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June 4, 2014

HBO's Silicon Valley finds fans in tech

Mockumentary poking fun at high tech coming back for second season

(Continued)

"We don't fit into normal social circles, you know what I mean? What we do is clearly done by a self-selecting group of people who like to sit in dark rooms and write code and make the world a better place," he said.

Much of the show is tied to reality.

A socially awkward coder, played by Thomas Middleditch, turns down a $10 million acquisition offer and instead takes $200,000 in seed money to launch his own disruptive startup file compressor service. Then he vomits.

While there was no public angst when CEOs at firms including Snapchat, Fire Eye and Groupon turned down more than $1 billion offers in recent years, it's reasonable to suspect someone's stomach was turning. "That was such a send up on what happens when big guys start bidding, really inside baseball," said Schuler.

Former stand-up comic Middleditch, who's getting his big break on the show, says he had plenty of inner geek to pull off an authentic introverted Richard, a brilliant, panic-attack prone coder.

"There isn't a huge difference between me and the character," said the Canadian native. "I'm like normally nowadays a pretty chill guy but I've definitely had my bouts of not being the coolest kid on the block, not being able to talk to certain people, into various nerdy things."

An avid gamer, Middleditch says it's gratifying to be appreciated in the birthplace of Google, Apple and Facebook. "As much as we want to appeal to everyone, I think we would consider it a fail if we alienated Silicon Valley," he said.

Not at all. About 1.7 million viewers tune in each week, according to Nielsen ratings, many from the innovative and wealthy center of tech.

"I have this interesting love-hate relationship with the show, because I watch television to escape from my everyday life, and this is like watching my everyday life," but it's slightly over the top. And I do say slightly," said Jen Donahoe, who works at Mountain View, California, messaging app firm Tango. "We are ridiculous here. We are throwing crazy money at 20-somethings because they can write code. But these guys are big kids. They're brilliant and geniuses but they play foosball and make fart jokes."

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