The Emmys Forgot 'Silicon Valley' is 100% Set Design

Nominate the tiki torches.

Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown

Thomas Middleditch, who received an Emmy nomination this morning for his role as Richard Hendricks on Silicon Valley, gave his best performance of the year opposite Tina Fey in an American Express commercial. Her Bichon Frise spreads coccidia all over grocery checkout counter; he pulls a face. This is not to say that Middleditch is a bad actor. He isn’t. But nominating him for his work on Mike Judge’s anti-VC jeremiad is a little like honoring a YouTube personality for bringing gravitas to an unboxing video. Middleditch doesn’t play a fleshed-out, human character. He just reacts to plot.

Apparently the Emmy voters think the Book of Job is about Job. It isn’t. It’s about God (Mike Judge is God in this metaphor). Job is just some fucking guy.

There’s no sense in getting worked up about the Emmys because they are the Emmys. But if one was to get worked up about an award show for people who talk about doing “better work” over heavy-on-the-kale brunches, one might conclude that Middleditch’s nomination is in keeping with wrongheaded mentality about performances. Does Middleditch do good work on Silicon Valley? Absolutely. Is he a talented actor? Seems like. But there’s nothing internal about his presentation of Hendricks. In the same way that people doing the hokey pokey aren’t dancing, Middleditch isn’t acting.

Yes, that’s a bit glib and unfair, but you get the point. Silicon Valley is a purposefully shallow show. That’s what’s good about it. Those fucking horses aside, no one should be honored for acting on it. However, shallowness isn’t easy to achieve. The show does an amazing job walking a line between vérité and crudités. The party scenes in particular have an uncanny quality to them.

It is right and just and good that the Emmy voters have chosen to nominate Richard Toyon, Oana Bogdan, and Jennifer Mueller — the show’s Production Designer, Art Director, and Set Director respectively — for a gold lady with electric wings and a beach ball. The Alcatraz tiki party scene that rightfully garnered the nod was a triumph of bad taste and well-planned failure. The set they built was stupid and funny, which is what Silicon Valley is at it’s best. They deserve to be honored for doing the same thing Middleditch did, failing to achieve any depth at all.