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A Halt and Catch Fire Community
Sunday 10:00 PM on AMC

Forget what that antiquated Garfield calendar says, summer is HERE. Almost all of the broadcast finales have wheezed across the finish line of the season (someone get Hannibal some oxygen!), and it's time for cable to strut its stuff. While the next few months will bring all kinds of new shows, AMC isn't waiting to debut one of the more intriguing offerings in its portfolio, the computer-revolution drama Halt and Catch Fire. But the network's track record has been spotty as of late ("stay tuned for Low Winter Sun" still haunts my memories of Breaking Bad), so nothing is guaranteed. I've seen the first episode for Halt and Catch Fire, and I'm here to help you determine whether it's the right kind of show for you in another edition of Is This Show Lame or What?!


Halt and Catch Fire, so this is a fire safety video? Shouldn't it be Catch Fire, Halt, Drop, and Roll

No, dummy! The term "halt and catch fire," as the show will tell you right away, is an old computer command in which competing instructions vie for control all at once, forcing the machine to cease any meaningful function, kind of like a self-destruct button. It's an apt (if not entirely compelling) title for this drama about a visionary, an engineer, and a prodigy who team up to work on a new personal computer and build the future during the computer boom of the 1980s. Joe MacMillan is an arrogant salesman who wants to push into new territory; Gordon Clark is a washed-up engineer whose life has been weighed down by marriage and family; and Cameron Howe is a punkish prodigy who spends more time playing Centipede than using her skills to improve the tech world. With IBM breathing down their necks, personal risks straining their patience, and a whole lot of diodes and microchips scattered all over the place, they'll either realize their vision or burn the whole place to the ground.


Whose show is this, and who stars in it?

Halt and Catch Fire was created by Christopher Cantwell and Chris Rogers, two writers with few credits. Mark Johnson, who executive-produced Breaking Bad and SundanceTV's Rectify, is an EP. The biggest draw is Lee Pace, who gets his first meaty television role since he played a pie-maker with a deadly touch in Pushing DaisiesScoot McNairy (Argo), Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment), Kerry Bishé (Scrubs), and Toby Huss (voice work on King of the Hill and The Venture Bros., lots of small live-action parts on shows like Reno 911! and The Adventures of Pete and Pete) round out the cast. It's basically The Lee Pace Show.



When does Halt and Catch Fire boot up?

Halt and Catch Fire premieres Sunday, June 1 at 10pm on AMC.  


Who might enjoy Halt and Catch Fire?

The show will obviously catch the eye of anyone in the tech industry, and it doesn't dumb down its computer-speak all that much, so computer geeks can tune in without fear. But it's really a tale of trying to shake up the status quo and risking everything for money, fame, and passion, so anyone who likes that kind of story should enjoy it. 


What's on fire about Halt and Catch Fire?

The story is primed to yield some serious drama, chiefly between the three members of the team as they deal with infighting and external pressures. Lee Pace is very good, but the most impressive turns come from a trio of lesser-knowns. Scoot McNairy is bound to draw some attention for his performance as Gordon, Kerry Bishé brings earnestness to her role as Gordon's wife Donna, and Toby Huss is a wound-up ball of fury as Joe's boss. Based on one visually gripping scene in the pilot, every technical hack-job scene is going to be a treat, though the overall cinematography is nothing special. And the soundtrack, which is largely comprised of synth-heavy beeps and boops mixed with the '80s version of electroclash, is super good, as is the opening credit sequence, which is already one of my favorites of the year.  



What isn't so great about Halt and Catch Fire?

By the end of the pilot, I definitely wanted to watch more, but getting there involved some major bugs. It mostly focuses on convincing the team to get together, even though we all know the team will get together, and the initial conflict is manufactured by some odd character behavior from just about everyone. It's not entirely engaging; on a casual watch, I turned it off after about five minutes. But once I was settled and ready, I got over the hump, and the story starts to take off about halfway through. 


So, should I watch it?

AMC hasn't debuted a must-watch program since Breaking Bad, so Halt and Catch Fire may be a case of wait-and-see. However, it's definitely the network's best new show in a while, so you won't be wasting your time by trying it out. If it sounds like something you'll be interested in, have a look. If it doesn't, it wouldn't be dumb to hold off for a few episodes to find out whether it generates any buzz. 


Let's take a look at a trailer!

Here you go!




