Minimum Viable Product
|"Minimum Viable Product"|
|Silicon Valley episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Mike Judge|
|Written by||John Altschuler|
|Original air date||April 6, 2014|
|Running time||30 minutes|
"Minimum Viable Product" is the pilot episode of the television comedy Silicon Valley. It originally aired on HBO on April 6, 2014. The episode was written by series creators John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky and Mike Judge and directed by Judge. HBO made the episode available for free on YouTube.
Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) is a shy, reclusive programmer for Hooli (a large corporation) living in a house in Palo Alto that serves as an "incubation" program run by Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller). Bachman, despite possessing the confidence that Hendriks lacks, seeks parties and drug use rather than sharing his experiences after he sold his application "Aviato". Other cohabitants include Nelson "Big Head" Bighetti (Josh Brener) who is also a coworker at Hooli, Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani).
While working at Hooli, Hendricks shares info with fellow employees about his startup project called "Pied Piper", an app that helps musicians avoid copyright infringement. The app was readily dismissed by the staff so he tried pitching it to Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), a venture capitalist who awkwardly dismisses him. Hendriks ends up pitching the app to Gregory's assistant Monica (Amanda Crew) instead. Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) is informed about the project by Donald "Jared" Dunn (Zach Woods). The algorithm designed by Hendriks has more value than the app; it offers higher compression rates yet remains lossless. If it were able to be applied successfully as a video codec, it could potentially become a billion-dollar business. Belson commits to buy out Pied Piper from Hendriks, offering $10 million for full ownership at one point. Gregory promises $200,000 for only 5% ownership of the company. After leaving both Belson and Gregory unanswered, Hendriks suffers a panic attack and heads to a clinic.
He finds Monica outside who informs him that everyone is fighting for control of the algorithm, not the app: Belson wants the algorithm under his control, and intends to shut down Pied Piper after acquisition. Under Gregory, Hendriks could grow Pied Piper into the business he wants it to be while directing its future. Hendriks resolves to leave Hooli and accept Gregory's offer.
After Mike Judge graduated from UCSD with a degree in physics, his first job was as a programmer working on the F-18 fighter. In 1987 he moved to the Silicon Valley region of Northern California and joined Parallax, a startup video card company with about 40 employees. Disliking the company's culture and his colleagues ("The people I met were like Stepford Wives. They were true believers in something, and I don't know what it was"), Judge quit after less than three months, but the experience gave him the background to later create a show about the region's people and companies.
Filming for the pilot began on March 12, 2013, in Palo Alto, California. HBO green-lit the series on May 16, 2013. Kid Rock appeared in the episode as a personal favor to Judge, who said "Rock sort of owed me one. I'd done a Beavis And Butt-head thing for him for free that he used on his Jumbotrons on tour in 2011"; the cameo was inspired by a tech company's party Judge had attended only because Run-DMC were performing, with Judge stating that "it was just a lot of disinterested tech people standing around. It seemed like an odd juxtaposition."
The episode was viewed by 2 million viewers. The episode received generally positive reviews. The A.V. Club gave the episode a B+. Slate called it "sharp, very funny". Mike Judge was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards and also received a nomination for a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series at the 67th Directors Guild of America Awards.
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