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Tesla is on HBO's Silicon Valley, but It Comes With Much Criticism

Tesla automobiles have been showing up on a number of TV series. With this exposure comes much criticism of product placement. The fact is HBO's Silicon Valley mined some great humor from a story line involving a Tesla
Posted: May 21, 2018 - 11:18AM
Author: John Falk

Electric cars in have been appearing in some TV series, most notably HBO's Silicon Valley. The comedy series follows 5 guys who founded a startup company in Silicon Valley. In a season 5 story arc one of the characters, Dinesh Chugtai buys a Tesla model S. His rivalry with a fellow co-worker Bertram Guilifoyle, sets the stage for some great comedy. Dinesh brags about his Tesla but insists he is not part of the green revolution. For him the car is an investment. Bertram who drives a vintage 80's Volvo wagon wants a better parking spot an electric car affords. Bertram skewers Dinesh by questioning him on the financial wisdom of buying the car. Bertram purchases a broken down 3 wheeled electric vehicle that looks like it is being held together with bubble gum and bailing wire.

The fight begins.

On the way to work Bertram and Dinesh find themselves at a stoplight together. Dinesh belittles his vehicle calling it a bicycle. Bertram states he can ride in the bike lane and takes off. Dinesh activates the Tesla's ludicrous mode and takes off like a bat out of hell. It is so unexpected that it throws Dinesh back in the seat and eventually he rear ends a garbage truck. As he arrives at work with his bashed bumper, he is one upped by Bertram who is parked in the prime spot. Dinesh eventually gets his parking space bumped up to the 5th floor of the parking garage. This story line illustrates the superiority electric car owners feel they have over the average plebeian driving an 80's Volvo.

The Backlash.

Many on social media criticized the show for using Tesla as a plot point. Are the writers using the car as product placement? It it Tesla fanboy bashing as some have suggested? I think it is simply using an appropriate high tech prop to get some genuinely good laughs that say a lot about these characters and their motives. Not everyone who owns a Tesla does so for status reasons. The car has a value proposition and Tesla owners love their cars.

The Tesla Roadster was featured on an episode of Fox TV show, The Mick. It was a very funny bit where Mackenzie, one of the main characters is trying to make a getaway. After jumping in the car to flee, the battery dies halfway down the block. Very astute I say to use a Tesla Roadster this way. The comedy show Modern Family took heat for a story line in which Phil and Claire buy their daughter a Toyota. With Phil and his father in law clearly at a Toyota dealer buying the car, many thought it was product placement. The fact is people drive Toyota's.

Other electric cars featured in the media.

People are funny. We are fiercely dedicated to our cars. On my Volt face book page, owners are excited to point out that a Volt was featured in an episode of 911 on Fox. I couldn't help noticing a character on Grey's Anatomy driving a Chevy Volt. The placement of automobiles and specifically electric cars is a novel thing. Because the electric car market is so small, seeing one on TV is fun. Seeing any other car is far from a novelty. Seeing an electric car sighting is.

As for the Tesla story line depicted in HBO's Silicon Valley Elon Musk had something to say about it. Actor T.J. Miller met Elon at a screening of the shows 5th season. When asked if he thought the show was funny Musk said, "yeah it was funny. I was laughing". In the end Musk found some of the satire not entirely accurate. The shows portrayal of Silicon Valley culture is not entirely correct but he appreciated the satire involving his Tesla.


Phil (not verified)    May 21, 2018 - 12:47PM

He drives his Tesla insane mode (not ludicrous) in that scene but the rims, grill and side sensors state it's a newer model than a P85. The actual car he is driving can be any newer model and a separate car when he pushes insane mode.

Dennis (not verified)    May 21, 2018 - 4:30PM

I saw a Tesla Model X on the Real Housewives show last week (I don't watch it the wife does. The lady didn't know how to lock the doors.