“Hey, computers could be more. They should be.”
December 30, 2017 12:02 PM   Subscribe

‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Is the New ‘The Wire’ [Motherboard] “When HBO’s The Wire finished its run in 2008, it became a topic you couldn’t escape at parties. Inevitably, some dude would walk up to me and we’d start talking about prestige television and they’d ask if I’d seen The Wire. “No,” I’d reply and they’d get this look in their eyes. It’s not the incredulous look I receive when I tell people I don’t watch Game of Thrones. (Note, I watch Game of Thrones . I just like to mess with people at parties.) When I told people I hadn’t seen The Wire, they’d get excited, as if they were about to reveal a great and primal truth. “What’s it about?” I’d ask. “Everything,” they’d say, unhelpfully. AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire just finished up its fourth and final season. The whole show is now on Netflix. Prepare yourself. It’s the new The Wire.” [Halt and Catch Fire as Discussed on FanFare]

• Why Didn't You Watch the Best Show Ever Made About Silicon Valley? [Gizmodo]
“It’s hard to make good TV about Silicon Valley and its predecessors. Especially a drama. Watching a bunch of nerds talk about coding and CPUs is appealing to only a painfully small fraction of the population—but someone definitely thought that same thing about advertising before Matthew Weiner trundled into AMC and pitched Mad Men. That show proved even the most boring subject matter could be riveting with the right approach. Over the course of its four seasons, Halt and Catch Fire, which ended earlier this year, discovered the fascinating, frustrating human side to the soulless monsters who built Silicon Valley. But nobody watched it. The show never cracked a million live viewers after the pilot episode. It sat firmly on the bubble every season, getting greenlit only by the grace of AMC.”
• Farewell to Halt and Catch Fire, the best show that nobody watched [The Guardian]
“If it was ever possible to maintain the illusion that good work will attract an audience simply by virtue of its quality, it isn’t now. In 2017, there’s simply too much out there to guarantee that the best series will attract the biggest audiences. It’s a miracle, then, that Halt and Catch Fire, a show originally meant to fill the hole left by Mad Men, has managed to make it to the end of its fourth and final season, which concluded this weekend in the US. A tech drama that takes place entirely between the first iteration of Microsoft Word in 1983 and Windows 95, Halt and Catch Fire kept its focus squarely on the haze of an emerging field, without any of the fist-pumping moments that might have come from a show focusing on the rise of Google or Facebook. The characters never achieved lasting success or transformation, perpetually stymied by the major players in a nascent and clunking industry. Instead, they faced an endless, thankless series of intractable workplace decisions about integrity, product quality and business logistics.”
• It's Not Too Late for Halt and Catch Fire [The Atlantic]
“For years now, America’s best TV drama has consistently been one of its least watched. With Halt and Catch Fire now in its fourth and final season, ratings don’t really matter anymore, especially since the show is airing on AMC on Saturday nights (an audience dead zone if there ever was one). What’s important is that the series gets to complete its story, and will likely be discovered as a hidden gem on some streaming service once it’s finished and easy to binge. That’s because Halt has told the best, most definitive account of the birth of the computer age, the rise of the internet, and Silicon Valley’s never-ending cycle of creative booms and busts—and it’s done so without losing its grasp on the people in the eye of the storm. The show’s creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers have spun this tale while radically reinventing it each season, finding original ways to approach the familiar tale of two technology revolutions (the rise of personal computing and the dotcom boom).”
posted by Fizz (66 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Love this show! How have folks been streaming it in the US?
posted by oceanjesse at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2017

I just started it and I'm loving it. I remember starting Season 1 a few years ago and being distracted by other tv. That I know it has a final end date (4 seasons), makes it a bit easier to commit to as well. I know how much tv I'll be getting myself into and can plan accordingly.

