There’s no summer break on TV this week, regardless of which platform you choose.
A notable new addition to cable is Halt and Catch Fire at 10 tonight on AMC. With Mad Men done for 2014, AMC is offering a different tale of a charismatic and mysterious figure and his associates in a great adventure from America’s past. In this case, the adventure is the personal-computer business in Texas in the early ’80s, where entrepreneurs were looking to build new businesses and take on the titan IBM.
Central to the series is Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) as the loner who rides into town — yes, the show invites western metaphors — and begins turning a company, Cardiff Electric, into the foundation for his computer plans. Soon enough he is assembling a team that will include an embittered, visionary engineer (Scoot McNairy) and a promising young computer whiz (Mackenzie Davis). By the end of the premiere (which has already been available online), the three have saddled up and launched their scheme — and run into trouble. One of the best shots in the premiere is the three characters watching the arrival of an unhappy group from IBM; more and more somber suited sorts keep coming, like a posse too big to overcome.
The premiere is a bit gloomy, and the debt to Mad Men at times too blatant (MacMillan makes a sales pitch that is pure Don Draper). But it manages to turn tasks like figuring out computer code into dramatic TV. (The title, explained briefly as the show opens, is also computer language — although the various definitions I read seemed to mean simply that something really bad can happen.) The characters have some intriguing edges. And it brought back memories of the days when PCs were exciting and new (and relatively primitive), and when new competitors were lining up for our dollars.
Also on cable, Longmire returns for its third season at 10 p.m. Monday. The modern-western detective drama, based on the novels by Craig Johnson, picks up right after the end of the second season, and there’s an abundance of urgency in the tasks facing Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor). Even what appears to be a solution to a problem simply raises more difficult questions.
And TV Land premieres a new comedy, Jennifer Falls, at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, following a new episode of Hot in Cleveland. Jennifer Falls stars My Name Is Earl’s Jaime Pressly as a recently fired businesswoman who moves in with her mother (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development).
On broadcast, Mistresses, ABC’s glossy soap starring Alyssa Milano, will be back for a second summer season at 10:01 p.m. Monday.
Here’s what the network is promising: “Savi (Milano), having cheated death, makes the most of her second chance. Karen (Yunjin Kim) struggles to rebound from loss, both personal and professional. April’s (Rochelle Aytes) life gets interesting when old friend, Mickey (guest star Joseph May), returns and pushes her to make some changes and Joss (Jes Macallan) tries her hand at a new job, party planner to wealthy Angelenos.”
Also, Beauty and the Beast returns to the CW at 9 p.m. Monday. The first new episode is called Beast Is the New Black, which is rather amusing considering that Orange Is the New Black returns to Netflix for its second season on Friday.
As for Beast, the CW says that in Monday’s episode, “Vincent (Jay Ryan) is arrested for murder, Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and the team must work together at all costs to clear Vincent’s name. When they discover who turned Vincent in, they realize they have a bigger enemy to handle.” The series, by the way, has been renewed for next season.
Orange, meanwhile, continues the story of the inmates in a socially and culturally diverse women’s prison, as well as others in their lives, including the people running the prison. Based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, the first season drew all kinds of raves for the writing and performances. As is its habit, Netflix will post the entire season on Friday, so keep the following weekend clear for viewing.
At 9 p.m. Saturday, premium channel Starz premieres Power, a drama about crime and business, with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as an executive producer. (We can only hope he is more successful at producing than at throwing a baseball.) Starz has also released the first episode via Twitter and several other online platforms.
Omari Hardwick (Sparkle) stars as James “Ghost” St. Patrick, the leader of a drug empire who uses his nightclub to launder money — but also hopes the club will prove a way for him to go legit. Yes, I just heard echoes of the Corleones, too.
Finally, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network will devote most of its evening hours today to poet and author Maya Angelou, who died recently.
OWN will air an Angelou interview from the old Oprah Winfrey Show at 5 p.m., then a two-part Super Soul Sunday talk with Angelou at 6 and 7 p.m. Then comes Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball, where Angelou was one of the honorees at 8 p.m. That will be followed at 9 p.m. by an installment of Oprah’s Master Class with Angelou.
Winfrey has said of Angelou: “I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her.”
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.