Last night, I tuned into AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and, as I mentioned on Twitter, I felt like I was the only person still watching besides one of Lee Pace’s stalkers, and even she was two episodes behind. Three or four people, however, chimed in to say that they were still watching but, like me, they had no idea why. I certainly don’t know why I’m watching anymore, except that last night I used it as a means to put off watching the disappointing Penny Dreadful finale.
Despite what I thought was a very promising pilot episode, the series has been spinning its wheels since. Nothing is happening! They just keep talking about this great computer that they’re going to make some day, and Lee Pace delivers grandiose pronouncements, and at the beginning of each episode, they seem to be approximately right back where they started: Trying to make a personal computer that will compete with IBM and Apple.
Anyway, I was curious after last night’s episode to see just how many of us were still watching, at least according to the Nielsen ratings. That turned out to be a much bigger problem than I thought. Why? TVByTheNumbers only ranks the top 30 cable shows each night, and Halt and Catch Fire wasn’t among the top 30. However, someone in the comments section stated that last week’s episode was seen by .844 million viewers, which tracks with what Wikipedia says, and that’s actually UP from the 760,000 viewers who watched the series’ third episode. (It’s even worse in the 18-49 demo, where Halt and Catch Fire sports a puny .35, less than the .5 Modern Family reruns get on the USA Network at 11:30 p.m).
Indeed, Halt and Catch Fire is now on track to become AMC’s lowest-rated drama since Breaking Bad and Mad Men transformed the network into a prestige television powerhouse. How bad are the ratings for Halt and Catch Fire in the context of its other shows?
Well, Hell on Wheels ended its third season with 2.5 million viewers, good enough for a fourth season (comparatively, Hell on Wheels is a hit for the network). Remember Rubicon? It ended its first and only season with 1.04 million viewers. Turn, which was renewed, bounced from a series low of 1.08 million viewers to end its first season with 1.6 million viewers. The Killing was cancelled a second time despite ending its third season with 1.49 million viewers, and I’m betting that AMC wishes they hadn’t given that series up to Netflix now.
Low Winter Sun, meanwhile, is the lowest-rated show of AMC’s post-Mad Men run. While it may have ended with meager .63 million viewers, after its fourth episode, it still had 1.18 million viewers, or 400,000 more viewers than Halt and Catch Fire had after four episodes.
When your show is getting two-thirds of Low Winter Sun’s ratings, folks, you know things are gloomy. In other words, if you’re holding out hope that Cardiff Electric FINALLY creates that goddamn computer, sometime around the fourth season, give it up. Unless there is a spectacular rebound, Halt and Catch Fire will never see a second season, and Lee Pace will once again return to the ranks of the unemployed television actor.