Tag Archives: halt and catch fire

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Goodwill”: Everyone’s Terrible

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Who Needs a Guy?” here

In the very first season of Halt and Catch Fire, we learn that Joe took notice of Gordon because of something he’d written in Byte magazine: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.” (Now, having spent four seasons with Gordon, I can picture his exact tone as he wrote that.) The series mirrors Gordon’s quote, in that it’s also not necessarily interested in The Thing. As I said before, it’s more likely to skip over The Thing entirely in favor of what emotional work has to be done after The Thing in order to get through it and go onto the next Thing.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Goodwill”: Everyone’s Terrible

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Who Needs a Guy?”: Dry Your Eyes

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “A Connection Is Made,” here

Halt and Catch Fire isn’t really a show that depends on being spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen “Who Needs a Guy?” and plan on catching up, you probably shouldn’t read behind the cut.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Who Needs a Guy?”: Dry Your Eyes

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Nowhere Man,” here

For most of us, our lives orbit around two loci: The place where we show our public selves, and the place where we get to be who we really are . Most often, those two places are work and home—but that’s not always the case, especially on Halt and Catch Fire. Cameron is unable to separate her work from who she is, for example, so her code follows her wherever she goes. Her public place is in Joe’s apartment, where she’s performing the part of Good Girlfriend; her Airstream is where, mostly alone, she gets to be the real Cameron and admit to herself that she’s not really as “sick of tech” as she claims.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” here

I really wish I were doing another Gordon-focused reaction. I could easily live inside his little slice of the episode, in a world where he went out and saw Sneakers four times in the theater—because of course he did—and is still down for another viewing at home. I’m sure having a neurological illness makes it easier to justify doing what makes you happy, but he doesn’t: He just likes what he likes. I’d love to spend time discussing how, to Gordon, swing dancing and roller derby are the same thing, because they basically are; they both turn out to be fads with no longevity, and Gordon doesn’t buy in to fads because he’s committed to staying uncool.

But instead of living the normcore life with Gordon, I think I have to talk about Donna.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the first three episodes here

Last time, I talked about how impressed I was with Halt and Catch Fire‘s ability to play with your expectations, setting up a Big Conflict, then pushing it off to the side in favor of something else. The title of this episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” promises much. Yet the big event that’s referenced barely makes a blip on the characters’ lives: Joanie actively tries to not watch the Olympics, while Joe and Gordon plan to view it at a small party that gets eclipsed by Cameron’s dramatic re-entrance into civilized society. (Hopefully Gordon and Anna Chlumsky’s Katie continue to watch, because I am HERE for that relationship, especially now that we know how bad at pool Gordon is. Although the series currently takes place the year of My Girl 2, which gives me weird, meta-concerns where I wonder if Katie knows about the My Girl movies. ) Tanya (Sasha Morfaw), Donna’s recently promoted employee, laments over a sushi lunch that her name will forever be entwined someone named Gillooly.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided (a little late) to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch, starting with a quick catch-up of the season so far.

So, how did we get here? The conventional wisdom is that the show got better once it stopped being a Mad Men ripoff and found its own footing. That opinion says more about the watcher than the show itself. To me, it never really bore more than a surface-level resemblance to Mad Men. Sure, it was a period drama in a business setting, and maybe Joe got a slice of the backstory pie that was out of proportion to how much his character warrants. (Joe is the way he is because of…daddy issues? Snooze.) But Joe was never really a Don Draper, because Don Draper is widely recognized as a remarkable talent in the advertising world at the start of Mad Men, and Joe can rarely catch a break. He’s not an anti-hero in the he can’t accomplish anything major, good or bad.

Neither can the rest of them, even though all of the ingredients are there for them to achieve greatness. Together, they have the vision (Joe), programming talent (Cameron), engineering and hardware know-how (Gordon), and business sense/capital (Donna) to really launch a successful tech company—and they often have the right, world-changing idea at the right time. The show keeps bringing them to the precipice of runaway success. And yet, while they’ve managed in three seasons to amass some individual accomplishments, their volatile interpersonal dynamic keeps them from getting to that next level, because they need to work together to get there. And they can’t. But they know that, if they were able to somehow work on a project together and pull it off, the benefits would be immeasurable. But, again, they can’t. But they’re still drawn to each other, until they blow each other up again, retreat to their separate corners, and start the cycle anew. That push/pull dynamic, which has been there since the first season, is the whole reason for Halt and Catch Fire’s existence, and separates it from Mad Men, where Don was affected by the other characters, but not entirely dependent on them.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Another Season of Halt and Catch Fire—Burn to the Ground and Begin Again

Ben

Ben self-identifies as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that he is a business school graduate. He really liked the movie Margin Call, so that makes him SportsAlcohol.com's de facto business correspondent. By business correspondent, we mean the expert in movies and television about business (we don't care about the strength of the dollar or whatever).

There will be spoilers in everything that follows

Thirty years ago this week, Steve Jobs was pushed out of Apple through a series of reorganizations and board maneuvers. Yet one can’t think about that failure outside the context of his second act: Steve Jobs rising again. He spent time at Pixar, created NeXT, got brought and bought back by Apple, and put Apple on the path to being the most valuable company in the world, which it is today. That is one hell of a second chance story. That is a second-chance story that Halt and Catch Fire wishes it could tell. In fact, the season finale of Halt and Catch Fire alluded to Jobs’s Apple exit in a quick cut that was almost easy to miss:

Steve Jobs Fortune

Again, in the near-historical, alternate history of Halt and Catch Fire Apple—the most familiar of tech stories—plays the foil. The series used Apple last season when the introduction of the Macintosh stood in for innovation at a time when the central character Joe (Lee Pace) had just made the profit-driven decision to simply make the machine they were creating faster and cheaper. In contrast, the Macintosh “spoke.” Because Halt and Catch Fire must operate in this bizarre world of almost-real computing history, it nodded to the true history, although never quite hitting the same historical notes in the way that Mad Men could.