Also, I'll watch anything with Lee Pace, he's so good in whatever he does. Every line he utters is a delight.
posted by Fizz at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

They still say "Sil-i-CON Valley". Bugs the shit out of me. It's "Sili'cn Valley".
posted by humboldt32 at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, also, I'm not quite sure it's in that same category of The Wire and Battlestar Galactica just yet, but I'm willing to give it a chance. These are my two television pillars that I often point to when it comes to so-called "prestige" television. Chances are that if you reference either of these two shows, you're selling me on what you want me to watch.
posted by Fizz at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2017

I've tried to get into this several times, but between the glaring technical inaccuracies and some just plain unlikeable characters, I never manage it.

Which is a shame, because on paper, it's right up my alley.
posted by madajb at 12:22 PM on December 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

No, it's not the new The Wire. It's a good show that pretty much comes to an end at the end of the second season. Then the third season makes you really start hating some of the characters. Then they suddenly all bring all their baggage into a room at the end of the third season and the fourth is really damn good. But over all the show condenses Silicon Valley history for the sake of these character's arcs so much that it's hard to believe it's about Silicon Valley history at all, that's just it's setting. So it's a good character drama where the characters are all a little selfish (which makes them believable,) but then you'll be rolling your eyes at the screen going "oh my god, these two are working together again? They hate each other!"
posted by Catblack at 12:22 PM on December 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

I hatewatched season 1 for a bit. Did Donna and Bosworth ever get any respect, recognition, or money? Because for those first few episodes they both got nothing but shit from the smarmy, insecure and toxic leads. (Nothing against the actors, who are excellent—it was definitely the script’s that made me not want to invite them into my home.)
posted by infinitewindow at 12:22 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love this show, but s1 is pretty skippable. Too Joe-focused. S2 onward they ramp up the women’s screen time and it improves immensely.
posted by rewil at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

S1 in particular has a bunch of nonsensical drama that gives the impression it was done because that's what prestige television does, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2017

I hatewatched season 1 for a bit. Did Donna and Bosworth ever get any respect, recognition, or money? Because for those first few episodes they both got nothing but shit from the smarmy, insecure and toxic leads.

Yes, one of the evolutionary leaps the show made for S2 was figuring out that Donna should be a lead and Gordon a supporting character, not the other way around (as in S1). Boz only got better as he separated from the Texas business good ol' boy / right-hand man role he originally had.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

Many people have told me that Season 2 is where it "gets good" (which often happens with a tv series). Actors settle into their roles, the writers feel more comfortable with the world they've created. I'm willing to give it a shot until then. Here's hoping it pans out.
posted by Fizz at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Each season of Halt and Catch Fire focuses on a different formative technology and the scramble of people to profit and/or shape the future with it. It "getting good" in season two depends largely on the internet being more interesting/accessible to you than early personal computers. I love that it exists, I love the cast, I love the subject matter and time periods, and I have been watching it since day one but ...

... boy do I struggle to love the hokey historically wildly inaccurate melodrama it has always been. For context, I always loved The Wire, loved but cooled on BSG and The Sopranos, and watch but never liked Game of Thrones.

(I mean, I still recommend Halt and Catch Fire because there is no show like it and no show has characters like Donna and Cameron.)
posted by seraphine at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I couldn't watch much of S1.
I kept comparing it to The Soul of a New Machine
posted by fredludd at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oddly enough, this show is hitting me in ways that HBO's Silicon Valley isn't. I've tried time and time again to get into Silicon Valley but something about it doesn't quite work for me. And I've cooled on Mr. Robot. I will eventually watch Season 3 but I haven't been in the mood, so this is what I'm currently consuming.
posted by Fizz at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2017

I never managed to finish the last season but there are some scenes in early episodes with Cameron that are some of the best tv I've ever watched.

(The best show no one watched was The Leftovers, for the record)
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

HACF is a well made show but it's really not the Wire. The performances of H really sell the show IMO, the plot is kind of weak and soap opera-esque. All of the leads really kill it when they're on screen.

