Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TV Review: Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Matt Bellamy here. AMC has made available the first episode in their latest original series, 'Halt and Catch Fire', ahead of its June 1st premiere date, and I have seen it! How does it stack up against other AMC greats such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Killing? Let's find out.

'Halt and Catch Fire' tells a fictionalized, and dramatized story set in 1983 centred around a group of computer programmers attempting to reverse engineer an IBM computer. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Well, aside from being quite illegal, it could also be potentially extremely beneficial in a number of ways--financially, and technologically.

Our three main leads are Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). Joe, an ex-IBM employee who has been AWOL from the company for nearly a year, shows up at a tech company based out of Texas with some grand ideas (schemes?) in mind. Based off the first episode, it's not entirely clear yet as to why exactly he wishes to reverse engineer an IBM computer although there are some intriguing hints as to what he has in mind down the road. In order to make this venture a possible success, he enlists the aid of brilliant software engineer Gordon, who has his fair share of personal drama on the home front; a wife and kids he's feeling distant from due to his alcoholism, and a mortgage he's falling behind on. When Joe smoothly convinces Gordon that this is exactly what he needs in his life right now, something exciting with the possibility to change the world, it's too tempting an offer to turn down although he does initially exhibit hesitation. Cameron is a young woman who is apparently a genius when it comes to coding, and basically everything in the world of computers. Her character is who I have the most problems with so far.

Cameron Howe is, I think, one of those characters that TV executives just love--she's smart, sassy, and has attitude to last for days! She's much younger than the other characters, is not professional (in the professional sense), hangs out in arcades, and picks fights with the local bar patrons because she's a tough chick who doesn't take crap, and sports a Cyndi Lauper haircut! She's always jamming to some sort of popular tune on her walkman as well--this is the 80's after all. We're told that she is a prodigy although we're not shown any of that, she's merely thrust upon us in the first episode so, for now, I'm not sold on what she has to offer however this is merely the first episode so we'll see what happens.

The period details of the show seem convincing enough although we are beaten over the head a few times that it is, in fact 1983. Gordon's kids play around on a Speak and Spell, he takes his family to go see Return of the Jedi, and there are numerous bits of period specific songs thrown in just because. Again though, this is the first episode so I understand why it's necessary to grab you in that sense, and make you understand that you're watching a program firmly set within a specific period. I imagine it'll settle down in the next instalment of its 10-episode run.

My gripes are minor, overall I did find myself enjoying this show, and most importantly, I am very intrigued by what lies down the road. The characters, for the most part, seem well realized, and the acting is quite good. Based on the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire, I give it a Good!

The first episode is available to watch for free right now on VOD, and Tumblr. It premieres on AMC June 1st.
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