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J.A.A. Purves

Halt & Catch Fire

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Lee Pace to Topline AMC Pilot 'Halt & Catch Fire':

Set in the early 1980s, Halt & Catch Fire dramatizes the personal computing boom through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas’ Silicon Prairie. Pace will play the visionary, the confident and powerful Joe MacMillan. Once a superstar salesman at IBM, MacMillan recently departed under mysterious circumstances only to resurface at a Dallas tech company. Davis plays the prodigy, Cameron Howe, a talented but volatile computer programming graduate student whose aggressive exterior has everything to do with protecting a vulnerability underneath. AMC Studios is producing the pilot, with Johnson and Melissa Bernstein executive producing.

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Unless you really can't get enough Lee Pace in your life, you're better off just watching Computer Chess again.

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Unless you really can't get enough Lee Pace in your life, you're better off just watching Computer Chess again.

My thoughts as well.

 

Halt and Catch Fire has a great title and a slick look, but, alas, not much else.

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Casting trivia: Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe play a married couple on the show. They also played a married couple in Argo.

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I'm kind of caught up in this after three episodes, but it probably helps that I don't know too much about computer programming or Texas.

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Casting trivia: Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe play a married couple on the show. They also played a married couple in Argo.

 

Saw the pilot last night.  So THAT's where I saw them!!!

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Halt and Catch Fire has a great title and a slick look, but, alas, not much else.

 

Because I'm in the mood for more period dramas, I decided to give the pilot a shot. Slick look is right--I'm almost tempted to stick with the show based on that alone, coupled with its soundtrack. Mackenzie Davis is lots of fun, and Scoot McNairy is fine--but Pace's Joe MacMillan plays a bit too much like a low-rent Don Draper (in the first episode, at least).Which isn't to say Pace doesn't entertain in the role (nor is it to say that "What if Don Draper worked computers in the Eighties" isn't a valid enough concept). Still, if pressed, I'd go back a couple of decades and stick with Masters of Sex (were it not for the fact that Halt and Catch Fire is on Netflix and Masters isn't).

 

[i don't necessarily think that Mad Men is the be-all of period television, but when a series--from the same network, no less!--opens with a text explaining its title as a technical term used in the business...well, it's practically begging for the comparison]

Edited by NBooth

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I was assigned to review the first season of this on Blu-ray, and I've been struggling with my review for the past few days. It looks (and sounds) great in high def., but the show feels like an attempted clone of a better product. 

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Yeah, it never really finds a groove. Honestly, Nathanael, it's not worth your time.

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I second that. It is a very poorly written, paced, and conceived show. A shame, really, as they often almost hit a nice groove with the setting and mood. It's a story that needs to be told well, with all the pop-cultural trappings in the background.

 

The last few episodes of the first season, though, are even bad. Lee Pace's character in particular is so badly written that his character arc ends up not making any sense at all.

Edited by M. Leary

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After spending several episodes trying to nail down some fundamental personality traits for the characters, the show abandons them over and over just to create dramatic tension. Kerry Bishé's Donna seems to weather the bad writing the best (she's the only character I genuinely liked). It's too bad she also has one of the most ill-advised subplots in the show. Ugh ugh ugh.

 

But man, the aesthetic and soundtrack are killer. Plus, there are a few moments where the show taps into the mood of the era perfectly. I realize it's unrealistic to hope for a complete overhaul for season 2. Still, I'm hoping they can at least make the show consistent in its mediocrity.

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Hm. This season is actually good. It is (so far) a well paced, thinly disguised history of the earliest internet providers, MUDs, IRCs, etc... And the tone is still working really well.

Edited by M. Leary

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Hm. This season is actually good. It is (so far) a well paced, thinly disguised history of the earliest internet providers, MUDs, IRCs, etc... And the tone is still working really well.

Hm. Whaddya know.

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Hm. This season is actually good. It is (so far) a well paced, thinly disguised history of the earliest internet providers, MUDs, IRCs, etc... And the tone is still working really well.

 

Yeah, from what I've read season two is trying to fix all of the (big, many) problems of season one and actually succeeding. Which makes me excited to watch this, eventually.

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Jen Chaney at Vulture says that season three is "Still a Very Good Period Piece in Season Three":

Halt and Catch Fire absolutely earns its should-watch status, though, for several reasons. One is its cast: The principals, as always, are uniformly solid, as are this season’s newcomers, Annabeth Gish as savvy Mutiny investor Diane Gould and Manish Dayal as Ryan, a promising developer. Like The Americans, another basic cable series set in the '80s, Halt and Catch Fire practices respectable levels of restraint, both in its approach to storytelling and the way it effectively evokes its era without resorting to heavy-handed use of Miami Vice pastels or excessive references to Max Headroom. (The music choices in season three, where it’s now the spring of 1986, are terrific, with David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners” acting as a particularly spot-on standout.) But the greatest pleasures of Halt and Catch Fire can be found in the dramatic irony inherent to its narrative. As the characters slowly continue to discover the possibilities of a still-young internet, we are able to watch with 21st-century 20/20 hindsight, knowing they’re a few breaths away from transforming society — or, if you’re an analog purist, bringing about its downfall — even though they don’t realize it.

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