I see people bashing Season 1 pretty often, but I personally really enjoyed that season. I like watching Gordon and Joe play off each other; I think they have chemistry, and that dynamic dies out as the show progresses. Also, I think the first season is more grounded than the rest.
posted by Query at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I watched the first couple seasons and enjoyed it except for the Gordon character. He really got on my nerves. It was just cringe-inducing, "lets watch this clueless guy be shitty to his competent, capable wife." At one point, I was hoping maybe they were going to kill him off, but it became clear they weren't going to, so I never watched the third or fourth seasons.

Did I miss anything?
posted by panama joe at 1:45 PM on December 30, 2017

It would have helped if people fucking noticed that when the show moved away from trying to replicate Don Draper, Man of Mystery after the second season.

Still, AMC did the right thing for everyone involved. I don't know if the idea to kinda "mess" the first season by trying to make Draper 2.0 with Pace's MacMillan because it was a safest bet than an ensemble cast was executive meddling, but they gave the show a second season because they believed in the show, a third even with crappy ratings and a dignified send-off with a fourth season.

And soooo, about that overdue Emmy to Kerry Bishé...
posted by lmfsilva at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm about 5 episodes in and Gordon is my least favourite character. I keep hoping she'll divorce his ass and find a way to connect with Cameron and set up their own shop, because he's an epic troll. But it's early days and I have a few seasons to go, so I guess I'll find out.
posted by Fizz at 2:03 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I kept comparing it to The Soul of a New Machine

Which features the father of Mefi's own jessamyn. True fact.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

One of the most annoying aspects of Gordon is you get the feeling he's supposed to be a Woz stand-in, except the real Woz was a much better person and also a lot more useful. I liked the Joe/Gordon interplay early in the first season, but then Gordon became shittier and less useful as time went on. You end up wondering why anybody would keep him around. What a lost opportunity! I liked the idea of having a nerd/engineer archetype to play off Joe's sales/business persona.
posted by panama joe at 3:03 PM on December 30, 2017

The prehistory of personal computing is right up my alley, and I was really excited when this came out, but I didn't even get through the first episode. When I hit the "hot sex in the back of an arcade" scene, I decided the show wasn't going to be about what I wanted it to be about and turned it off.
posted by jordemort at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

...Season 2 is where it "gets good" (which often happens with a tv series).

This is often true. The Wire may be my favorite series of all time, but the second season of Justified is my gold standard for a single season of television.
posted by Edgewise at 3:14 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Many people have told me that Season 2 is where it "gets good"

I've never heard anyone say this about The Wire. Some think Season 2 was better (I don't) , but no one says Season 1 was bad. So, no, it's not the new Wire.

As madajb said above, I should like this show, but I just can't watch it. I've worked in Silly Valley since '95, and the sheer amount of technical errors HaCF makes in nearly every episode just pulls me right out of the story.

And this:

(The best show no one watched was The Leftovers, for the record)

times like a thousand. The Leftovers also improved from S1 to S2, but S1 is quite good, and the show overall is phenomenal. That's the new Wire.
posted by Frayed Knot at 3:40 PM on December 30, 2017

This show hit me very hard in S4. Explaining exactly why would create spoilers but it’s such a different show from the first season. But I wouldn’t have cared about the characters without the other seasons building the story up. Anyway, as a nerdy girl who liked comedy in the 90s with a parent who worked closely with similar industries and shared an interest in the internet with me, S4 felt VERY real at times and like I said, hit me hard.
posted by stefnet at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, I feel like everyone’s reasons for not continuing after the first season... you should really watch the other seasons.
posted by stefnet at 3:50 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I’ve watched all of The Leftovers basically out of respect for Carrie Coons but it never really clicked for me. It felt wrong to be watching grief so clinically, but that was the best I could do. I dunno.
posted by rewil at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

