Halt and Catch Fire: FUD
June 9, 2014 8:17 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Joe MacMillian takes on IBM and Cameron Howe takes on the office's tolerance for punk rock.
posted by drezdn (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Where did Joe really get his scar? What if he is actually the villain?
posted by drezdn at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2014


He's got villainy eyebrows, I know that.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Boy this show is squandering my good will and desire to see a bunch of 80s computing very quickly.
posted by SharkParty at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh man. I REALLY want to like this show! Why are they making it so hard for me!

It's like the director said "OK... ACTION! Now, everyone be a stupid asshole!!!! Great! CUT!"

In my comment last month, I chalked up many of the problems to "It's the pilot, let's lay the groundwork." But this week was worse. Way worse. So annoyingly cliche, with people putting up with things they never would in the real world.

Random thoughts:

Lee Pace (whom I usually love!) giving his intense-mysterious-dickish-wide-eyed-smirk at every opportunity.

And just about everything Blondie Hacker Punk Chick Cameron does bugs me, as well as the reactions to her. "She's a crazy wild rebel! No, wait, she's a genius!!!!"

The lame fight scene, which was only motivated in order to result in a shirt-ripping. "Oh noes, you has scars!!!!!!!" "Let me tell you where I got them... but maybe not! PSYCH!!!!"

Sorry, the more I think about it the more it bugs me, because I think there is a good story here. I just don't know if I can endure this writing and these performances to tell it.

Maybe I'll just follow the plot by checking in here to see what you all have to say. That is, if anyone keeps watching it. Is that ok?

Hello???

Hello??

Anyone??
posted by The Deej at 10:54 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The best part of the show for me so far has been the intro, they nailed the graphics and the music. Otherwise, these characters don't seem to be acting like real people. A lot of fake anger and weird temper tantrums.. I'm gonna keep watching though.
posted by pwally at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I made up a Halt and Catch Fire drinking game: every time you see a dutch angle, take a drink. It's a good thing I ran out of scotch though, because alcohol poisoning is not how I want to die.
posted by catwash at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


catwash: I made up a Halt and Catch Fire drinking game: every time you see a dutch angle, take a drink.

That is so funny that you say that. I was going to comment in this thread that physically watching this show is a challenge for me -- it's really claustrophobic and cramped and disconcerting visually. I don't have the cinematographic language to explain why, but I think that dutch angle thing is a huge part of it. Thanks for the education!
posted by Rock Steady at 12:57 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Columbia & Compaq have already made BIOSes before Cardiff? Compaq was dominant in 1988. (I worked at a clone assembler storefront). Would it really make sense for a mainframe company to get into the PC clone business and go up against them in 1982? Was anyone besides IBM & CDC still even making mainframes at that point? I thought minis were what the scrappy companies (Data General) did.

I thought this was going to be a fictionalized version of one of the first companies to reverse engineer the BIOS, not the third.

I'll keep watching, but the set design, costumes and music are keeping me more than the story at this point. Hope I don't end up hate-watching by the end of the season.

What's in the binder? I thought it was assembly source of IBM's BIOS. Then at one point, they're afraid Cameron gave it to IBM. What? How does that make sense?
posted by morganw at 2:08 PM on June 9, 2014


I've wanted Lee Pace to have a tv vehicle for a while, so I'm pretty horrified that the strong hint of suck in the pilot has already blossomed into full flowering crap mainly because of whatever is going on with his character, making the rest seem not quite as bad in comparison, but ugh, what and why is this going on? If they can undo the damage done, that would be a feat worth watching but it looks like it's just going to dig itself deeper. Besides Toby Huss, it was surprisingly bad, yet some people like it? I'm guessing they might be young enough that they don't recognize the clichés.

Not quite funny bad, but possibly soon.
posted by provoliminal at 3:47 PM on June 9, 2014


It's like the director said "OK... ACTION! Now, everyone be a stupid asshole!!!! Great! CUT!"

I hope that's it, because at least then there's a glimmer of hope that they'll stop.
posted by homunculus at 6:25 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have to admit, there's something there.
It's like they're deliberately not hitting the right notes, deliberately being clichéd.

It's intriguing.
posted by fullerine at 8:24 PM on June 9, 2014


Yes I seriously wonder if this is just an entire workshop on being a the most unreasonable dick at every possible opportunity. Even small decisions have to result in stress.

Order the tuna melt at McDonald's... flip out and attack when they don't have it.
posted by SharkParty at 8:51 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Deej: “It's like the director said "OK... ACTION! Now, everyone be a stupid asshole!!!! Great! CUT!"”
It's like neither the writer nor the director has actually met a human being.


