Why T.J. Miller Left ‘Silicon Valley’ May Have Been About More Than Scheduling
We've known since May that this season was our last with Erlich Bachman, but why T.J. Miller left Silicon Valley really fills out the picture. The show's Season 4 finale aired on Sunday night and revealed the fate of the Erlich Bachman: he'll be spending the next five years in an opium den in Tibet. It's a bizarre yet fitting fate for the software designer, but fans want to know the real-life reason for his departure. The short version is reportedly scheduling; when Miller was offered a reduced contract committing him to just three or five episodes, he claims that he elected to end things on his own terms. The alternative would have been splitting his focus between multiple projects, and the 36-year old says he didn't want to do that. But the long answer is, as always, a bit more complicated.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the end of his time on the HBO show, Miller alluded to some alleged behind-the-scenes tensions that may have contributed to his exit. At the time of his departure, HBO stated that they had "mutually agreed that T.J. will not return for Season 5. In Erlich Bachman, T.J. has brought life to an unforgettable character, and while his presence on the show will be missed, we appreciate his contribution and look forward to future collaborations."
But now Miller compares the parting to a break-up and has a whole range of emotions about his former partner:
"It felt like a breakup with HBO. The final phone call was them going like, ‘Well, I don’t think this is the end of Erlich. I still want to see him on television,’ and I was like, ‘I know but I think this is for the best.’"
The breakup metaphor feels particular apt here, because both sides allegedly want different things. The network reportedly wanted to find a way to patch things up and move forward, resolving their differences, but Miller needed a clear break. Maybe you've had the same conversation with a partner yourself, when they wanted to go straight to being friends and you just weren't ready. And maybe you've also had conflicting feelings about a recently-ended relationship.
It can be tough to reconcile the overlapping positives and negatives, and, based on what he told THR, some of the alleged negatives of Miller's time on Silicon Valley still stand out:
"I think that HBO and [executive producer] Alec Berg, specifically, kind of thought — and I guess apparently Thomas Middleditch — I guess they thought, 'Alright, maybe this is the end of the character. But like everything in the show, we’ll sort of solve this and then it’s back to normal.' And they just didn’t imagine that I would be in a position of being like, 'I think that’s it.'"
That sounds fairly standard for a departure like this one, but Miller goes further, implying that he felt reported animosity between himself and his former boss:
"I don’t know how smart [Alec] is. He went to Harvard, and we all know those kids are f*cking idiots. That Crimson trash. Those comedy writers in Hollywood are f*cking Harvard graduates and that’s why they’re smug as a bug."
It's a harsh criticism from the actor, but, in the very next sentences, he changes his tone. The relationship he describes isn't tenable for him going forward, and his claim is that that's why he cut ties. But he says there is a silver lining, that the benefits of the relationship he alleges between himself and Berg is evident in the material:
"I think that in television you usually have one element that is very challenging, very frustrating. It’s an obstacle, right? So you’re doing the best work that you can do. Alec was that for me, and I think I was that for Alec. And a very good article was written that says that Erlich in the show is just this constant annoyance to Richard. …And I think in some ways, that is analogous to real life."
Bustle has reached out to executive producer Alec Berg for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. HBO declined to respond to the new interview. Even though the split is still fresh, the comedian is already getting some perspective about what did and didn't work for him about his time on Silicon Valley. It's the kind of introspection that's crucial in situations like this one, and Miller's readiness to evaluate the experience is actually a good sign.
It's impossible to know what really went on without hearing from all involved, but the comedian's passion is promising. It means he's processing what went on and taking care of himself, which are productive steps in any breakup whether personal or professional.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its original version.