Last year, after AMC’s much hyped Low Winter Sun bit the ratings dust in dramatic fashion, the network was smart enough to let that series go. It was a lost cause. Earlier this year, however, they renewed TURИ and renamed it TURN: Washington’s Spies, despite mediocre ratings and mixed reviews, in part because that drama gained steam near the end of the first season, ending with around 1.6 million viewers (a not bad number). But now they’ve done the unthinkable: They’ve renewed Halt and Catch Fire.
Well, here’s a couple of reasons.
First of all, it wasn’t because of ratings. The series ended with the lowest ratings in AMC’s original dramatic programming history. Worse even than Low Winter Sun, and there was zero momentum going into the finale, which was seen by a measly 550,000 people. It also wasn’t because of positive reviews because the series was mostly dismissed by critics from the beginning, and the few of us that stuck with it, were very harsh (while a couple of contrarians defended it for suspect reasons). In fact, Lee Pace’s character, Joe, was singled out as one of the worst kinds of characters on TV.
But here’s why AMC probably decided to keep the series anyway: Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy. Lee Pace is still a very popular actor (at least with the AMC demographic), and his turn in Guardians of the Galaxy is only going to make him more popular. Plus, the other male lead, Scott McNairy, will be in Batman vs. Superman, so he’s likely to be more high profile an actor going ahead, as well. Kerry Bishe and Toby Huss are legitimately good, talented actors, who were simply saddled with bad writing and some seriously terrible storylines in the first season. (Mackenzie Davis, god bless her, is just not very good).
More importantly, however, is the fact that AMC needs original programming right now. They’re losing Mad Men next year. They lost Breaking Bad. Low Winter Sun didn’t work out. And while they have ordered six pilots for next year (plus Better Call Saul, and including Seth Rogen’s Preacher adaptation), there are still huge gaps in their schedule. For instance, right now, the network is not running any original dramas except for Saturday night’s Hell on Wheels and won’t until The Walking Dead returns. And then there’s nothing else until Better Call Saul is paired with The Walking Dead in the winter. At this point, AMC is looking at a Billy Corgan wrestling reality show, and an All-Star Celebrity Bowling show. That’s not the AMC we love.
Basically, the network needs more filler, and Halt and Catch Fire is a reasonably priced filler series that will bridge the gap for the network between their more high-profile series. Unfortunately, it’s also a terrible series, and unless the network can reboot it (with new writers), it’s not likely to get much better, and I don’t know many people willing to give it another shot.