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Halt and Catch Fire
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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).
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?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love history
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.