Show of the week: Halt & Catch Fire

Amid a glut of procedurals and a resurgence of period drama on TV, Halt & Catch Fire has trodden new drama ground on US cable channel AMC, the home of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

Set in Texas in the 1980s at the start of the home computer revolution, the series will be offered to international buyers at MIPCOM. Entertainment One has a sales pact with AMC for scripted and Stuart Baxter, the new president of eOne Television International, says Halt & Catch Fire will give acquisitions folk something fresh to consider.

“The show is incredibly different in a world where the major networks have lots of crime, investigation and medical dramas,” he says. “This is a 1980s drama, set when the US computer industry was experiencing its first set of challengers and ‘disruptors’. However, it is not a technology show, it is a tense drama carried by the very deep and quirky characters that typically disrupt.”

The sales push is already underway with deals in place in several markets, with eOne reporting interest from free and pay channels as well, as the increasingly important SVOD platforms.

The show comes Chris Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers and was produced by AMC’s in-house production division AMC Studios andGran Via, the prodco behind Breaking Bad. Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein from the Breaking Bad team are among the exec producers. The principal cast includes David Wilson Barnes (Hell on Wheels), Kerry Bishe (Argo), Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy), Scoot McNairy (12 Years a Slave) and Mackenzie Davis (What If).

Among upscale dramas the series performed creditably on AMC, ranking third on ad-supported TV behind long-running dramas Mad Men and The Good Wife. It averaged 1.3 million viewers over the initial ten-episode run, across the live and catch-up window and 645,000 in the 25-54s.

Period drama remains in vogue, but it is fair to say the 1980s is an era that is not much covered in TV drama. “It distinguishes it from a plethora of contemporary procedural and some very high brow 1960s sepia shows,” Baxter says. “The tone and style of the decade, the music and the issues were different but it is the scriptwriting and drama that really distinguishes it.”

In August, AMC greenlit a second season, meaning more episodes coming through for international buyers. “Clearly at the end of the season, a significant milestone has been achieved,” Baxter says. “The show has opened up opportunities for each of the characters to develop very differently to season one.”

The show: Halt & Catch Fire
The producers: AMC Studios, Gran Via Productions
The distributor: Entertainment One
The broadcaster: AMC (US)
The concept: Period drama set in the 1980s at the start of the home computer revolution

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