The parallels with Apple continue into the second season. Like Steve Jobs’s second act, Halt and Catch Fire Season 2 is a season of second (or third) chances. As it begins, the PC division of Cardiff Electric—the driver of the main story of Season 1— is sold off, making an ignominious end for something that took so many episodes to build. But, with that sale, every character is looking for their next chance.

Having flamed out at IBM and again at Cardiff (quite literally), the Joe is on his third chance when the season begins. He’s more relaxed, more authentic, with less product in his hair. His arc for the season is to see if he can be this authentic, honest person and also the successful visionary that he always been promised to be.

But he’s not the only one with vision. The central characters of the second season are actually Donna (Kerry Bishé) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis), who struggle to build a company in the world of computers that are connected to phone lines. Apparently, this connected world is going to be big. Their arc is to make the company survive given Camerons no-selling-out ideals and turmoil in both of their personal lives.

And personal lives figure heavily throughout second season, a more conventionally dramatic season than the first. Season 2 has clandestine romances, an engagement, infidelity, a secret abortion, chronic mental diseases that cause amnesia, polyamory, a hate crime, and a marriage. Many critics I’ve read thought Season 2 was the better of the two, and, by conventional measures, they’re probably right. This is a more relationship-focused Halt and Catch Fire. It isn’t about building a company; it was about the people that made up the company.

Yet, missing from Season 2 are the business cases—the narratives about running a company. Yes, there are bad contracts that need to be renegotiated and employees that need to managed, but these were the background to the intense personal drama. Perhaps the narrative most similar to a business case was Cameron’s realization that more customers are interested in online communities than the online game playing she was so interested in creating. From listening to customers, she figures out that the focus of her company is wrong, and she needs to address it. In contemporary startup lingo, that would be the pivot.

Last year I argued that the business cases were a significant reason that Season 1 of Halt and Catch Fire was so interesting, and perhaps, it is the business case of the entrepreneur that so attracted the affluent viewers who made sure there was a Season 2. And, seen in that way, perhaps the most entrepreneurial point of this season is that second, third, and fourth chance. At the end of Season 2, Cameron and Donna are heading out to California as part of the second act of their online company Mutiny, while Joe has secured ten million dollars in funding for Macmillan Utilities, a virus utility company that is reminiscent of Norton Utilities and McAffe. Macmillan Utilities is the result of a virus that is mistakenly designed by his old partner, Gordon (Scoot McNairy)—who sought his own second chance to redeem himself from the slip-ip—and unleashed upon him by Cameron as revenge for a deal gone bad. And, because we live in 2015, we know that these second chances will pan out. As viewers, we know that online communities and computer antivirus will become huge. That’s the comforting thought that the series leaves us with: The next chance might be even bigger than this one. Like, maybe the next Apple.

Counterpoint: Why ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Is More Than a Business Case

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

When Halt and Catch Fire debuted, I watched the premiere three times in two days. (I also gave it a good review in PopMatters.)  When I think about why I was so immediately drawn to it, I think of this pillow, which I helpfully circled in red in the below screengrab.

Screengrab of 'Halt and Catch Fire'. Mind the pillow in the corner.
Screengrab of ‘Halt and Catch Fire’. Mind the pillow in the corner.

It’s a dark object in a dark image, to be sure. But, even though it was hard to see, I recognized it. My family had the same thing, in blanket form.

My sister holding me as a baby. I made that same face in every photo for at least the next four years.
My sister holding me as a baby. I made that same face in every photo for at least the next four years.

As should be obvious from the baby photo above, I am a child of the ’80s. But, when you ask me what I remember about the ’80s, I’ll tell you about Cabbage Patch Kids and Alf, but I would never say weird, brown-and-white crocheted blankets and pillows.

Continue reading Counterpoint: Why ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Is More Than a Business Case

Halting ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

Ben

Ben self-identifies as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that he is a business school graduate. He really liked the movie Margin Call, so that makes him SportsAlcohol.com's de facto business correspondent. By business correspondent, we mean the expert in movies and television about business (we don't care about the strength of the dollar or whatever).

The only salient reason that AMC could give in its decision to renew Halt and Catch Fire, a deeply flawed, little watched show, is affluence. “Halt and Catch Fire was No. 3 among affluent viewers age 18-49, trailing only The Good Wife and Mad Men.” Sites that do viewer comparisons note that the ratings were close to other shows that AMC had decided to cancel. Go here if you want numbers, but the overarching number is this: Halt and Catch Fire had 1.3 million viewers.

As part of that number, the 0.4 percent of the U.S. population who watch this show, I received news of the renewal decision with a mixture of excitement and sadness because, while there is something in it that I find compelling, it is not a “good show.” It isn’t even a “good bad show”, and I watch plenty of those.

Someone on Twitter asked me if he should watch Halt and Catch Fire, and that question is impossible to answer without probing this question: Why would someone want to watch Halt and Catch Fire? Why did I watch it? And, by extension, what makes Halt and Catch Fire No. 3 among affluent viewers?

The reasons that I can think of are an affinity for business cases, an interest in startups and innovation, and a nostalgia for early computing. But, ultimately, it fails in creating a compelling work narrative. It is too much a business case and not enough of a business fantasy.

I will take those in four parts. And, yes, there will be spoilers for Halt as well as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and a few others.

Continue reading Halting ‘Halt and Catch Fire’