bestof2014-10

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Silicon Valley.

HBO has strengthened its reputation over the last couple of years, but its largest successes 2014 were in the field of comedy — which is particularly impressive when you remember that this year’s drama output included The Newsroom, True Detective, The Leftovers and the ongoing Game of Thrones adaptation. Not only did 2014 mark the beginning of John Oliver’s deservedly-fêted Last Week Tonight, but it also welcomed Mike Judge back into the warm embrace of television.

Silicon Valley is an affectionate but unsentimental depiction of a world that exists at a tangent to our own. Software designer Richard Hendricks strikes out on his own to create a new company, and begins to navigate the labyrinth of angel investment and development runways, monetization strategies and tech battlefields.

It isn’t entirely successful, and its failures can most often be attributed to a preoccupation with the grotesque, as one might expect from Mike Judge. The Google analog Hooli is imperfectly developed, and both Gavin Belson and Peter Gregory represent an uncomfortable perspective on the power brokers of the tech industry. Silicon Valley excels, however, in its depiction of the awkward enthusiasm and wide-eyed naiveté of the young; our heroes, with the sole exception of Martin Starr’s brilliantly acerbic Gillfoyle, have a fundamental desire to make things better in minute ways through the application of technology.

Better still, the season closes out on — no exaggeration — my favorite single joke of the year. It builds beautifully, arises naturally from the characters, and the plot pivots around it; this joke, which I will not spoil, is one of the most dexterous pieces of writing that I can remember.

Taken as a whole, then, the season is a rough diamond, but the moments of triumph are well worth the investment.

Get it now: Silicon Valley.