Silicon Valley is booting up for a “very different” fifth season.
When the hit HBO comedy returns Sunday for the post-T.J. Miller era, the Pied Piper boys have finally moved up in the tech world, which means everything is “bigger,” according to star Kumail Nanjiani.
“This season feels very, very different,” he tells EW. “Usually we’ve been in the hacker hostel and it’s sort of been the core group. Now, the group is much bigger, the opportunities are much bigger, the money is much bigger, the projects are bigger. So really, the show’s just bigger. The stakes are higher because we do now have a certain amount of success, so there’s further to fall.”
After four seasons of one small step forward followed by a humiliating step backward, Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Dinesh (Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Jared (Zach Woods) are making progress in their attempt at building a decentralized internet. Everyone involved with Silicon agrees that it was about time to give Pied Piper a win.
“I do think people get a little frustrated at seeing these guys thwarted on a daily basis, so I think it was nice to let them succeed,” says showrunner Alec Berg. “It’s always a tricky balance with this show, where if suddenly they’re billionaires, does anybody really care about their problems? It’s like, ‘Shut up and go home and cry yourself to sleep on a bag of money.’”
Middleditch echoes the sentiments, saying, “It’s fun to see people fail; it’s what makes it kind of gut-wrenching comedy, but at some point, you have to see some kind of progress or there’s no way you buy that these people are even in the business. It’s good that they’re moving on up. Each season they get a little bit mo money, mo problems.”
The influx of money means a new state of the art office space and a larger than expected staff. And for the socially awkward Richard, being CEO of a growing company is chief among his problems. “This may come as a shocker, but Richard is not the best public speaker,” shares Middleditch. “So addressing a new team of 100 or so programmers is not his forte, but he learns.”
While the Pied Piper staff might be expanding, the company is down one stockholder, and in turn, the show is down a cast member. T.J. Miller, whose Erlich Bachman has been the breakout character since the show’s premiere, departed after last season. But despite the notable loss, creator Mike Judge says the creative team was freed up by no longer having to force Miller’s character into storylines.
“We sort of hard to reinvent the dynamic of the show, and the chemistry of the show, just by definition, was going to change, which can be a great thing,” added Berg, who previously downplayed Miller’s exit by saying the actor isn’t LeBron James. “Sometimes you lose something you love. When Shelley Long left Cheers, everyone was like, ‘Well, without Sam and Diane, what is the show?’ People forget they did more seasons without her than they did with her. And the show didn’t suffer, it was just a different show. Which is not to say that I’m sure they lost their minds when she was leaving and they were like, ‘We’ll never be able to do the show that we want to do.’ But they figured it out and that’s kind of what we’ve had to do.”
And everyone involved says the changes, those necessitated by the loss of Miller and those stemming from the growth of Pied Piper, have led to a noticeable renewed sense of energy. “I think it breathed new life into it,” opines Judge. “When we started editing the first four or five episodes, it started to feel like it’s turned into a new show in a really good way — and I think it needed to.”
That new life has Judge and Berg reconsidering their original six-season plan, believing the show could run longer if HBO and the audience wanted more. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t begun thinking about their endgame.
“It’s started to come up,” reveals Berg, comparing the process to sailing out to sea. “The first three or four, if you’re lucky enough to get those seasons, are about, ‘Where is this headed?’ And at a certain point, you start to have conversations about, ‘Okay, now that we’re in the middle of the ocean, where do we end?” So I can’t say that we’ve made any decisions, but you’re starting to think, ‘We’re in the middle of the ocean, where is home?’”
Well, probably not Erlich’s place.
Silicon Valley returns to HBO on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.