what i watched last week
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.



Yeesh. I like Lee Pace just fine (Wonderfalls! Si!), but his sub-Don Draper glamourpuss sales guy here is just...dull. I made it through the first sales pitch, and who gives a rat's ass whether these middle aged white fucks understand the computer revolution. And oh yeah, he has sex with the hot blonde programmer before the credits! The sexual politics of this show are painfully off, perhaps even moreso than those of Silicon Valley, and that's an accomplishment. This show is so painfully amateurish.

And as a twenty year resident of Texas, I can assure you of this: You never see an armadillo in downtown Austin, and they do not end up in the grille of your car when you run them down, poor things. They are upside down by the side of the road. Always.

I stole this, as I do with all my TV, but it's been deleted from my hard drive because it was taking up space better devoted to the growing catalog of Cespedes throws.

Steven Rubio

I love that armadillos get run down so frequently in Texas that there is an established pattern to the leftovers of their demise.

What would a TV series be like if it was structured like a reel of Cespedes highlights? I'd tune in.

Steven Rubio

Signing in eight years after the original post to note that some years later I finally got around to watching the entire run of Halt and Catch Fire. It became one of my favorite shows, although as many people note, it's not until Season Two that they seemed to figure out what worked and what didn't.

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