For “Halt and Catch Fire,” nothing has changed, even though everything has changed. For the second straight summer, the computer drama has failed to score the type ratings that would make AMC’s decision to renew the series an easy one. However, unlike last year, Season 2 of “Halt and Catch Fire” was a fantastic show, almost universally praised by critics for course correcting its Season 1 flaws. Unfortunately, fans are now in a familiar position, waiting to hear if they will see more of Joe (Lee Pace), Cameron (Mackenzie), Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and co. next year. Will there be a Season 3?
Plagued by a summer start and an unenviable position filling the time slot of (and drawing comparisons to) “Mad Men,” “Halt and Catch Fire” debuted to mediocre ratings in its first season. On top of that, the show struggled to maintain a consistent quality, alternating between impressive, encouraging episodes and hours of clumsy melodrama. However, AMC saw promise in the series and decided to gamble on another season, hoping word of mouth and non-traditional viewing (Netflix, On-Demand) would spark a larger following in Season 2 à la “Breaking Bad.”
Unfortunately, ratings did not go up. They went down. “Halt and Catch Fire” averaged over 760,000 viewers during Season 1, but going into Sunday’s Season 2 finale, the show was down to an average of only 530,000.
On the flip side, the difference in critical assessment of the show has been night and day. Many have praised the show’s inarguably stronger sophomore run, which featured sharper and more subtle writing, more finely tuned performances, and a rare focus on the show’s strong, female characters. Many critics have been calling on AMC directly to stick with the show after what they saw this year.
The fight for a third season might come down to what matters more to AMC – ratings or reviews. Obviously, AMC’s business model is based on ad revenue (unlike premium cable networks like HBO) and, consequently, ratings. However, with blockbuster shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” making AMC one of the most profitable channels on cable, they might be willing to invest further in “Halt and Catch Fire” to retain the potential prestige of the series.
The Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour would have seemed a prime occasion for AMC to announce the show’s renewal, if that is the network’s plan, so AMC’s silence on the subject was instead a further blow to fans’ hopes for more episodes.
Now fans can only sit and wait for more news. Will “Halt and Catch Fire” get a Season 3? Only time will tell.
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