Halt and Catch Fire premieres Sunday, June 1 at 10pm on AMC.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/2/2015

Season 2 : Episode 10

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I watched my husband program computers for years, even build them... i can vouch for the fact that unless you like to see a man staring at a computer screen and swearing, it is not fun. :) He began back when they used ibm cards, that may have been a LITTLE more interesting, but doubtful.
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I'm waiting for HELL ON WHEELS!!!!
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I gave up about halfway thru the pilot. Lee Pace is great, but I find computers boring and the people who program computers boring, so he needed to be a more likeable character to keep my interest.
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I checked out the first episode because of Lee Pace. It was interesting and I'll probably watch it while doing other stuff but I was a huge fan of Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies and its not like them at all (of course). But that's the Lee Pace I love :)
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So are they taking suggestions for episodes? If so, is there any chance they could do one where they reverse engineer the capacity to edit our comments on this site? That would be worth a 'season-pass' on the DVR. Just saying.
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I saw its pilot online. It wasn't bad. It reminded me of Steve Woz and Steve Jobs with Apple.
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Errrr no, they ripped off complety different people :P
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The general history is interesting, but not that dramatic.
The IBM PC was built quickly, using off-the-shelf components provided by other companies. The only part of the PC that was proprietary to IBM was the system BIOS. Potential cloners knew that they couldn't just copy the BIOS code, because that had been litigated already in Franklin v. Apple (Franklin computers were clones of the Apple II line, with a BIOS chip that was an exact copy of the Apple II's. Franklin argued that it wasn't copyrightable because it's functional*. They lost.)
Anyways, it was flatly obvious that if you could reverse-engineer the BIOS, you could build a clone easily and cheaply, and sell it for far less than IBM charged. To copy the BIOS legally, you needed two teams of engineers. One took the original code and documented all the inputs and the related outputs. The other wrote a program that took the inputs and produced the exact same outputs. Because that second group of programmers didn't include anyone who had the original program, what they developed had to be original and not a copy, even if the resulting code was the same.
IBM realized that the non-proprietary nature of the PC meant that clones were possible, and clones would be cheaper to buy, and thus IBM might lose control of the PC business. So they developed the "PS/2". Lots of things were different. The video was better, a mouse became standard equipment, floppy disks switched from 5.25" to 3.5", and the expansion bus was different. It was better, but it also was patented... cloners would have to pay IBM to use the patents if they wanted to make PS/2 compatibles. A few did (I remember Tandy offering a PS/2 compatible). The industry as a whole, however, decided that PS/2 compatibility was not important; they'd rather have cheaper computers compatible with the old PC than PS/2. IBM had lost control of the market, just six years after their decision to launch a product legitimized the industry for business.
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Agreed, showing a team developing software probably isn't very entertaining TV. However, the show does seem very capable of presenting interesting, believable characters and their stories, which hopefully will carry a large enough audience.

Also, a point of clarification to your summary. The PS/2 came along very late in the game, after the clone market had built up 5 years of inertia. It was as a leaf in an turbulent ocean. Even shipping with a 3.5" floppy and mouse wasn't really new. The Apple Macintosh started that some 3 years earlier.
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The original PC came out in 1981 (want to know if you're looking at a real first-generation PC? Look for the cassette port next to the keyboard port). It was followed by the PC/XT and the PC/AT. The PS/2 came out in 1987. It was "late in the game" in the sense that the PS/2 model 80 was IBM's first 386, and Compaq beat them to market with the Deskpro 386.
The clone market wasn't 5 years old when the PS/2 came out. The entire "PC Compatible" field was only 6.

The PS/2 was the first PC compatible to include a mouse as part of the system. Yes, Macs had already, and so did Amigas, but PC's did not... until the PS/2.

Personally, I think the pre-IBM microcomputer era was more interesting.
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I meant "late" in that by the time the PS/2 came out, the clones were well-established, and IBM had little chance of regaining "control" (as you described it) or domination of the PC/compatible market.

I omitted a brief timeline that I thought made my previous comment too long. I calculated 1982 (very first clones) to 1987 to add up to 5 years, though if we trust Wikipedia's months, it was only 4.8 years.

Maybe my Texas perspective gives me a distorted view, but by the time the PS/2 came out, the non-IBM PCs were a robust, growing market, both cheaper and faster (the "Turbo" button!). :) Compaq (Houston) and Dell (Austin) had been selling products for years, and there were many "garage-atronics" brands, small local businesses assembling systems from parts.
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I think Ill be checking out this one. Although I have one question: are the characters ever in a room with good lighting? cause from the previews that ive seen theyre always in a dark place
But yeah I hope its good b.c AMC hasn't really been producing any good new shows (Im looking at you Turn) and Ill need a new drama since Mad Men will be ending soon
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Thinking back, I'm not sure we had good lighting in the 1980s. But we did have friendship pins, so I'm sure that made up for it.
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I saw the Pilot and it's Fantastic. Don't pay attention to what he says above.
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Lee Pace!
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I feel like this would have had to be on Starz or Cinemax for me to watch it. Because otherwise it sounds boring as all fuck.
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In other words, this show needs some casual nudity?
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And violence. :P
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Nobody every got killed for buying IBM.
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I see what you did there lol.
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You can kill someone with those Model M keyboards. ;)
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But IBM computers do cause people to cut off their nipples
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I didn't like it. I admit that I watched it only with one eye while simultaneously doing something else, so I didn't really follow the plot. But based on what I saw, it was horribly boring. Then again, I'm no fan of the world of computers - tech and I really don't get along - so that might be the reason for my antipathy towards the show. Maybe I should rewatch it to get a better grasp of it.
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Yes, the opening sequence is pretty rad! So is the throw back to a certain movie franchise. :) I can't wait for the next episode!
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I saw the pilot - it stars Lee Pace of course I had to check it out - but wasn't that impressed. I'll give it a few episodes though before I toss it.
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Since the poll above is answered through a computer, it's not unfair to assume everybody answering it is familiar with computers and probably have at least some interest in a show about computer makers. Me included. Now, let's see if the show catches on fire, in a good sense, among the general audience that doesn't have a big online presence.
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I saw the pilot/first episode ("I/O") and now want to see the whole season. The acting is quite good and it is a quality production. Plus I'm interested in that period of personal computers (which may be why I stayed interested during that first 10-15 minutes).

