Halt and Catch Fire

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Halt and Catch Fire TV Poster Image
Period tech drama is fascinating, but expect sexy stuff.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Morality can be murky, but the series glamorizes innovation, passion, and drive -- and the hard work that goes into it. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters' moral decision-making is somewhat fluid, but they're working toward an important goal with shared passion. Female characters are sparse but make for strong, unconventional role models who buck reductive stereotypes.


Infrequent fistfights and shouting matches.


No sensitive body parts are shown, but simulated sex can be steamy and suggestive.


Unbleeped language includes words such as "son of a bitch" and "bulls--t."


Real-life tech companies that play a role in the plot include IBM, Texas Instruments, and Apple.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking sometimes leads to recklessness and poor decision-making. Characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Halt and Catch Fire is a fast-moving period drama set in the 1980s that features unbleeped swearing (from "ass" and "balls" to "bulls--t") and simulated sex that's suggestive but steers clear of showing sensitive body parts. There's also some occasional social drinking and mild violence (fistfights and verbal arguments).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydaveteds September 20, 2020

Outre Sexual Practice Depictions Not For Younger Viewers

In the first 5 minutes there's a depiction of hook up rough sex that our 14 year old wasn't comfortable watching. I don't suppose it got too gra... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJoanMacmillan November 1, 2014


To be truthful, us kids are exposed to much more than swearing and sex, so you might as well stop trying to censor it all out. We will all find out eventually,... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set on the flats of Texas' "Silicon Prairie" circa 1983, HALT AND CATCH FIRE follows a trio of tech-industry risktakers who set out to build a better personal computer. Spearheading the project is Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a former IBM executive who recruits a disillusioned engineer (Scoot McNairy) to dissect his ex-employer's flagship PC but must add an unpredictable prodigy (Mackenzie Davis) to the mix when IBM threatens to sue.

Is it any good?

There are shades of Don Draper to Halt and Catch Fire's charismatic Joe MacMillan, and that's probably no coincidence, considering the show debuted near the end of Mad Men. And so the network delivers another period hero who is handsome, mysterious, and ever charming, drawing the doubtful into his web -- and drawing in viewers, too -- with a seductive quality that's hard to ignore.

Of course, Halt and Catch Fire's characters are fictional, but, since their stories are set in a real time and place, both parents and teens who watch stand to learn something. (Lesson 1: There's a lot more to high-tech history than Silicon Valley.) The real success of the series, though, is its ability to make old technology feel new by turning the complicated language of computing into a narrative modern audiences can relate to.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Halt and Catch Fire's premise and the risks of blending fictional and factual storytelling. How accurate is the show's portrayal of the Texas tech industry in the 1980s? How are viewers supposed to know what's fact and what's fiction?

  • What role do women play in the show's central plot? What would this show be like if there were more female characters? None?

  • How has technology changed since the advent of the world's first personal computer? What are the pros and cons of today's highly portable technology? Where do we go next?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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