When we last saw Joe MacMillan, the mercurial Dallas salesmen at the center of the AMC computer drama Halt and Catch Fire, he was wandering into the Texas wilderness, seemingly without purpose, or direction, or even snacks. Considering the show's meager ratings and uneven critical reception, it wasn't hard to believe that we'd never see MacMillan again.
But we will: AMC has picked up the show for a second season, meaning Plano native Chris Cantwell, the show's co-creator and the subject of our May cover story, remains gainfully employed.
Set in 1983, the show's first season followed MacMillan (Lee Pace) and two engineers, Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Gordon Clark (Dallas native Scoot McNairy), as they tried to turn a sleepy Dallas software company into a visionary computer company at the dawn of the PC era, with legal threats from IBM and advances from Apple and other competitors looming.
Critics generally found its opening few episodes rocky. But as the characters zeroed in on their goal about halfway through the season, and especially as they tried to bring their product to market, the critics' tone seemed to turn, especially in the eighth and ninth episodes of the 10-episode run.
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Cantwell got the renewal news yesterday. He was running errands when he received an email asking him to join a conference call with "all of the executives that were ever born." He was hopeful, he says.
"The network was tremendously supportive and they've said time and again how proud they are of the show." Plus, Cantwell says, "They are the network that allows stuff to go."
Still, with flagging ratings, "Were on the bubble," and he didn't know which way the call would go until the words left the bosses' mouth: You're back.
Cantwell says he, co-creator Chris Rogers and showrunner Jonathan Lisco will be back in the writers' room next month, and the show will start shooting early next year in Atlanta. It will air next summer. They've already presented AMC with a rough outline of where they want the show to go -- a "trailhead," Cantwell calls it. That trail no doubt leads MacMillan back to civilization, and, I'm betting, off to Silicon Valley for at least part of season 2.