What Every Sitcom Needs To Learn From T.J. Miller Leaving 'Silicon Valley'
Pied Piper is about to go through a major shake-up. Silicon Valley's fourth season will be the last for breakthrough cast member T. J. Miller, and his oafish venture capitalist Erlich Bachman. Erlich started the series as a confident and bold leader, but seems to have lost everything by the end of Season 4. And he's about to make his exit from the whole Silicon Valley universe. While losing the man who houses Pied Piper in his incubator will leave a hole in the series, allowing actor T. J. Miller to go his own way may not a bad thing for the show. Other comedies can learn from T.J. Miller's exit by having a willingness to let go of characters when they no longer serve the function they once did.
Putting together a compelling character is no easy feat. It takes a lot of work from a lot of professionals to create a fictional person. Lines are written, actors are auditioned and cast, performances are honed over the course of multiple rehearsals, wardrobes are assembled, entire fake rooms and fake houses are constructed and decorated for the sole purpose of making one fake person seem real. That's a lot of investment to let go of, but Silicon Valley is showing other comedies that being open to letting go of characters can help keep things interesting as time goes on.
As Silicon Valley has pushed forward, the story has moved away from Bachman's efforts to make a quick buck. What began as a broad satire of the tech industry has become the story of how far one man will go to change the world in his own name. While that lofty goal sounds fitting of Erlich, it's actually Richard Hendricks who is willing to skirt the rules and break the law in the quest to get his name out there. With Bachman not being directly involved in the ongoing of Pied Piper anymore, he simply doesn't contribute to the central story of the show anymore.
But instead of re-inventing the role or trying to shoehorn the character in, Silicon Valley and T. J. Miller are separating. It seems to be for the best for both. Miller admitted in a interview with Entertainment Weekly, "I have a renewed vigor. I’ve got projects that I can allot more time or give more time to. But it is a little heartbreaking because I know that’s it [for Erlich Bachman]." By being able to have Bachman leave at his peak instead of stretching the character out, Silicon Valley is also teaching a valuable lesson about not holding onto stories that are in danger of being entirely played out.
Any television series is going to outgrow characters at a certain point. As shows like Parks And Recreation and The Office went on and matured, some characters (in my opinion: Anne Perkins and Ryan Howard, respectively) stay well past their lifespan and are forced to the sidelines and seem to fade out from the action altogether. What was once a fun, interesting character becomes an afterthought for the writers and a disappointment to fans of the series.
Silicon Valley is showing that having trouble keeping a character relevant is not an obstacle, but an opportunity. It's not only an opportunity for the actor to explore other creative ventures, but a chance for the show to celebrate and retire the character instead of letting them fade away. Silicon Valley is doing right by the character, as Erlich would always choose to burn out brightly than just fade away.