‘Silicon Valley’ fills Peter Gregory’s big shoes in season 2

The first season of HBO's “Silicon Valley” offered abundant comic delights, culminating in perhaps the most highbrow dick joke ever told. Almost everything that made the show a treat a year ago is present for the new season, which debuts Sunday night at 10, after “Game of Thrones” and before the terrific new season of “Veep.” It's a pleasure to have the whole Pied Piper team back, and there's a montage in the season premiere featuring Thomas Middleditch's Richard and T.J. Miller's Erlich Bachman(*) visiting a bunch of venture capital firms is a wonder of uncomfortable comedy and clever crudeness.

(*) “Erlich Bachman” is such a pleasingly goofy collection of syllables that he becomes one of those TV characters who can only be referred to by his full name. See also Will Tippin, Raylan Givens, Finn Polmar and Jordan Catalano, among others.

The one element the new season sadly lacks is Peter Gregory, the eccentric tech billionaire played by Christopher Evan Welch, who died after appearing in the series' first five episodes. Welch's performance was specific, strange, empathetic and absolutely wonderful (here's Peter Gregory discussing sesame seeds), and his death deprived the show of its most vivid character.

Welch left a void big enough that Mike Judge, Alec Berg and company wisely don't try to fill with just one actor. Instead, the new season (I've seen the first three episodes) essentially splits the role in two, with Suzanne Cryer as a socially awkward woman who takes over management of Peter's company after his unfortunate demise(**), and Chris Diamantopoulos as a dude-bro who made his fortune several Silicon Valley generations ago (“I put radio on the internet!” he boasts, frequently) and sees Pied Piper as a new opportunity for relevance.

(**) And it's impressive how the show manages to explain Peter's absence in a way that's simultaneously respectful of Welch's passing and completely ridiculous.

Cryer's not doing a Welch impression, but the two characters have enough tics in common that Peter somehow still feels present on the show. (She also helps alleviate the show's gender balance issues, as well as giving Amanda Crew's Monica more things to do in response to her.) Diamantopoulos, meanwhile, offers a very different kind of sugar daddy to baffle Richard and the others. It's a much bigger, broader performance than anything the show's had before, but the character also feels specific to this world, and I suspect the creative team is smart enough to use him properly – particularly since the new season leans even more on supporting players like Kumail Nanjiani as the perennially-frustrated Dinesh and Zach Woods as nerd-even-among-nerds Jared.

Welch is unquestionably a big loss. But “Silicon Valley” was able to work around his absence late in its first season, and it's clear by now that the show can function without him, even though I will miss every one of those unexpected pauses at mid-sentence.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com