The show wasn’t well-served by the “Mad Men for computers” angle of the initial marketing. (I know that kept me away for a while.) I don’t think the show itself ever wanted to be that — at no point does working in early tech ever appear more glamorous than it should — but it was hamstrung at first by the need to make Joe (the Lee Pace character) appear to be a Don Draper type, with secrets and lightning bolts of inspiration, etc. It helped the show when he became a somewhat secondary character, and it helped even more when we (and the other characters) had seen him fail enough times; they began pursuing their own projects and their lives didn’t revolve around the Great Man. I can’t think of another show that understood and fixed more of its own problems as it went along. (Including Gordon by S3/S4.)

The other thing is, the show appeared in its early days like it was going to be about the Don Drapers of personal computing and later the online world. But Don Draper won awards, made gobs of money, and wrote one of the most famous ads of all time. Over the course of HACF, you realize that this isn’t about Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison; it’s about the people who were almost in the right place at the right time, but not quite. The ones with great ideas who fell short. The guy who ran one of the first and best dialups in your city but got swamped by AOL in the end anyway. It’s about doing the work and collaborating (or failing to), not winning and rewards.

I loved the show — it accrued some major emotional gravity by the end — but I’d be hesitant to use The Wire as a hook for a new viewer. I think you’d be bored if you went in looking for a character or a “holy shit” moment like The Wire had in spades, or a gripping season of the caliber of something like the aforementioned Justified S2.

(I’d tell new viewers to watch the first episode, jump straight to the episode where they go to Comdex, and carry on from there.)
posted by chimpsonfilm at 3:55 PM on December 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

One thing that is kinda similar to The Wire is how drastically it changes between seasons - not just S1 to S2, but across 3 and 4 as well. Each season fundamentally felt like a different show with the same characters, and I find that that was both one of the things that made it great, and which makes it so hard to sell to people.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:51 PM on December 30, 2017

I love this show very, very much and I'm glad to see it getting the posthumous recognition it deserves.
posted by colorblock sock at 5:09 PM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I couldn't watch much of S1.

I can't remember exactly what it was, but man it did it lose me. I was with it for the first few episodes, liked (and could relate to) the various characters and situations, but then it was suddenly as if they'd fired the writers and decided everybody and everything should be more transparent ... or whatever. In this so-called golden age of TV, it's really hard to give shows that f*** their shit up so ingloriously a second chance.

But now it seems like everyone's saying I should ...?
posted by philip-random at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I suppose this might be "the best show that nobody watched" for people in and around the tech world, but I found it pretty boring and stocked with characters that failed to attract me on any level. Maybe, too, it's just that I don't find the history of Silicon Valley all that interesting, as someone not a part of that world.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:27 PM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

They still say "Sil-i-CON Valley". Bugs the shit out of me. It's "Sili'cn Valley".

Okay, I'm curious. I thought Sil-i-CON was a cromulent pronunciation. I have the impression that Sili'cn is "more" correct, but everyone I know here - in southern California, so near "Silicon Beach" or whatever they're trying to call it, but not the Valley itself - says Sil-i-CON. I thought the one egregiously incorrect pronunciation was Sil-i-CONE (which does drive nails through my ears).
posted by desert outpost at 5:31 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think they're just trying to say not enough white dudes are watching it.
posted by rhizome at 5:32 PM on December 30, 2017

but then it was suddenly as if they'd fired the writers and decided

and a quick perusal of the AV Club tells me it happened as early as Episode 2.

It’s not Pace’s fault—the guy’s a good actor, and he’s working with what he’s given. But as the big scene goes on, it piles on the histrionics, improbabilities, and shocking reveals in such number and scope as to make me believe I was watching a television show have a nervous breakdown. Zooming into the company parking lot where Gordon and Cameron are having a dully furious confrontation, Joe opens with his next big idea to save to company by producing the first portable PC, pronouncing the words “handles!” and “portability!” with giggle-inducing portentousness. Then, after taunting Gordon’s manhood in not sharing his enthusiasm, Joe and Gordon wrestle until Joe’s shirt is ripped open exactly as shirts are dramatically ripped open in movies and TV and nowhere else, revealing—a chest covered with horrible scars.

and so on. That was bad television.
posted by philip-random at 5:32 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

At one point, I was hoping maybe they were going to kill him off, but it became clear they weren't going to, so I never watched the third or fourth seasons.

