Television: Halt and Catch Fire, "I/O"

Okay, so I grew up in the Austin area in the 80s. My dad worked for Texas Instruments and brought home that TI-99 he'd helped create, along with Speak & Spell and Speak & Math and all that stuff. So this show should be right up my alley . . . Or maybe not? Admittedly, I wasn't paying a lot of attention to any of that stuff as a kid. Though my dad did force me to learn to type, saying, "This is going to be important in the future." And he was right. 80wpm with no errors, bitches!

Anyway, the ads for this show made it seem really intense and possibly fun. So we found the pilot as an On Demand preview and gave it a try. And . . . I don't know. It wasn't fun. And though it seems lots of people (women) like Lee Pace, I find him a tad creepy. But maybe that's what he's going for here; his character Joe is kind of a psychopath. Well, it takes a psychopathic streak to have the kind of vision this guy has, maybe, but . . . Seriously, though. American Psycho on Broadway? Get yourself Lee Pace as the lead.

The flip side of Joe is Scott McNairy's Gordon, a work-a-day type who feels beat down by the system. His wife is constantly reminding him that his duty is to make money so they can, you know, pay bills. But Gordon is feeling stymied. He wants to create, to build new machines. He and his wife tried once and failed miserably, hence their straitened circumstances. But Joe turns up and drags Gordon into his net, his web of ideas, to semi-disastrous results. Like, IBM suing your company kind of results.

But that was all part of Joe's master plan. And here is where it gets a bit confusing. Cardiff Electric, for whom Gordon and Joe work, can't just fire them because IBM's suit—that Joe and Gordon brought on by reverse engineering an IBM machine, which is intellectual property theft—is against Cardiff due to the fact that it was their employees who did the work and so Cardiff may benefit from it? I think? And somehow the loophole here is that Cardiff must now create its own PC. But they need a new programmer, one that hasn't been tainted by the stolen information. So they get a college student named Cameron (Mackenzie Davis).

My chief problems with the show are (a) it's really dark. There's very little humor. And it's shot darkly, too. And (b) the exposition is clunky. The way characters' backstories are dealt with? Via dialogue and stilted conversations? Ugh. Finally, (c) the women characters are harridans. The wife is a nag and Cameron has a huge chip on her shoulder. The women in this show are shrill and angry and obnoxious. I find that a real turn-off.

In fact, I found it difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. Gordon came closest; as a writer and creator myself, I understood his frustration. But I didn't have to love the way he dealt with it (drinking). Every other character just makes me want to back away. So far, really, there's no one to root for.

In whole, I felt like AMC really wants another Mad Men. And that would be great. But this isn't it. The tone is just too far off.

Still, I'll give the show another couple episodes. Maybe it will come into its own. Lighten up a bit, literally and figuratively. Because right now the characters are in crisis mode, but . . . I've been given no reason to care about any of them at all. So their crisis means nothing to me. Make me care, writers. That's your #1 job.

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