I’ve essentially completed a long commentary on the AMC drama Halt and Catch Fire, about which I’d like to say, as a Noël Coward–like character in a play says about something he just wrote, “It’s so good it frightens me.” I’m not sure it’s that good, but I’ve pitched it, defying common practice, to a publication or two and am waiting to hear about that. Either it’ll appear here soon, or it’ll appear elsewhere, which I imagine I’ll think to mention. Here are a few excerpts from the current draft:
[Halt and Catch Fire] begins in 1983 in Dallas, with the coming together of a small group of characters who are either working to create a new personal computer or indirectly supporting the cause through a job at a major manufacturer. Whether this has struck anyone as far-fetched I can’t say, but Dallas is better known for oil, finance, football, and right-wing grouches—and still, I imagine, for a certain swashbuckling businessman named J.R.
Yet, in a manner of speaking, Halt and Catch Fire’s scenario is true history.
[The show’s] execution leans toward melodrama. From the pilot to the latest episode, its characters fight and they break up, they kiss and they make up—no, wait, that’s a Katy Perry song. But we see a fair number of angry outbursts and changes of mind, deceptions and betrayals and manipulative seductions, reckless moves and misjudgments and mere mistakes.
The show rings so many contemporary bells that it looks like a vision of the present displaced to the 80s—for which we should be thankful, since it spares us the big hair.
Meanwhile, I’ll be dealing soon with a delightfully unnerving play called Caught, now being presented in New York by The Play Company.
By the way, has anyone noticed this peculiarity about publishing? In order to sell a book, you’re often supposed to have written the book, whereas in order to sell a newspaper or magazine article, you’re supposed to have not written it. Book publishers want to see the fruits of your labor, which they then, on occasion, fail to appreciate; J. K. Rowling’s manuscript for the first Harry Potter book was repeatedly rejected, to name just one example. Periodicals publishers want only to hear your idea, so that, if they like it, they can guide the development of the piece. And yet they sometimes cancel it and end up paying a fee for work that they don’t publish. Sometimes it all looks like a crapshoot.