I have seen some initial comparisons to Mad Men, but from what little I've seen of both shows, the similarities are superficial or just first impressions. Certainly both shows are "period workplace dramas", but I thought HACF's story and characters stood apart on their own.

Also, I wouldn't worry much about the tech terms any more than in sci-fi or medical shows. Even during the techy scenes, there was enough personal interaction to keep it interesting. Maybe AMC or someone could put general background info online for the curious.
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I think it might be a case of "wait a bit and watch a few episodes in a row later on", as far as I'm concerned.
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I watched the pilot and didn't mind it. I agree with Tim that it took some getting into. If you're not totally in the mood to dive right in you'll probably run into issues early on, but the episode does get better. My one major complaint is about the premise. The show's catch is that it's centered on the wild west of the industry in the 80's, which I get and definitely intrigued me. However, I would've gotten into the show much more if were actually based on real events. The show is fictional. I'm not looking for reality or history in every show I watch, but when the elements are there and the history is there why fictionalize it? I have a feeling the actual events would be much more interesting to dramatize. AMC's other new show Turn is very much based in history despite taking some creative liberties for TV's sake. I'm thoroughly enjoying this show. I find myself looking up characters after the episodes to learn more (the characters I don't already remember from history classes that is). If Turn was set at the same time in history but focused on people and events that didn't actually happen I might not be as invested. I don't know ... I just think the truth of what the industry was would make for better TV but it has decent showrunners so who knows in a few more episodes I could be eating these words.
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&However;, I would've gotten into the show much more if were actually based on real
&events.; The show is fictional.


But fiction tends to have much more angels and shirtless werewolves to keep us entertained....
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Maybe the story takes place in a parallel universe. I wonder what kind of computers they'll have when they reach their version of 2014.

Seriously, I agree with you. At first this was about the history of Dell or some other famous IBM-compatible computer maker. I heard about what Joe and Gordon did (the reverse engineering) in Robert Cringely's documentary about the industry at the time. It seems something very similar to that happened in other companies, but perhaps AMC wanted to avoid copyrightissues. Which, copnsidering the theme of the show, is something quite ironic. Aren't there any visionaries in AMC?
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The show might be about fictitious people, working for a fictitious company, but what they do is based on real events, Think of them as composite characters, representing a number of different people and companies involved in reverse engineering IBM's PC. They may not be the actual people that did this, but they go through the same steps, and deal with the same challenges. Based on the first episode, I definitely want to see more.
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I meant, "At first I thought this was about the history of Dell or some other famous IBM-compatible computer manufacturer..."
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Toby Huss? Sold.
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Will gladly give it a shot :)
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I have watched it and it is enough to make me want to watch more. I do wish they will explain the tech terms which they did with the show's title but not the rest.

Beside Lee Pace, I really liked Kerry Bishé.

One thing though, they seems out to make IBM the evil guy. I wonder how IBM feels about the show.
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For those of us around at the time, IBM *was* the evil guy. I was just barely in high school in the mid-80s but had gotten into a summer internship program at a local mega-corporation. I was fortunate to have some folks pass through there who had worked for HP, IBM, and others and would later on meet a Microsoftie and put together I heard a few very interesting tales. :-)
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Well, the megacorporation in my locality was (and still is) Intel. Although I've been fortunate enoguh to work for a couple of Nintendo licensees, as well.
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"One thing though, they seems out to make IBM the evil guy."

That's accurate. IBM squashed innovation, because they had a planned schedule for products that produced maximum revenue for them, and they didn't want anything to interfere. If they couldn't crush an opponent, they'd buy them out and sit on the tech.
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I know that they did a screening of it for Steve Wozinak (co-founder of Apple) and he gave his approval. Apparently that's a BIG DEAL. :)
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Hmm, maybe...but probably not. While I like Lee Pace a lot and have many fond memories of that time in the computing industry, this has little to no allure for me at all.

The way things seem to be going, I can soon forget where AMC is in the channel lineup.
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them eyebrows are back :D
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I saw the pilot preview and loved it. Will keep watching.
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Lee Pace guarantees I will at least check it out.
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I hope in episode 2 he discovers he can touch dead motherboards and reboot them for 60 seconds. :-)
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Sending a shock into motherboards is what kills them.
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