Another problem with the name is that Richard failed to notice it was already trademarked by a Pied Piper Sprinkler Company. So he goes to visit the owner—an older man who gripes about "server farms" replacing real farms—in a rural part of California and agrees to buy the name for $1,000. "You're just like my son," the man tells Richard, "He's got Asperger's, too."
While some of the characters do demonstrate behavior represented on the Autism spectrum, the schlubby Erlich fashions himself as the smooth operator, the cool guy in the house, the Steve Jobs of the bunch. Before Richard secures the naming rights, Erlich eats a bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms and drives to the desert to try to conjure up a new name for the company, one of the funniest scenes this season as he rattles through a list of names and world-saving concepts already populating the Valley and decides that Pied Piper isn't a bad name after all.
So far, the reception to the show in the actual Silicon Valley has been mixed. Writers at top tech blogs such as Boing Boing, Pando Daily, and Mashable are recapping each episode as a sign of interest. Some tech industry heavyweights such as software engineer turned Netscape co-founder turned Angel investor Marc Andreessen love it. Meanwhile, others such as Paypal and Tesla founder Elon Musk are said to hate the show, suggesting that it stereotypes and trivializes tech billionaires, CEOs, coders and startup workers in the Valley. "I really feel like Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man," Musk tweeted, after seeing the show.
"I'm just waiting to see if people here laugh," Kara Swisher, a well-known tech journalist who most recently co-founded a site called Re/code, told USA TODAY. Silicon Valley types are "not known for their sense of humor."
And that gets to the reason why the show is important, beyond just entertainment. America is overdue for a show that explores, parodies and excoriates the current boom taking place in the Valley, where two of the largest three companies by market capitalization in America—Apple Inc. and Google Inc. —are based. They are flanked by dozens of public companies such as Oracle, Twitter and Facebook, hundreds of other successful startups and thousands of wannabe successful startups around the nation. Silicon Valley is the new pathway to great riches in America, a wellspring of creativity in the American economy and a setting ripe for parody.
With a libertarian bent and a mind for irony, Judge is far from a cheerleader of the new tech economy. Rather, he portrays the good, bad and absurdity of the startup culture. And he portrays nerds and programmers with a similar sensibility that brought us characters such as Milton (and his red Swingline stapler) from Office Space. He portrays variations of nerds and their overlords with a mix of reverence, scorn and nuance. For example, he highlights "brogrammers," who are apparently a new kind of Silicon Valley computer scientist fratboy type.
Judge, himself, worked as a programmer on the F-18 jet and at a startup video card company called Parallax in Northern California in 1987 after graduating with a degree in physics from UC San Diego. He claims to have despised the culture and those colleagues, whom he described as "Stepford Wives." Some point to Judge as a closet conservative (or at least a libertarian) for some of his characters in King of the Hill and of issues in films like Idiocracy.