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AMC renews low-rated, critically acclaimed ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ for third season

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in "Halt and Catch Fire."

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in “Halt and Catch Fire.”

(Richard DuCree / AMC )

More than two months after the series aired its season two finale, AMC has renewed “Halt and Catch Fire” for a third season, the network announced Thursday.

The series centers on the rise of the personal computer in the early ‘80s, the budding of early Internet culture, and the interpersonal relationships of four individuals toiling in the industry. The show stars Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan, Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark, Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark and Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe.

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Though the series has always suffered with finding an audience, season two ratings were anemic, averaging around 500,000 viewers, not including time-shifted views. Joel Stillerman, AMC’s president of original programming and development, stressed the importance of the network owning its own content when it came to the decision to renew.

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“A few years ago we decided that we needed to own our content. We did that for a number of reasons, once of which was to find a way to support these shows even if they’re not massive ratings successes,” Stillerman said in an interview Wednesday, “So we were happy that we had the full spectrum of metrics that ownership affords to be able to say yes.”

But there are changes coming for “Halt and Catch Fire” and they aren’t limited to merely the change of scenery as established by the plot developments in the season two finale, with the relocation of the story from the Silicon Prairie of Texas to California’s Silicon Valley. The showrunner for the first two seasons, Jonathan Lisco, will be departing and co-creators Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers will be taking over as showrunners.

Stillerman is adamant that Lisco’s departure is happening under only the best terms. “Jonathan is moving on at his election to pursue a passion project he had been developing for some time, long before ‘Halt and Catch Fire’. I know it was not an easy decision for him, but he made a decision we fully supported.” Moreover, Stillerman reports that Lisco is more than confident that Cantwell and Rogers are up to the task of showrunning, saying, “He was so embracing of Chris and Chris, in terms of showing them the ropes. They’re truly ready.”

With the series set to return in the summer, not much is clear about what season three will look like, outside of the move to California, with production likely beginning early next year. Stillerman said that as the network has always been very involved in the planning the show, having “the Chrises” in to share their overall vision for season three was more of a formality than anything. “We absolutely asked them to come in, share a little bit of their vision for season three, but it was more of a ceremonial step.”

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Despite the disappointing ratings, “Halt and Catch Fire” is critically well-positioned as it readies for a third season of 10 episodes. The show benefited from something of a critical groundswell, particularly toward the end of season two, and Stillerman stresses that the network heard and appreciated that feedback from critics, saying, “The critical momentum that the show picked up: We hear that. We respond to it and it’s really important.”

Stillerman appears to have faith that “Halt and Catch Fire” will find its audience in the third season, particularly given the show’s Netflix availability, and talked excitedly about what season three might hold, “There’s a great line from the pilot where Joe MacMillan says, ‘It’s not the thing. It’s the thing that gets you to the thing.’ Season one was about the hardware and season two was about what Mutiny was working on, to be able to take them to the place where it all ultimately unfolds. That’s a great place to start a third season from.”

Follow me on Twitter at @midwestspitfire.


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