Talk to anyone, and they’ll tell you that this is TV’s new Golden Age. Where storytelling is king, and so is experimenting with how far the creative envelope can be pushed. But if you talk to T.J. Miller, late of HBO’s Silicon Valley, one of the reasons he wanted off the show is that it was starting to feel like a typical TV where the same things happened over and over again.
“The only thing that you can talk down about the show and about Alec Berg, the showrunner for the first couple of years, is that it’s cyclical,” Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. “If they [the characters] fail, then they succeed. And then if they succeed, they fail. It’s over and over. That’s an old type of sitcom. That’s Seinfeld, where Alec Berg used to work. It’s recycling, it’s network.”
Referring to Silicon Valley (the place, not the show), HBO calls it a high-tech gold rush, where the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success. It’s that notion that Mike Judge (Office Space, Beavis & Butthead, King Of The Hill) tapped in to with this show. It focuses on Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), trying to bring his own company, Pied Piper, into the big time, and surrounding himself with people who don’t often seem up to the task. Miller is (or at least was until the end of Season 4) Erlich Bachman, who, as described by Wikipedia, is “a supremely confident and arrogant entrepreneur”, who, through his coding, owns 10% of Pied Piper. Hendricks eventually comes to recognize him as being invaluable to the company, despite his frequently being stoned or revealing that he no longer can code because of carpal tunnel syndrome. He nonetheless has remained Pied Piper's public face. In many ways, Bachman could be seen as fairly useless, and that’s definitely the view that Miller himself took.
“There’s no reason for him to be there,” he pointed out in the THR interview. “He’s conned his way into the whole situation. And so I thought it would be really interesting if suddenly they were able to rid themselves of him. If they had truly had enough of him, which is what they’re always saying, then why wouldn’t he just exit?”
Creatively, he thinks it will be interesting to put the other characters in the position of having to deal with Bachman’s departure. What will it mean for them? He added, “Where is that confidence in the show? Where is that blowhard that everybody needs? Who is able to be negging without Thomas Middleditch being, like, ‘I’ll kill you, you little slut!’?”
That idea actually made him laugh and fueled his decision to get off of the show: “It made me laugh really hard. That was the impetus behind walking. That’s sort of the impetus behind everything I do. It’s not about money...it’s certainly not about fame, which is destructing my relationships with my family. It’s about things that are interesting and funny. That’s what we need right now in a post-religious, post-meaning society.”
Ironically, the producers had come to him about reducing his number of episodes next season so that it would free him up to take other career possibilities that were coming his way. He countered that the best thing would be that he just leave, which was shocking to everyone and that, he believes, is why the “Internet broke” over the news that he was leaving a hit show. People tried to get him to change his mind; television has a long history of people leaving hit series and then finding it next to impossible to obtain solid, continuing work. His response?
“I’d like to parasail into the Cannes Film Festival for The Emoji Movie,because that’s the next new funny thing that will make people laugh.”
One way he will never make people laugh again is by playing Erlich Bachman, no matter how wide the producers left the door for his potential return. He’s simply not interested. He is, however, interested in more supporting roles in films (this year he’s got Goon: Last Of The Enforcers and The Emoji Movie, next year Ready Player One and Deadpool 2) and growing his standup comedy career.
“I’m not an actor; I’m a comedian,” Miller emphasized to THR. “And I don’t know how the f— I hoodwinked Hollywood into giving me a career in this. But I’m not sitting here saying, ‘I need more lines. I’m not funny enough.’ I’m… the guy that thinks all of this is sort of ridiculous. It was a joke. Leaving was a joke that I thought would be a good joke, because the show would grow and change. It seemed like a funny trick to play on everyone.”