Did I miss anything?

posted by snofoam at 5:34 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I thought Sil-i-CON was a cromulent pronunciation.

I grew up around all this, in these eras, and I pronounce it this way. So does the local news.

Yet another carpetbagger shibboleth!
posted by rhizome at 5:34 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

The show doesn't even take place in Silicon Valley for half the seasons.
posted by snofoam at 5:37 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ok, fine. I'll start watching this! ;-)
posted by johnxlibris at 5:47 PM on December 30, 2017

Talking of shibboleths shouldn't the show be abbreviated HCF? Or am I thinking of the half-carry flag?

A question too. Is it possible to dive in and start watching from season 2, if that's where it gets good?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:56 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can start with Season 2 cause #yolo but I don't agree with the stance that Season 1 was lacking, I found it really enjoyable.
posted by odinsdream at 6:28 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

HCF is canonical. But I suppose HACF works to designate the show, rather than the reference.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:35 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought the DVDs of S1 with an Amazon card my mother-in-law gave me because it looked interesting and I was intrigued by the possibility of a show with a punk Peggy Olson figure. It wasn’t what I expected, but while I recognized that the writing wasn’t great I loved the chemistry between Cameron and Donna enough to keep watching. Season 2 clicked for me; the show passed the Bechdel* Test with flying colors and I enjoyed the world they created. During the summer of 2016 I wrote recaps for Bitter Empire as a break from Clinton campaign stuff, and I finished Season 3 ready for what the Chrises had planned for their final season.

The fourth season premiered the night after my first recording session with my band. The session itself went well, but I was so disorganized that we all left frustrated with me. Listening to the things Donna said about Cameron gave me deja vu about what my band could have said about me, and I stopped watching after the first episode. It hit too close to home. I’m glad the series is getting some posthumous attention, and I’m hoping I can finish it someday.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:46 PM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

As someone who watched HaCF before The Wire, it’s no Wire, but neither is the fucking Wire, which is overrated as fuck and I can’t actually understand what the big deal is with it. Season 1 was excruciatingly boring.
posted by odinsdream at 8:03 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

My read of the article was that the show is "the new wire" because a bunch of people want you to watch it and are talking about it all the time, not because it's as good as the wire.
posted by flaterik at 11:31 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

The Leftovers is good if you think they explained everything in Lost waaaay too throughly and you want a show that leaves some mistery, unlike Lost. You know, the show that had a payoff for every new plot point that was introduced, called Lost.
posted by sideshow at 11:57 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

I literally just finished binge watching this. It's become a tradition to do it with something between Christmas and NY,

I tried watrching it when it came out, I think around the time Breaking Bad finished. Like others I hated it but I could never put my finger on why. I wanted to like it so bad.

I've seen enough positive casual references to it on here that I felt I should give it a go, and since I still have my Amazon Prime from Christmas deliveries...

I even enjoyed S1 this time round, despite its many flaws.
posted by vbfg at 5:05 AM on December 31, 2017

I loved this show more than just about any other show in recent memory. Partly because I worked in the internet biz from before the dotcom boom to the bitter end, and so much of this show really hit home for me because of that (the bit where they have the conversation with the phone company where they realize the phone company is going to squeeze them out because they're going to be competitors...yeah). Some of my best memories are from that time in my life. Also I loved the characters, I especially loved the female characters, and I loved the story arc and character arcs.

The first season was definitely quite different from the subsequent ones, for sure, but it's well worth grinding through it even if you aren't enjoying it. And Gordon changes.

