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New AMC Drama Explores '80s Wild West of Tech

By Jac Kern · May 28th, 2014 · Television
ac_tv_haltandcatchfire_amc2Tina Rowden/AMC

While HBO pokes fun at modern day tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, AMC’s newest drama gives viewers a look at the early-1980s “Silicon Prairie” with Halt and Catch Fire (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC).

North Texas was a hotbed of early computer innovation in the ’80s, a setting referred to as the Wild West of computer science. The “cowboys” exploring this new digital terrain in the series are Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a visionary and former IBM executive; Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a once successful engineer with lofty dreams of a revolutionary invention; and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a young programming prodigy. The three each put their futures on the line as they go rogue to put their stamp on the burgeoning world of computers.

Halt and Catch Fire takes place a year after the debut of the game-changing IBM PC. No longer employed by the company, Joe decides to get his new company, Cardiff Electric, into the personal computer game by reverse-engineering the IBM. He calls in help from Gordon and Cameron and the trio embarks on a mission to top IBM, marked with greed, egos and the possibility of legal repercussions. 

The show’s title comes from a self-destruct code — the phrase is used to describe coding instructions that cripple a computer’s hardware. 

If AMC’s handling of Mad Men is any indication, viewers can expect an intriguing, authentic look at the era — complete with plenty of ’80s fashion, music and cultural references.

AMC premiered Halt on Tumblr (integrated with amc.com), where the first episode is still available through Saturday. Halt is the first TV series to debut on the social networking platform, a noteworthy decision for a series about the ever-evolving landscape of technology.

WEDNESDAY MAY 28

Big Ballet (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., Ovation) – The arts network presents this three-part reality series following an amateur dancing troupe staging their own production of Swan Lake with plus-size women in their teens through 50s.

Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden (10 p.m., NBC) – Brian Williams travels to Moscow to talk with Snowden for the former NSA contractor’s first American TV interview.

THURSDAY MAY 29

The Sixties (Series Premiere, 9 p.m., CNN) – If you’re craving mid-century nostalgia now that Mad Men is on break until 2015, tune into this 10-parter from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman (John Adams and The Pacific).

This first episode looks at TV’s coming of age during the decade.

Maron (10 p.m., IFC) – Marc avoids his visiting mother by pawning her off on a friend’s dad.

Our America With Lisa Ling (Season Premiere, 10 p.m., OWN) – In the fifth and final season opener, Ling visits southern U.S. churches that practice deliverance, the act of calling upon Christ to cast out demons that are believed to be afflicting people.

Comedy Bang! Bang! (10:30 p.m., IFC) -– Fred Armisen visits and discovers he and Scott are in the running for the same late-night hosting gig.

FRIDAY MAY 30

Crossbones (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Friday, NBC) – John Malkovich stars in this dramatic debut as notorious pirate Blackbeard.

SUNDAY JUNE 1

Game of Thrones (9 p.m., HBO) – Oberyn takes on The Mountain in the highly anticipated fight-to-the-death that will determine Tyrion’s fate. The only opponent more daunting than Mount would probably be an actual giant. Elsewhere, Littlefinger’s intentions come under suspicion, Mance Rayder’s army descends on Mole’s Town and Ramsay continues his use and abuse of Theon.

Silicon Valley (Season Finale, 10 p.m., HBO) – A memorable TechCrunch presentation by Gavin Belson shakes the Pied Piper crew, but Richard gets inspired and decides to present the app himself, baffling showman Erlich.

Veep (10:30 p.m., HBO) – Selina preps for a primary debate as Mike’s wife Wendy (Kathy Najimy) writes up a style profile on her.

MONDAY JUNE 2

Louie (10 p.m., FX) – In the final “Elevator” installment, Mother Nature wreaks havoc; later, Pamela’s back and Louie goes on the rebound.

TUESDAY JUNE 3

Inside Amy Schumer (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – A bachelorette bash-gone-bad; prepping for sexy times; Amy’s boyfriend goes gay.

Small Town Security (11 p.m., AMC) – Joan receives a surprising diagnosis; Brian and Dennis land a new job; Crista gets her hands dirty.


CONTACT JAC KERN: jkern@citybeat.com or @jackern

 
 
 
 

 

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