Halt and Catch Fire is one of those shows that you either get on board or get lost. The AMC Original series came to DVD/Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay on May 5th.
Anchor Bay and AMC describe it as… “Halt and Catch Fire is set roughly one year after IBM all but corners the market with the release of its first major product – the IBM PC. In this fictional drama, a former IBM executive, Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) plans to reverse engineer the flagship product of his former employer and forces his current company, Cardiff Electric, into the personal computer race. MacMillan enlists the help of Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a once great engineer who dreams of creating a revolutionary product while trying to manage his initially unsupportive wife Donna (Kerry Bishé), and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a volatile prodigy who puts her future in jeopardy to join MacMillan’s rogue PC project. Halt and Catch Fire thrives on the spirit of innovation and explores what it’s like to stand at the forefront of something world-changing and work towards it, no matter the risk.”
Me – I describe it simply as one of the best shows on TV.
The opening of the first episode explains what the phrase “Halt and Catch Fire” or “HCF” means in computer terms. This basic explanation really does setup the show and what to expect. The set comes in at a nice 435 minutes of glorious 80’s PC mayhem. As the Texas digital cowboys of “Silicon Prairie” try to compete on the same stage as IBM, it’s a race to be the first company to release the first truly portable computer. What we so readily think of as the laptop today was more a suitcase at the beginning of the show. The goal is to get it down to a briefcase in size and weight. No easy task considering how early into microprocessors the world was.
It’s a wild ride from the moment we meet Joe McMillan who is a reckless death wish style cowboy. He next meets Cameron Howe as the young savant who is going to write the code for his dream. By the time he enters the doors at Cardiff Electric Gordon, Clark has zero chance of resisting Joe or his insane way of doing things. This trio is the heart of the story and all three are equally damaged. Not one stands out as any more crazy than the other. Sure, there are points where we may question each one’s sanity a bit more but they are all damaged, maybe beyond repair.
The show debuted on AMC back on June 1st, 2014. Running 10 episodes at a 42 minute running time each. It was for many of us who grew up in the 80’s like jumping into a time machine to see our childhoods. I wasn’t aware of the battle being fought over the personal computer market at the time. I cared more about G.I. Joe, Transformers and Star Wars. However, the battle was being fought and sometimes got really dirty. HCF deals with that each episode as we learn about these damaged people trying to make it in this wild west rodeo show.
Halt and Catch Fire was one of my Top 3 shows of 2014, which in context of the number of great programs that came out last year, you understand my stance on the show. It’s fantastic.
The cast lead by Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis and Scoot McNairy is bolstered by great performances by Toby Huss and Kerry Bishé. The cast works so great together giving us a chance to see not only the baggage each is carrying around but also their brilliance. Lee Pace is back on form giving the type of performance he is capable of. I first watched Pace on Pushing Daisies, a performance and show that were criminally under appreciated. I wasn’t as familiar with Davis and McNairy before this but they really put their stamp on each character. Kerry Bishé has one of the hardest jobs in the show because unlike the most of the cast, her performance as Gordon’s wife, Donna, is rooted in simplicity. She conveys a sense of love and partnership that is hard to imagine seeing what Gordon does throughout the series. She is a calming force at the center of a hurricane of destruction the rest of the cast is doing scene to scene.
The music in the series feels so perfect and is reflected on the disc. It’s another member of the cast as is the production design. Both help set the stage for the era and make us feel transported back to a time when the Internet was just a dream. The show is also helped along by the strong writing and directing of each episode. For some, the deliberate pace of the story at first may feel off putting but then after a while, a momentum begins to take place. Once it hooks, that momentum drags you along for the ride to see how long Joe can keep this old stagecoach going on a terrain filled with brutal criminals surrounding him at all times.
My hats off to Anchor Bay and AMC for giving us a really nice set for the show on. The Blu-ray comes with 3 discs, giving the full 10 episodes plus extra content to help with your watching experience. My only complaint is with myself who did not read the package correctly. I thought for some reason there was an 80 minute documentary on the show. It turns out that I misread the title of “Re-Making the 80’s” as an 80 minute special feature. I know, I think I was suffering from a concussion when I read it. Still, the special features were interesting but only if you are looking for a few more tidbits along the way. Nothing was too revelatory. Be warned, don’t watch them until after you have watched the series. There are spoilers in each clip they show.
Overall, the production of the discs is nice. The picture quality was the real key feature for me as it was like watching the show again for the first time. The images were pretty impressive with so much detail coming across clearly in each shot. The sound mix was also very strong and made me feel right back in the 80’s and in scenes on occasion.
I was extremely happy with getting to re-watch a great show like Halt and Catch Fire again on Blu-ray. If you are looking to get some fresh and exciting TV on the go, do yourself a favour and grab this set. You will get to do something that I can’t do ever again… watch the series for the first time.
Halt and Catch Fire is available everywhere you can buy DVD/Blu-rays. Now go and grab a copy and enjoy the awesome that is this show.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!