Producer Alec Berg Talks Season 5 and Saving the World From Peril
By Eleanor Laurence
Silicon Valley put down foundations at South by Southwest — literally. In “Funny or Die and HBO Present Silicon Valley HQ,” fans stepped into a multi-room experience, each decked out in Silicon-themed furnishings, and previewed the VR experience, Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel.
Showrunner Alec Berg swung by the event, along with a crowd of fans (the line stretched down the block) eager to get a fix of Silicon Valley humor in the heart of Austin. We caught up with the producer to hear his thoughts on the event and his hopes for Season 5, which premieres on March 25.
HBO: As someone with a deep knowledge of all the ins and outs of Silicon Valley humor, what’s it like coming to a space fully inspired by the show at SXSW?
Alec Berg: There are jokes you come up with when writing a show, and you think “Oh that will never last.” Now, not only did it last but someone’s job was to recreate it and put it into a space — and they did a faithful recreation.
HBO: What stood out to you about the VR experience, Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel?
Alec Berg: I’m always fascinated by the level of detail. It just feels like every corner is right.
HBO: Silicon Valley has an uncanny knack of parodying tech trends at just the right time. How do you anticipate what's relevant and prime for satirizing?
Alec Berg: We’ve gotten super lucky. We just guess right a lot. I assure you, we don’t have a Magic Eight Ball that gives us any of that stuff. We do a lot of research and talk to a lot of people about what’s happening, what’s new and what’s changing.
HBO: In what ways has the focus of Silicon Valley evolved season over season, and where has Season 4 left off?
Alec Berg: Just in terms of the direction of Pied Piper, the fact the guys are concerned about user data being harvested and ads being directed at people in creepy ways and devices listening in. Those have become things that people are now very concerned about. It used to be “Oh, can these guys succeed? Can they make money?” Now in a really weird way, Pied Piper’s success is kind of about saving the world and saving people from the peril of these dark, twisted, f**ked up challenges that tech companies have created.
“Now in a really weird way, Pied Piper’s success is about saving the world and saving people from the peril of these f**ked up challenges that tech companies have created.”
HBO: Do you see Silicon’s turn to more serious stakes as a reflection of our reality?
Alec Berg: When we started, everyone in the tech business was so proud of themselves. They had cracked the code and had an attitude of “You’re welcome, world.” Now, people are starting to realize maybe they’ve broken the world. Maybe people in tech are not heroes. Maybe we’ve actually done substantive damage.
HBO: And then you write that funny.
We’re satirists. But sometimes all we have to do is put real things up on screen: I remember, from the pilot, Peter Gregory drove this really narrow car, and that got a huge laugh. That’s just a real car. That’s not even a joke, and we get laughs. You just put real sh*t up, and people go, “That’s so stupid.” Well, it's real.