I was kind of flabbergasted by them mentioning Compaq. What's the point if the story isn't a fictionalization of the creation of the first IBM compatible portable computer?

I also wonder if Howe is a legitimate character for early '80s Austin. It seems like that kind of — for lack of a better term — Riot Grrrl persona wasn't really common until several years after. I'm not saying there weren't punk rock fans in Austin in 1980. I'm just not sure about her whole mien being realistic for the time and place.

Still, I'll be watching again next week. McMillan's "Carousel" speech at the end got to me.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:49 AM on June 10, 2014


i almost turned it off when she randomly tried to fuck him again in the basement.

so much of it just doesn't quite make sense. They don't set up motivations for the characters half the time. it's like scenes get cut without the story being reworked, or without any thought of how or why it'll effect the overall episodes arc. It made absolutely no sense when Gordon was searching her bag in the cleanroom, and the explanation later that he thought she had the BIOS book felt like a lazy retcon. It also felt like they were essentially playing out the identical scene over and over when they kept cutting to Joe raging out in the basement.

The stereo shop scene also made no sense. Even if they're setting up Joe as "crazy" it's soooo two dimensional and boring.

Still, I'll be watching again next week. McMillan's "Carousel" speech at the end got to me

I didn't buy it. I liked how Cameron called him out the first time, and so did Gordon. It felt like another swing-and-a-miss attempt at being don draper that just fell flat... except they sold it straight. I don't really know how you recover from that.

I know i'll probably end up watching it next week too, but damn if it isn't getting a bit tiresome and smugly fart-sniffy on the part of Joe's character. They haven't really recovered yet from how clunkily they portrayed Gordon in the pilot either. I mean, i realize it's still episode 2 but on every good show i've watched that didn't have a particularly strong pilot, you could strongly feel the engines being at max power and some serious G's being pulled at an upward angle as it actually you know, took off from the runway. I can think of very few exceptions to this. ST:TNG maybe?

I feel like they have one, maybe two more episodes to hit some kind of at least vague stride here and have at least some redeeming moments or this show is seriously going down in flames.
posted by emptythought at 12:57 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


so much of it just doesn't quite make sense. They don't set up motivations for the characters half the time. it's like scenes get cut without the story being reworked, or without any thought of how or why it'll effect the overall episodes arc.

Beyond the character motivations there's some serious continuity problems with the story. The most glaring issue to me is the process of re-engineering the BIOS seems to be missing a crucial step. First you reverse engineer the original, then you write a functional API that describes what it does without specifying how it does it. Then you toss that over the Chinese Wall to the guy/gal who uses it to recreate the BIOS in a "clean" fashion that doesn't infringe on the original owner's IP. Without that API as a guide, Cameron has nothing to base her new BIOS on. There's no point in having the blue binder if they don't do something with it.

I thought the depiction of reverse engineering in the pilot was brilliant. It explained & demonstrated the concepts behind the process in an elegant & concrete fashion that non-technical people could grab ahold of & that's not a subject you can easily do that with. But now they've wasted all that effort by completely screwing up the rest of the process.

This show is so uneven. It's a mish-mash of good & bad with a sprinkling of brilliance. I really want it to succeed; accurate depictions of computing are something that's largely missing from popular culture & this show could have a role in correcting that. But only if it gets the tech part right.
posted by scalefree at 2:31 AM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I feel like we've jumped ahead to the part of the Overly Intricate Plan juuust before Antagonist reveals that he knew what Protagonist was doing all along, and that's why Sidekick had the pointless heel turn, except then we get the reveal that Protagonist knew what Villain was doing all along and Sidekick is really on the side of the angels, except you need that part at the climax, not in episode three.
posted by Etrigan at 4:18 AM on June 10, 2014


Then you toss that over the Chinese Wall to the guy/gal who uses it to recreate the BIOS in a "clean" fashion that doesn't infringe on the original owner's IP. Without that API as a guide, Cameron has nothing to base her new BIOS on.

Yes I definitely wondered what the hell was going on here... as portrayed onscreen, there wasn't really any reason to read IBM's BIOS at all... since they just stuck Cameron in a bare office and told her to just go ahead and make us a computer thanks.
posted by SharkParty at 8:25 AM on June 10, 2014


It's just bizarre to me that they got something as complex as reading code off the BIOS with probes & LEDs but missed the big picture of the process entirely.