I loved this show. I will watch it again. And again.

(and yes, The Leftovers was also really, really great, although it lost me in the first season and then I went back and made myself get through it to find I really loved it)
posted by biscotti at 5:39 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is a scene in season 4 between Donna and Cameron that is maybe my all time favorite thing I have ever seen on television.

I don't know if the show is for everyone, but it builds and pays off well by season 4.
posted by imabanana at 6:12 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I thought this was a pretty good show. I never got into the Wire, so I can’t compare it to that. I thought it was interesting how each season focuses on a different era of computing history. Later seasons were better, focusing more on the female characters. My personal favorite was season 4. Mostly because it was an era I remembered best.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 6:16 AM on December 31, 2017

I'm really getting into that show, but I'm watching it slowly, maybe 1 episode week. If I binge it I'll miss out on a lot. Also, our own Jason Kottke made a cameo but I forget witch episode.

That was easy:
posted by james33 at 6:25 AM on December 31, 2017

Reading everyone's reactions and thinking about the era covered by the middle seasons made me wonder why there hasn't been a TV version of The Cuckoo's Egg. Except maybe that Cliff Stoll is hard to work with and/or hostile to the idea. (Old Booknotes episode. Gets interesting around 12m.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:18 AM on December 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

I can't remember exactly what it was, but man it did it lose me. I was with it for the first few episodes, liked (and could relate to) the various characters and situations, but then it was suddenly as if they'd fired the writers and decided everybody and everything should be more transparent ... or whatever. In this so-called golden age of TV, it's really hard to give shows that f*** their shit up so ingloriously a second chance.

I really enjoyed the first three or so episodes, but somewhere between there and halfway through episode 6, it lost me. I'm sure it gets better later if everyone is saying so, but things weren't looking promising when I stopped watching.

I don't really get the Wire comparisons other than as a way to point to a fervently admired show; I do see the Leftovers similarity, especially because that is also a show I made it through about half of the first season before losing interest.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:31 AM on December 31, 2017

I intensely disliked the first season too. Trying to be a drop-in Mad Men replacement but with computers, down to all the set dressing and Joe and Donna's initial characterization, was the wrong move and when it stops doing that it gets better.

Without any spoilers, the show starts to come into its own only when things get weird towards the very end of S1. Which is jarring, and I found it off-putting the first time around, but when I came back to the show and watched the rest it was clear.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the people complaining about the sex in the first episode: that goes away pretty damn fast, but it seems like they were contractually obligated to put sex scenes in the first few episodes.
posted by rednikki at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2017

I stopped after the guy hit the armadillo. Call me sentimental.
posted by BWA at 10:38 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just finished this last night! I don't think I've seen a character like Donna around, a woman in tech who comes into her own once her children are in school, and as a woman in a stem field with young kids, it's really really nice to see something on tv that I identify with so much.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

snuffleupagus, you're in luck! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcKxaq1FTac
posted by Fleeno at 2:27 PM on December 31, 2017

Okay, if Donna does become the actual lead of the show no matter which ciphers are depicted in the opening titles, I’m back in.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:06 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really like what I've seen of HCF but it's weird to compare it to The Wire. The Wire has storylines about racism, poverty, human trafficking, local politics, the news business, public schools... it's orders of magnitude more ambitious, and it's one of the few TV shows in recent memory to portray marginalized populations as human, likable, sympathetic. It's not perfect, and I'm sure that if I watched it again today I'd find it much more problematic than I did 10 years ago (not least because it's fundamentally sympathetic to cops, and doesn't address police terrorism at all).

