Between the Trial by Combat on Game of Thrones and the greatest dick joke in the history of television on Silicon Valley, some of you may have missed last night’s series premiere of Halt and Catch Fire on AMC. I recommend catching up. It was a solid pilot episode, even if it is clearly trying to capture the spirit of Mad Men twenty years later in a different industry.
Granted, at least based on the pilot, the writing and complexity of Halt and Catch Fire may never measure up to Matthew Weiner’s work, but it also may lack some of the self-seriousness of Mad Men and ultimately be more accessible. In my review of the show, I likened it to USA Network’s Suits, mostly because it’s driven by a kind of conversational emptiness and the desire to create stakes with earnest proclamations instead of presenting actual stakes (there are no characters with life-threatening cancer trying to build a nest egg for their families, for instance).
But it’s a summer show, and a little breeziness is not only forgiven, it’s encouraged. Given AMC’s track record since The Walking Dead, I’d also really like to see it succeed, lest the network put into motion more spin-offs of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, or — if they get desperate enough — The Killing.
The first episode is definitely promising, anchored by the Goth-y pre-Hackers computer prodigy played by Mackenzie Davis, Scooter McNairy — who looks like he just quit Stillwater — and, of course, Lee Pace, who is perfectly cast as a slick, dare-to-be-great snake-oil salesman who is also a bit of a fraud (see also: Don Draper). His character sets in motion the premise, which sees a brilliant engineer stuck in a cubicle job and the computer prodigy joining forces with Pace’s Joe MacMillan to turn the fictional Cardiff Electric from a company that sells systems software into a company that hopes to compete in the PC wars with IBM and Apple.
It’s a very intriguing premise, with lots of potential, although it may require some historical revisionism if Cardiff Electric is actually going to matter in the PC Wars.
Still, the best thing the show has going for it so far is Lee Pace, who I am hoping will provide us with these wonderful Lee Pace moments for episodes to come.
Here is your Lee Pace moment of the week.
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