There must be chaos behind the scenes for that to happen. It's like making a basball movie & perfectly explaining the intricacies of a slider pitch but then they run the bases backwards.
posted by scalefree at 9:14 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm about 1/3 the way through episode 2. I am not compelled. What am I missing?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:41 AM on June 10, 2014


1/3? Oh, it gets better! (And by "better" I mean, well, you know...)
posted by The Deej at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2014


I had a really visceral hatey reaction after the first episode and this one did not change that opinion. Lee Pace's acting is just so weird. And everyone else is boring.
posted by something something at 11:10 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


And just about everything Blondie Hacker Punk Chick Cameron does bugs me, as well as the reactions to her. "She's a crazy wild rebel! No, wait, she's a genius!!!!"

I wish she and her Dragon Tattoo would fall into a deep sinkhole, but only after she ax murders the rest of the characters. This bilge makes Turn and Low Winter Sun look positively tolerable by comparison.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't catch the first episode, and I watched this one only because I had been watching the season finale of that Revolutionary War spy show that aired before it, while assembling a dresser for my mom...so, my reaction might be a bit tainted, but...

I'm with Ruthless Bunny on this...Am I missing something? I guess this is great if you're a geek and really into the history of the PC revolution and such, but the whole thing just sort of hit me like a mediocre episode of ST:TNG, where every other line is technobabble of some sort. Only, instead of "EPS conduits" it's "BIOS". But they don't have a cool spaceship or Picard or anything to really hang onto.

This ep did nothing to convince me to watch another. I just really don't give a poop about the "rebel" days of the PC revolution. It's not that interesting, frankly.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2014


Am I missing something?

The thing that's different about HCF's technobabble is it's all real. Like when she got mad at McMillen in the storage room & schooled him on his lack of code-reading skills, that was all real opcodes you'd find inside a BIOS. It's obscure, even arcane knowledge but some of us (me) get off on that kind of stuff. I'm not expecting most people to have any idea what it means but for me it was the high point of the episode. I imagine many Hungarians felt the same way about some recent episodes of Louie.
posted by scalefree at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm also having problems with this not taking place in Silicon Valley, where I was in the eighties.

That would have been cool. I've been watching in 10 minute increments, I hope to finish this episode, but my expectation is that Chick comes up with brilliant new way of doing BIOS code, and we're off like a rocket.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:07 AM on June 12, 2014


Just got to the part where they found the brilliant code. Shit.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:50 PM on June 13, 2014


Now I'm at the part where he's mesmerizing them in the parking lot. Unless something amazing happens, I'm out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 PM on June 13, 2014


OK. Im'a go with the pilot originally being two hour and this episode being pieced together with the dregs plus other stuff the hurriedly wrote and shot to fill the gaps. Because I don't know how else you explain the continuity hiccups (big ditto on the reason for the bag search reason feeling retcond). The lack of explicit api stage in the reverse engineer, the inexplicable character motivations , for the scenes that seem to exist only to hamfist already clear character achritypes down our throats. What the hell, Show?
And Mentioning Compaq?! I thought the whole point was this company was going to BE this universe's Compaq. I mean with the handle even?!
*deep breath*
There's so much potential still there. I'm going to assume the thing I said above till I've seen another episode or two.
I want you so badly to be what you could be, but I'm giving you lots of side-eye, Show!
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 7:29 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Watching this show actually makes me angry, it's so bad and it could be so good. The writing is so stilted and the exposition is so forced, and I just hate all of the characters so much. I'll give it another couple of episodes, but only because I have a big soft spot for early 80s nerd details and I miss Ned the Piemaker.

We've started calling it "that Lee Pacehole show" at our house.
posted by dialetheia at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2014


I know this thread is long-dead, but I just figured something out about what this show is doing wrong, as demonstrated by the finale of Episode 2.

Sequence Of Events:
  1. Joe desperately needs to find a gimmick that will ensure their new machine satisfies an unmet consumer need.
  2. On his way home he stops at a stereo store.
  3. "Why are you going out of business?" he shouts.
  4. _________________________________________________
  5. Next scene: Joe pulls up in a car as Gordon and Cameron are shouting at each other.
  6. "We're going to make it portable!" he proclaims.
What Would Have Made Sense:

   4. The store owner explains: "The component stereo tape deck business had its lunch eaten by Walkmans and boom boxes." People want portability!

What Actually Happened In This Show:

   4. HULK SMASH!!!!!

Why the car Joe was in wasn't the back seat of a Crown Vic with flashing blue and red lights is beyond me.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:31 AM on June 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I hit my stopping point in this episode. Eyebrows Draper's speech just did not land at all for me, like it sort of had me doubled over with laughter, and I really hate how they made the punky girl technologist into the hot to trot sex object.
posted by whir at 8:15 PM on June 30, 2014


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