. "I think if everyone from 'Office Space' was around today they'd be working in Silicon Valley," Judge said.
Of course, that doesn't mean that they — or Judge — have learned that much since. When asked how the characters on "Silicon Valley" might handle something like an Emmy nomination, Judge paused and said, "Probably as awkwardly as I'm handling it right now."