With Breaking Bad over, Mad Men winding down and The Killing having fled to the web after never really catching on with audiences, AMC is looking for that next big hit.
On the surface, Halt & Catch Fire would seem to have all the ingredients to fill the void.
Named for an old coder’s joke, Halt & Catch Fire is set in the early days of the PC revolution in the 1980s, and focuses on Joe, a master manipulator with a mysterious past (Lee Pace), Cameron, a groundbreaking women in a man’s field (Mackenzie Davis), and Gordon, a young professional unsure of whether his career or his marriage is his true passion (Scoot McNairy).
Remind you of Mad Men?
I don’t think the similarities to Don, Peggy and Pete from that show are a coincidence, but as a workplace politics drama, Halt & Catch Fire lacks Mad Men’s subversive sense of humor and, at least in the early stages, brilliantly realistic character development.
Cameron is the cliche rebel hacker character – you want to ask her to roll up her sleeves so you can see her dragon tattoo. While starting from a familiar place with a character is not necessarily the kiss of death, it does throw down a challenge to write the characters as more than a stereotype, and so far all we’ve seen Cameron do is slurp soda, play video games and f*ck Joe without asking his name first. For his part, Joe is so far surrounded by a phony feeling mysticism, and while there is certainly intrigue about what happened to this character to put him where he is, the show runners had better resist the temptation to make this character more cool than any one person has a right to be.
Similarly, as an early ‘80s period piece, Halt & Catch Fire has yet to capitalize on the rich nostalgia it occupies, a la The Americans. Gordon playing Lido Shuffle on his car cassette and Cameron’s affection for the Centipede machine is not enough to really put you at the beginning of this complex decade.
If it sounds like I’m bashing Halt & Catch Fire, don’t get me wrong. This show is watchable, and I encourage you to stick with it during season 1 because the potential here is limitless. Done right, Halt really could become Mad Men ‘80s style. This is evident in the way Gordon’s home life has been portrayed thus far, where he and his wife Donna (the outstanding Kerry Bishé) are both trained computer engineers. But while Gordon laments lost opportunities of the past, Donna is expected to assuage Gordon’s bruised ego while also working at Texas Instruments, taking care of the kids and doing all the housework. This is the ‘80s woman tradeoff: getting to be a full time professional while still expected to fulfill the Mad Men ‘60s expectation of housewife.
That level of complexity has been sorely missing from the workplace aspects of Halt and Catch Fire, and it is needed. But given how very good Halt and Catch Fire has been in short bursts so far, there is reason for optimism and voracious anticipation about just what this show might accomplish.
Back for a third season and better than ever is Longmire, A&E’s modern western slash weekly mystery slash ensemble drama character study. Season 3 picks up the cliffhanger ending of season 2, and has Walt (Robert Taylor) looking for ways to help Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips), who’s been wrongfully arrested for murder (the culmination of a two-season long storyline). There’s also the matter of the shooting of political rival and deputy sheriff Branch (Bailey Chase).
Laid over the top of what is certain to be a season long (or longer) saga of Henry’s imprisonment are the weekly whodunits Walt and his deputies must solve. Thus far, these remain well crafted and interesting substories that make each week’s episode a strong stand alone story in its own right.
But the real strength of Longmire are its rich characters. The most interesting relationship is between Walt and big city transfer deputy Victoria Moretti (Katee Sackhoff). Any time you see two actors able to create a unique chemistry in a non-familial, non-romantic character relationship, you’re watching something you can’t just see on any other show.
I can only hope Longmire continues to maintain its high degree of quality and, TV gods willing, picks up a few extra viewers on the way. This show is worth your time.
The Tony Awards once again showed this week why they are far and away the best awards show on television. It’s hard to even pick highlights of a show made up of them, but for my money the best moments were the rousing ovation given to Neil Patrick Harris when he won Best Actor in a Musical for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the dead on perfect performance from eventual Best Musical winner A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, and the ebullient charm, energy and talent of host Hugh Jackman, whose four minute long “hopping” opening was made to appear deceptively effortless when in fact it had to have been a real workout.
Anyone can watch TV, anyone can go to the movies, and the experience is the same from Maine to Alaska, but seeing a Broadway play on Broadway is a one of a kind experience, and one many people will never get to have. Watching these amazing casts recreate moments from their shows is the closest many people can get. That’s why this is, and always will be, the best awards show on television.
Last Comic Standing has survived two year gaps before between seasons but it’s been four years since this show last aired. Luckily, it continues to provide a unique viewing experience – reality show talent competition in the field of stand up. The comics are good, and made funnier by the fact that their routines can be edited together to show a “best of” montage when needed. Celebrity judges Keenan Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters are scenery, but Roseanne manages to fill the role of Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell simultaneously , providing enough interesting feedback to make you want to hear it. And seriously, would you really rather watch yet another group of wannabe singers belting out Katy Perry tunes? Me neither.
The CW aired the season finale of its fledgling series The 100 this week, and it’s easy to see why this show has become a hit for the network. The YA format will be familiar to anyone who watches CW programming, but other than a little incredulity at the opening premise and the occasional deus ex machina, The 100 has proven to be an engrossing story and a very well done TV series. The finale did a nice job wrapping up the season 1 storylines while providing a cliffhanger ending for season 2. If you missed this show, catch it now while The CW reruns it over the summer.
Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) We’re America, we’re always at war (Veep); 2) Directors have to use special camera angles to make Jeff Daniels’ head appear normal sized (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon); 3) Dr. Oz is an aggressive pervert (The Soup).
There’s been no official word that Fargo has been picked up for a second season, although FX network would be insane not to bring back this incredible show. One thing that has been discussed, however, is that season 2 would not have the same characters and cast as season 1, making this the third show (along with American Horror Story and True Detective) to follow this format. Accordingly, I’d suggest that someone make a new drama about college basketball called One And Done. Any takers?
On Sunday night, you skipped Game of Thrones and the Miss USA Pageant and the NBA Finals and the Tony Awards and binge watched Flowers In The Attic and Petals On The Wind on Lifetime.
The season finale of Game Of Thrones airs June 15 on HBO.
Switched At Birth and The Fosters return to ABC Family June 16.
The season finale of Louie airs June 16 on FX.
I Love The 2000s debuts on VH1 on June 17.
The finale of Fargo airs June 17 on FX.
Rectify returns to Sundance Channel on June 19.
The series premiere of Dominion airs on Syfy on June 19.
Defiance returns to Syfy Channel on June 19.
Funniest Wins premieres on TBS on June 20.
Cold Justice returns to TNT on June 20.
The season finale of Orphan Black airs June 21 on BBC America.
Almost Royal airs its series premiere on BBC America on June 21.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!