HBO's Silicon Valley panel at San Diego Comic-Con started with a joke about horse semen — a favorite moment from the third season for all of the actors — and that facetious sense of humor the show has become infamous for set the tone for the entire hour.
Jokes about executive producer Alec Berg being an anti-animal rights activist, creator Mike Judge's lateness and their lack of popularity in comparison to the network's flagship series, Game of Thrones, flew non-stop, but the cast did take a second to address their upcoming fourth season and inspirations behind-the-scenes.
Silicon Valley typically premieres in April and follows Game of Thrones. When Judge brought up the fourth season April 2017 airdate, he was questioned by stars Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani, who thought next year's episodes may be delayed based on Game of Thrones premiering later than usual next year. It was previously confirmed by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss that the popular drama would move into HBO's summer block in order to have more time for filming winter scenes.
"Are we coming back in April?" Nanjiani asked. "I thought because of Game of Thrones..."
"Maybe we're not coming back in April," Judge said. "I don't know when we're coming back. But we are coming back for a fourth season."
The writing team just started working on the fourth season, too, according to Berg, and because of that, they didn't want to give too much insight into what they have planned. Judge added that whatever story the team stars with is usually not what it ends up with. To say that the show was definitely going to tackle something in the new season this early on didn't make any sense, he said.
"We start out with a plan, but if it starts going too well for the guys, we scrap it," Judge said. "Like Alec was saying earlier, it's more fun to watch these guys be uncomfortable and fail and be humiliated. We like to think of them as the Bad News Bears, and when they start to win, they just become bears."
"Are we coming back in April?"
Middleditch, who plays the CEO of Pied Piper, Richard Hendricks, said that his favorite moment in the most recent season was when his meek character tried to be assertive by delivering a rousing speech, only to literally fall flat on his face right after. Like Judge, he thinks there's something hilarious about watching the misfit crew try to succeed and inevitably fail time and time again.
"I really like the face plant," Middleditch said. "It's the purest of prat falls, but it's also kind of a metaphor for Richard and the guys. Every time they try to puff out their chests, they fall flat on their faces."
One of the most important lessons the guys learned this season was to pivot from one idea to the next in order to stay afloat and ahead. One of the major inspirations for that theme came from the story behind Stewart Butterfield's multi-billion dollar company, Slack. Slack, which started out as an in-house messaging tool for Butterfield and his team working on a game, eventually turned into one of the biggest communication tools for companies. (Full disclosure: Polygon and parent company Vox Media use Slack for day-to-day communication.)
The show even incorporated the company into one of its episodes this season, referencing it multiple times throughout. Middleditch said that since being on the show, the cast and crew have all paid more attention to what happens in Silicon Valley, and they've noticed just how many companies and CEOs pivot from product to product.
"I think that's a common thing in the tech industry," Middleditch said. "Where you start out to do one thing and end up doing something completely different."
As they've worked on the show, the entire cast admitted they've become much more well versed in the affairs of the world's biggest tech hub. When asked if they would ever work on their own app or platform, Nanjiani said he would, but there were a few things holding him back.
"The hard thing is that we're actors and not programmers," Nanjiani said. "The only barrier, really, is lack of interest, knowledge and skill."
"But aside from that," Middleditch added. "The world is our oyster."