Halt and Catch Fire Sex and Music Not Enough to Save This Show (Review)

Halt and Catch Fire Sex and Music Not Enough to Save This Show (Review)

With the runaway success of Mad Men, AMC must have thought that Halt and Catch Fire, another more recent “period piece” about three pioneers in the computer race, was the perfect show to fill that gap; but despite catchy music and a quantity of free sex, there is not enough nerd passion to save this show. The network should be applauded, however, for attempting to reach a different demographic. Regardless of how uninteresting the show ultimately is, they have tried to appeal to those who might have an interest in how the modern pc was born.

There are a few problems with any show set in the 1980s, it is too recent for a start and does not have the same air about it that the 1960s had. The three main characters, Lee Pace as the “salesman with a vague plan,” Joe MacMillan, Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark, the reluctant engineer and Mackenzie Davis as social-inept Cameron Howe who is a prodigy, according to the show, just do not excite.

This birth of the home computer story, or “David versus Goliath” as the tiny company take take on the giant IBM, may be fascinating for some. However, for those who were there in the 1980s when computers suddenly became a part of the workplace and grown men were purchasing Commodore 64s in an effort to learn computer programming, it does not seem all that exciting. The show itself, apart from its title, has no real fire in it to keep the audience coming back for more.

Halt and Catch Fire does have some great music, it would have to, the 80s had loads of great musical moments to choose from, so the soundtrack cannot be faulted. Joe MacMillan, uses sex almost as a weapon, certainly both times he has gotten “fired up” to have what feels like very physical and almost violent sex with both men and women, he seems to go on the attack rather than engage in a mutually enjoyable pastime.

Prodigy Cameron Howe uses MacMillan as much as he uses her for “relief,” but again there is such a dispassionate almost soulless feel to her and Joe’s interaction that it feels more like a form of mutual masturbation. The only time the audience have seen proof that engineer Gordon and his wife have gotten all lovey dovey was on Sunday’s episode where it looked like the two were going to get passionate in the kitchen. Otherwise the couple’s two children are the only example that they ever had sex.

It appears that the show about the Texas Silicon Prairie is upping the stakes in terms of angst and upcoming problems in order to enthrall the viewer. The preview of next week’s show looks to have Cameron undergoing some sort of panicky meltdown. MacMillan also seems to have a stressful time of things, he certainly did in Sunday’s show, but Joe always seems one step away from turning into a scary business version of a religious zealot.

This “edge” is just part of the problem with the show’s casting. All three of the leads are capable actors, but, Scoot McNairy looks as though he is close to a panic attack. Mackenzie Davis looks sullen when she isn’t looking dazed and as mentioned before Lee Pace appears to be a cross of angry and crazy, a sort of modern day Rasputin.

Halt and Catch Fire has, thus far, failed to ignite a real source of passion for the viewer. Bisexual sex and 1980s music does not a good show make and it will not be enough to save this one. Despite AMC wanting a more modern version of Mad Men it is not happening here. The sex and music in Mad Men worked so well because the 1960s were the years of cool. Frank Sinatra, with his rat pack of middle aged crooners and good time pallys set the tone and everyone else wanted to emulate the “Chairman of the Board.” It was also the time of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and the refinement of rock and roll, just to mention a few of the iconic things that were part of that time period. The computerised 1980s cannot compete, no matter how much violent sex is introduced. Sorry AMC you have missed the mark with this one.

By Michael Smith



20 Responses to "Halt and Catch Fire Sex and Music Not Enough to Save This Show (Review)"

  1. Brad Trebilcock   July 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Was always looking forward to the next episode. I think AMC did fine by this one.

  2. claire   July 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Did I miss something? When was Cameron outed as a 16-year old??? Thought she was 22… Anyway I liked the show. There is something intriguing about Joe and I now want to keep watching if only to find out how he really got those scars on his chest and stomach. (I sure don’t believe any of his stories and my guess is they were self-inflicted b/c he is a psycho…)

  3. Elaine   June 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Agree with you Scott–I lived through both eras and both were exciting. Mad Men captures more of the social upheaval that was happening in the late 50’s and the 60’s. I find it odd that very little of the actual tumult of the late 70’s is depicted as far as the development of a working computer language that shifted the paradigm from mainframe computer to PC. It was a lot about the software. Had they focused on that particular battle, and fleshed out some kind of plot that included the late 70’s, with realistic characters, I would tune in just like I did with Mad Men. Not too surprised, since the consultant they used was Wozniak.

