Mike Judge saw the connection between music videos and couch potatoes, and a crudely animated show called Beavis & Butt-head was born.
Judge’s comic crystal ball, as it turned out, was just warming up.
Now, as his new HBO comedy Silicon Valley preps for its debut, it’s time to recall Judge’s journey as a balanced observer of modern culture.
The mild-mannered Judge segued from dysfunctional teens to cubicle drones with Office Space, arguably the biggest cult film of our workplace age. From there, he found comic gold via flyover country with King of the Hill, a loving look at a conservative dad that ran for 13 years on FOX.
His commercial results haven’t always matched his artistry, but his instincts rarely let audiences down. Judge’s Idiocracy was a box office dud, crippled in part by a lackluster marketing campaign. Today, it stands alongside Office Space as a cult favorite that captured a trashy media wave that hit our shores sooner than expected.
It’s hard to watch any outrageous reality show and not remember Idiocracy’s faux series, Ow! My Balls!
Judge’s 2009 comedy Extract couldn’t recreate the workplace magic of Office Space, but he found more ripe material with that year’s short-lived sitcom The Goode Family. Consider it a sharper assault on the progressive mindset than the similarly kind-hearted Portlandia.
Like those South Park rascals Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Judge goes where the jokes lead him, be it to the left or right. Office Space isn’t a love letter to capitalism, but The Goode Family showed that Judge understood a gap in the marketplace regarding liberal comedy targets and did his best to fill it.
Judge’s Silicon Valley may strike similar, ideologically diverse paydirt. Few writers “get” their subject like Judge, and the fizzy combination of geeky achievement and untold riches seems ripe for Judge’s point of view. Early reviews are nothing short of ecstatic.
Time magazine dubbed it “the funniest out-of-the-box pay cable comedy in a good while.”
Judge’s Achilles heel has been the entertainment industry’s lack of patience. The Goode Family wasn’t given a chance to grow its audience. Idiocracy was deemed too arcane to warrant a marketing push worthy of its jokes.
HBO, for all its liberal inclinations, is unusually patient with its original product. From the early reviews and buzz, though, Judge’s latest may not need such a protected launch.
Silicon Valley airs at 10 p.m. EST Sunday nights on HBO.