Here’s part two of our series on shows you might want to check out this summer. Just one show today. Scroll to the bottom for the previous entry.
You have to give AMC credit for having the vision and foresight to bring television ideas to life that on their face seem like they would be as boring as watching paint dry. Think about these premises if you will:
1.) High School chemistry teacher resorts to dealing meth when he finds out he has terminal cancer.
2.) A New York City ad agency during the 1960s.
3.) A Western that focuses on the construction of the railroad post Civil War.
4.) Zombie apocalypse occurs, people are trying to survive.
On paper, these simple premises that have all resulted in some of the biggest hits and critically acclaimed darlings in television history, all have one thing in common: incredible character development. Halt and Catch Fire would seem to be following this same tradition because let’s be honest, does the premise of “three people in 1983 try to reverse engineer IBM personal computer technology” really seem exciting to anyone but the biggest nerd? I expect Halt and Catch Fire to do what AMC series usually do and that is to suck audiences in with the characters at first and the compelling drama later.
In fact, if you think about it, the biggest failure in recent history for AMC series-wise has been Low Winter Sun which attempted to find success with the exact opposite formula, focusing on a (mediocre) story and not on character development out of the gate. AMC knows which side their bread is buttered on and I don’t expect a mistake like Low Winter Sun again for quite some time.
After seeing the first episode, it seems to be in the fast-paced spirit of Jobs and The Social Network and I am enjoying it so far. It’s tough to make a series assessment after only the pilot but it’s definitely worth following.
What it has going for it: Not only does AMC have a fantastic track record when it comes to picking winners but they also have a reputation of sticking by their shows when conventional wisdom would have had other networks running at the first sign of trouble (See: The Killing which was canceled and subsequently uncanceled by AMC because THEY had faith in the story-telling of the show which is unheard of). The relatively unknown cast and the fact that although it’s a period piece, it’s set during a time that is within arm’s reach for producers (offices really haven’t changed much in 30 years and it’s not difficult to go to your local thrift store to find 1980s period clothing and computer technology for a dime), makes the show undoubtedly inexpensive to produce making it that much easier for execs to support it.
What it has going against it: I really can’t see much. The biggest challenge this show is going to face is, as I noted, getting audiences past the on-paper dry premise but AMC audiences are used to this by now and they know that with AMC, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
Check out part one, here.