what i watched last week
by request: blackfish (gabriela cowperthwaite, 2013)

halt and catch fire, series premiere

I like the premise of this new AMC series: early-80s, personal computers. I like the star, Lee Pace. I gave it a shot, and for once, I’m in the same boat as the “real” TV critics, who only received one review episode (the pilot) in advance. (Normally, especially with new series, critics will get multiple episodes so they can better evaluate the direction of the series.)

(It’s mostly off topic, but I had the opportunity to get into the advance-copy world some years ago. A company contacted me and said they were looking for bloggers who could help them promote product. They sent me a pilot of a series that I have since forgotten, and asked me to review it on my blog. I watched it, didn’t care for it, wrote about it, and told the company I didn’t really need advance episodes just so I could feel “in the know”.)

Based on the pilot, Halt and Catch Fire is going to be about visionaries, yes, but since Pace is more a business visionary than a computer geek, it’s not quite what I expected. (Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis play the geeks.) To stretch things a bit, Halt and Catch Fire is about Steve Jobs more than it’s about Steve Wozniak, and I’d probably prefer a show about the latter. But what really matters is the quality of the show … I wouldn’t have thought I’d find the story of an ad man to be all that exciting before I saw the first episode of Mad Men. If creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers (they don’t have much of a track record I am familiar with) can maintain the quality and interest of the pilot, Lee Pace can take care of the rest.

But it’s hard to tell after just one episode. Scoot McNairy gets the most “private life” scenes, so we know him a bit better, which is OK, there’s nothing wrong and plenty good about a lead character who has some mystery. Mackenzie Davis is a young programmer with lots of chops and lots of attitude, a bit like Chloe Bennet’s character on Agents of SHIELD, if Bennet was 5’10” and had a blond pixie cut. All of these characters could flourish or die on the vine, so outside of saying the pilot is good enough that I’ll be back for Episode Two, I can’t make any predictions. If the show fails, I can always binge watch Rubicon. Grade for pilot: Incomplete.