But I mean, it got a bunch of middle class white people to care about characters who were impoverished back children, black drug addicts, black drug dealers. And that's an important first step in getting middle class white people to care about race-driven poverty and mass incarceration. Because in a country this segregated, media portrayals and political bogeymen are the only forms of exposure many white voters get to anyone less privileged than they are.
posted by mrmurbles at 10:28 PM on December 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

I watched, and very much enjoyed, season one when it aired. Season two wasn't as strong, IMO, so after the winter break (the Christmas episode, at any rate, I don't actually remember when it aired) I ended up forgetting about it due to a bunch of other stuff getting in the way. I watched a couple more episodes after S3 started, but only ended up watching a couple more episodes of S2 and quitting again. :(

Something about Cameron especially was bugging me, but it may have just been the family drama in general with Gordon. Obviously all of that was an entirely foreseeable consequence of everything that happened, but focusing on it so much changed the tone of the show.

From (intentionally) what little I've seen about the overall plot in S3 and S4 it looks like I'd be wise to grind through the rest of S2..
posted by wierdo at 11:53 PM on December 31, 2017

So on the recommendation of so many here, I have watched most of S1 so far. I don't understand all the excitement, let alone the comparisons to The Wire (agreeing with mrmurbles above). Almost every episode so far seems to be squeezing a sense of portentiousness into everything, when it's just about, um, the genuine-but-c'mon drama of some people trying to... build a computer, many of whom have personal issues and some family drama in their background. This seems an overwought melodrama with a murky-palette production design, more than anything else. What am I missing?
posted by PhineasGage at 4:25 PM on January 1

Patience. And that each season features some project that tries to evoke whatever The Thing was at that time. Usually with the real-world leaders from each former moment lurking in the background as competitors.

So, without spoiling anything (because as goes the show, so went the world) it's PC clone wars ---> early network era ----> early Internet era ---> dot com bubble. And those transitions are mirrored by transitions in the characters lives and personalities and relationships.

If you aren't nostalgic about computers, the culture of technology business and Ye Olde Internet, and/or hated The Big Chill, well...maybe not the show for you.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:48 PM on January 1

Yes, stick with it after S1. I never found Joe McMillan interesting at all as a character - too much of a cipher, too much an echo of Don Draper without the tones of that character really not being someone the viewer should want to be - and the show did well to move from Joe and Gordon to Donna and Cameron in later seasons. There were a few episodes in the last season that really devastated me for a few days after viewing, and I was so annoyed that I knew nobody else who watched it so I could process them.

Also, a lot of the last season involves women arguing about business, which is nice to see on TV.

I wasn't around for much of the tech (I didn't even know there was an 'internet' in the '80s - dial-up wasn't common in the UK until the 1990s and even then was too expensive to use for most people) and I have heard people say that it seems awfully convenient that the characters were part of the development of X, Y and Z, but I also liked that it was a show about people being clever and lucky and smart and yet still - through internal strife, through not being quite in the right place, through someone just happening to be that bit clever and luckier and smarter - never making it - and because of what we know about the industry, we know that what they are slaving over is never going to be the next big thing. That is much more interesting to me than people being successful.
posted by mippy at 7:25 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

Halt and Catch Fire got me when it realized that it wasn't a show about Gordon and Joe, it was a show about Donna and Cameron.

There are definitely ups and downs, but Donna and Cameron are amazing, and their last scenes together in the last season gave me chills.

Also, a lot of the people who have said "I stopped watching in season 1/2 because xyz".... should maybe take another look at 3 and 4 imjustsaying.
posted by oblique red at 10:32 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]

Loved this show. Actually liked that it was just four seasons, with a definite end to it; maybe it wasn't that popular, but they told a good story with some great characters. The growth the McMillan character (all the characters, really) showed over the course of the series was fascinating to see.

The last season was the most emotionally fulfilling (and devastating!) thing I watched all year, I think. That grief was almost too real. Reminded me of Six Feet Under, a bit.

(And speaking of The Soul of A New Machine, the last scene of the last episode pans over some books in McMillan's new office, and yep, there it is. Great book, and obviously an inspiration for the series...)
posted by Bron at 3:16 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

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