The year? 1984. Since I was supposedly old enough to start thinking about what I should "do" with my life, my mom offered the following excellent advice: "Steve... the future is in computers." To which I responded, "Well, I hope 'computers' enjoy their 'future'—because I'm going into the far more lucrative field of television criticism!"
OH DEAR GOD WHAT WAS I THINKING?
I'm pretty sure I was on pot at the time, because that's the only logical reason why I would've thought television criticism is a worthy career in ANY universe. As you have already surmised by being an inhabitant of Earth, TV critics are only slightly more respected than a handful of dog poop being thrown at someone's grandmother.
Besides! In a decade or so, we won't even HAVE what we now think of as television. We'll probably be streaming content directly onto our corneas via tiny routers implanted inside our brains. THINK I'M CRAZY? Well, think about this: Before 2010, there was no such thing as an iPad. But if I had described an iPad to you in 2008? You would've declared me insane and thrown dog crap at my grandma!!
So because I didn't listen to my mom, now I'm doomed to a life of despair, where I'll spend the rest of my forced retirement wandering away from my rest home dressed in nothing but slippers and an open, tattered bathrobe. On the upside? I've scored a LOT of tail in my time—which I would've never accomplished had I spent my youth creating code for the billionaires at Microsoft. Life's a tradeoff!
Anyway, now I can experience the computer career I missed with the new AMC series Halt and Catch Fire (debuting Sunday, June 1, 10 pm). The name comes from an old-timey programming code that would ostensibly take over a computer, overload it, and shut it down. And that's the overriding theme of this show set in the early '80s "Silicon Prairie" of Texas, where young fledgling tech companies cowered in the shadow of computer god IBM—until some brash young upstarts employed quasi-legal shenanigans to take over the industry.
Suave 'n' cocky Joe MacMillan (a convincing Lee Pace) is a smooth-talking visionary who recruits an under-appreciated drunky programmer and a punky gal genius to reverse engineer an IBM computer, steal some pertinent info, and develop a brand-new PC. Naturally, IBM gets wind of the project, setting off a cat 'n' mouse game of technological intrigue... all set to new wave music.
Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting hybrid of two other AMC greats (Mad Men and Breaking Bad) that's a period piece as well as a crime story where you root for the bad guys. And while the plotting and '80s tropes can be a bit heavy handed at times, it does a pretty good job of depicting the excitement of creating new technology, and what it could mean (and, in this case, eventually did mean) for the future.
So listen to my mother! Give Halt and Catch Fire—as well as a career in computing—a chance. (This message has been brought to you by my grandma, currently covered in dog poop.)
This Week on Television
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28
9:00 SPIKE ALL-STAR COMEDY TRIBUTE TO DON RICKLES
Comedians and stars (including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) line up to roast classic insult genius Don Rickles.
THURSDAY, MAY 29
9:00 NBC UNDATEABLE
Debut! A gang of friends are hopeless in the land of romance (co-starring the verrry funny Ron Funches)!
10:00 IFC MARON
Marc sets up his mom on a blind date that goes a little too well. (In other words, SEX.)
FRIDAY, MAY 30
9:00 NGC ICE HOLES
Debut! A reality show about ice fishermen, which is only notable for its name.
10:00 NBC CROSSBONES
Debut! John Malkovich stars as Blackbeard in this adventure drama about pirates (who may or may not say "arrgh" and "yo ho ho").
SATURDAY, MAY 31
8:00 HBO ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
Performances from inductees such as Hall & Oates, KISS, Linda Ronstadt, and more!
9:00 ABC SING YOUR FACE OFF
Debut! D-list celebs train to perform like legendary music icons. (Their faces, unfortunately, stay intact.)
SUNDAY, JUNE 1
10:00 AMC HALT AND CATCH FIRE
Debut! Computer visionaries (nerds) in the '80s reverse engineer an IBM—with potentially disastrous results.
10:00 HBO SILICON VALLEY
Season finale! More computer idea stealing—but this time the big guys are robbing the little guys!
MONDAY, JUNE 2
10:00 FX LOUIE
Another awkward Louie-style romance comes to a crushing and hilarious end.
TUESDAY, JUNE 3
FAMOUS IN 12
Debut! A family has only 12 weeks to become "famous" in LA. (Pro tip: Murder is not the answer!)
10:00 FX FARGO
Molly is under pressure to solve the case, while Lester (wrongly) thinks he's gotten away with it.