We wouldn't get PBS til we moved to White Plains in 1968. FOX of course showed up when we were in the U.P. However, back in Medina NY we did get two Canadian channels across Lake Ontario from Toronto -- CBC and CTV. In the summer they'd run other series, like The Champions.
Now, with cable, it isn't just reruns of network leftovers and staples. There's all sorts of new programming, coming from unexpected sources. Including Netflix.
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
I missed the first episode of this series and it won't play on my Kindle Fire HD, nor have I hauled out the Asus netbook. This story of the development of a 1983 "lightweight" portable IBM PC clone -- only fifteen pounds! -- just finished its first season on Sunday. The classic 1984 first Macintosh ad. I don't know a lot of details about the heady early days of tech startups and big projects.
A TIME magazine columnist fears this first season may be its last, a worry I share especially with some of the over the top bad behavior, but he takes a stab at why it matters.
The computer drama's imperfect first season may have been its last. But here's hoping it means more series that find the excitement in creation rather than destruction.And it was uneven. But the main characters grew. And we got Cameron, a punk brilliant coder who has her own vision of the future. And Donna, a hardware geek married to a hardware geek, who is very good at saving the day, if the men in charge will let her.
Before this, the best way to understand the building of a new computer was the outstanding book The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. But competing in the midframe VAX market is increasingly alien. Halt and Catch Fire may be ancient technology by today's standards, with talk of DOS and Lotus 1-2-3, but it's still relatable. And how often do you get TV dramas talking about writing BIOS and printer drivers, power and heat issues, suppliers, etc.?
The other year they FINALLY came out with the DVD set of Oppenheimer, from American Playhouse on PBS. A young pre-Law & Order Sam Waterson is J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who was the civilian head of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos which built the atomic bomb during WW II. This series, MANH(A)TTAN, started last weekend on WGN of all places.
One thing I really appreciate is that they throw us right into the middle. Not an origin story, we are in the midst of deciding between the uranium Thin Man "gadget" and the plutonium implosion device. It's hot. It's dusty. There's paranoia about security and tension between the scientists, the military and the families who have no idea what the hell is going on. It's filmed in a hot, dusty flat sepia toned palette. And it's crowded, a fact I appreciate in a day when budgets are tight.
Frankly, this wasn't even on my radar before I started seeing ads on Cubs games. Alas it's up against some stiff competition on Sunday night. Fortunately, WGN is rerunning the show several times during the week -- it's not like they have a ton of other original content -- so try to catch this. The story of the atomic bomb is a fascinating moment in science and full of all sorts of dilemmas.
Reminds me a lot of the novel Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith.
The third season of the Wyoming sheriff series ended tonight. It's a gritty, rural, modern Western. With lots of old animosities and tensions in the community. Plus the murder of Walt's wife before the first episode. The second season fired up after I was in hospital last year, and it was good late night company once a week. A&E typically runs new episodes at 10 and a repeat at 11pm -- a pattern repeated by a lot of cable series. In this case, I often watch both to catch all the subtleties. (grin)
The top three roles are outstanding -- Robert Taylor as the grisled Walt. Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt's best friend Henry Standing Bear. And Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck from the recent Battlestar Galactica reboot, as Deputy Vic Moretti. The law... can be a little looser than we're used to from Law & Order or CSI. But Walt is no dummy, either. There is a natural and emotional ending to this last episode, but it goes on. And not only are there still unanswered questions, but we get another cliffhanger.
Alas, there is some controversy about the harsh working conditions on the shoot. Long, long hours probably contributed to the death of someone on the crew. Given the remote scenery, I can imagine.
The key thing is that NONE of these shows could've showed up on network television. Not even PBS. Nd since we don't get HBO, Showtime or Starz, which have increasingly brought out big budget Emmy inning television, this new cable blood is really cool. And something to watch.