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The Modesto Bee Pat Clark column [The Modesto Bee :: ]
[June 18, 2014]

The Modesto Bee Pat Clark column [The Modesto Bee :: ]

(Modesto Bee (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 18--AMC has created some of the best, most critically acclaimed original television shows to come out of cable -- "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead" leading the way.

But "Bad" is gone forever and, alas, "Men" will leave us soon. I've only sporadically watched "Walking Dead" (it freaks me out), but my son assures me it's a winner. He also has become a fast fan of one of AMC's new series this summer, the Revolutionary War-set "TURN." But with the loss of the earlier mentioned shows, an empty space loomed in my quality-TV basket. So I decided to give another recently debuted AMC drama a shot, "Halt and Catch Fire." And I just don't know.

Where "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" had me hooked from Episode 1, "Halt and Catch Fire" has me kind of perplexed.

The show is set in the 1980s during the race to control the then-new personal computer industry. It stars Lee Pace (of "Pushing Daisies") as a "visionary" who teams with an engineer and coding prodigy to create a "portable PC." Fascinating series concept -- and one my son is particularly interested in -- but I have to admit, I'm confused. In reading about the show, it's clearly a fictionalized account of the era's Texas version of the Silicon Valley. There's a lot of corporate spying, risky business and such, as the upstarts go after IBM.

My biggest problem with the show is that I just don't like the lead character, Joe MacMillan, played by Pace. He appears to be a possibly dangerous sociopath, and that's not a good place to start with a lead character. Frankly, dude's a creeper.

The stuff he pulls to drag a Texas electronics firm into his plan and put it at odds with IBM seems farfetched -- although, admittedly, I know nothing about big business practices.

MacMillan clearly is TV's latest antihero, a protagonist trend that's been building from the days of Tony Soprano, to Don Draper, to Walter White. I was on board for all those characters (although fans of "The Sopranos," "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," respectively, really have had to get past some rough, disgusting behavior where those antiheroes sunk pretty low). Time will tell if MacMillan gains that sympathetic edge, whether he goes from seemingly having no soul to having merely a damaged one.

Despite MacMillan's off-puttingness, the story line and other characters are intriguing; particularly the dragged-in cohort Gordon Clark, played by Scoot McNairy. He's a sympathetic enough character to kind of balance out the creepiness of Pace's MacMillan.

Then there's the punk-rock code-writing chick, Cameron (Mackenzie Davis), who's fascinating to watch -- plus she listens to some great '80s cult music.

The show has received high marks from most critics, but it isn't the instant grabber hoped for by this viewer. Time will tell.

Another TV series I'm back and forth on is a cooking competition -- oh, what?! -- on the Esquire Network, "Knife Fight." Yes, this is shocking, because almost any cooking competition show easily reels me in -- heck, I even watch the nearly unwatchable "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off." But "Knife Fight" is a little obnoxious.

I'd thought for sure it would be a winner. After all, its host is former "Top Chef" champ Ilan Hall and it pits a lot of "Top Chef" alumni and other TV competition veteran celebrity chefs against one another in single-episode battles. There aren't any prizes for the winners, "just bragging rights." It's set in Hall's Los Angeles eatery, The Gorbals, with an "audience" made up of, seemingly, patrons who are a little overzealous. And you know they have to be especially obnoxious to put off this cooking competition show zealot.

It's all a bit cacophonous, between the audience yelling, the loud music and fast-cut filming. It almost comes off more like a cage match, sans the wire cell, than a cooking competition. I have a few episodes on DVR hold, awaiting their view-or-delete fate.

The upside is seeing familiar faces back in competition. "Knife Fight" returns this summer for another season.

I've been assured by several readers that "The Good Wife" has maintained its excellence and continues to be a true draw, despite the death of lawyer Will Gardner. So I have the final four episodes of the past season also holding on DVR.

I just haven't been able to muster up the energy to watch them. Frankly, I remain a little huffy about the whole thing.

I do intend to follow through on the show this summer, finishing out the season.

Hopefully, I'll find the lawyer drama just as on-track fabulous as it was before my favorite character tragically exited the series.

Right now, I'm still mourning Will -- somewhere between depression and acceptance on the seven-stages chart.

Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at

___ (c)2014 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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