  4. randallmckay   June 19, 2014 at 2:45 am

    Yeah it’s boring.

  5. Mark   June 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Watched the first episode today. Loved the characters. Hope to catch up on the other episodes soon.

  6. Jordan Tyler Barth   June 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Halt and Catch fire is one of the shows that hacks into my nerd persona. It is extremely riveting and keeps me waiting for more. The story is made fantastically well and shows a true representation of people with big dreams trying to take down large, wealthy, and oppressive corperal behemoths such as Texas Instruments, Microsoft, and IBM. Sex isn’t what makes a show, and if those are the largest points you can make about this show, then I’m sorry for you. You are caught up in the fast paced television shows of this generation in which you can’t appreciate a great technological period piece. All I can say I’d that AMC has brought another original series that shows true facts about the procedure of reverse engineering, DOS, and Corperal Oppression.

  7. Heath Ratliff   June 18, 2014 at 7:44 am

    I don’t think you were watching the same show I was. It is very engaging, especially the fascinating dichotomy of the behemoth old world style institutions the likes of Texas Instruments and IBM whose business models were patterned after the old industrial monopoly titans of the 18th and 19th century going to inordinate lengths to stay competitive against a rising tide of smaller companies whose ability to pivot and run in a new direction inevitably left them sitting with their thumbs in their posteriors wondering why nobody likes them anymore. And if that extremely long run on sentence didn’t give you enough fodder for a good flaming back at me, I also quite like the portrayal of each of the key players on the field of battle. Your summary dismissal of them for not being from the same cookie cutter as Mad Men is about as valid as deriding them for not being animated into the scenes using a 1960s Japanese animation style. The characters are a collection of very unique people who are inevitably a product of their time and place. Next time I’m sure you’ll criticize them for not putting in more zombies from The Walking Dead, or more trains from Hell on Wheels.

  8. Scott   June 18, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Having lived through the “Madmen” and “Catch Fire” eras and having been professionally involved in both industries, I’d pick “Madmen” as the quintessential story of an era and its most glamorous industry while “Catch Fire” is a one dimensional depiction of greed, lust and the need to run over small animals. The personal and professional problems of the characters in “Madmen” ring completely true – been there, done that – while I can only hope that the Gordon Gecko-ish Joe MacMillan is incarcerated for near rape of a minor as Cameron Howe is outed as a sixteen year old.

  9. Mark   June 18, 2014 at 2:36 am

    I have mixed feelings about the show and even to me, there is nothing about this “review” that feels rational or objective. What happened? Nerd got your girlfriend?
    Maybe you should stick to writing celeb trash pieces about Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians.
    Also “bisexual sex”? Really?

  10. Pete Martinez   June 18, 2014 at 12:39 am

    This is a great show, go back to watching the big bang theory.

  11. Cindy Hawley   June 17, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I think you may need to have actually witnessed the computer era. I love this show. Brings back some fond memories of desktop and laptop history

  12. M   June 17, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    You’re obviously a loser who likes shi**y shows like Glee and Bones. This series is going to be another slam dunk like Breaking Bad…

  13. Neil S   June 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    What planet are you living on ??? This show is awesome and has a lot more that Gen X can relate too compared to Mad Men. Lee Pace delivers an awesome performance. Just look at the ratings and other reviews online.

  14. jae   June 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    really love the show, and the third episode was totally unexpected but i loved it 😉 keep it up!

  15. Wesley Pratt   June 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    The gay scene was it for me. No reason for that scene. Good program until then. Sick perverts ruin another good show.

  16. Allison   June 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I love this show too! Been a fan of Lee for a while.

  17. That Guy   June 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

    This is a great show. I can’t wait for Sunday nights.

  18. roxie   June 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

    I’m so glad that’s your opinion and not everyone else that show is great

  19. Gigi   June 17, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I love this show including the story line and the characters.

  20. RC Mann   June 17, 2014 at 8:38 am

    And I thought it was just me!


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