Everyone has used the line about how Halt and Catch Fire is trying to reverse engineer Mad Men, so I won’t even bother. But really, is that such a bad thing? Many successful TV series and/or films are derived from other series or movies; some are parodies, while others are straight up rip offs. At the end of the day it’s all about execution.
Halt and Catch Fire (HCF) starts with an explanation of the title just in the same way Mad Men did in its first episode. Yeah, they could have had someone explain, or even demonstrate, the process, but who cares? It really is just a title.
And yes, the three leads are pretty much pastiches of characters we have seen in various forms of media over the years. I don’t mind this as long as they develop and grow over the course of the series. That’s not to say that they are all one note characters, far from it. In a series that is going to require the viewer to endure quite a lot of technobabble it’s good to have something that is easily understood right out of the gate. I’m sure that once the premise is sunken in to everyone’s mind there will be a lot more character development.
There have also been any number of reviewers who have compared Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) to Don Draper. Yes, they both have a mysterious past, and are good at rousing the troops and bringing out the best in people; usually to their own benefit. This being the 80s, a Gordon Gekko comparison is not out of place. In an alternate universe you could see Lee Pace as Don Draper, or even Jon Hamm as Joe MacMillan, or either one as Gordon Gekko. Then again, in an alternate reality, James Van Der Beek was the star of Fringe.
Scoot McNairy plays Gordon Clark a.k.a. “A-16.” There was a time when Clark was a rising star in the world of computers, but it all went into the toilet when he tried to start his own company, Symphonic. So yeah, there are Walter White comparisons to be made. And Gordon’s wife, Donna (Kerry Bishe), has been compared to Skyler White, but time will tell.
Now Gordon is working as an office drone at Cardiff Electric, a company that was probably happy doing whatever it was before the computer boom. It isn’t long before Joe recruits Gordon to be part of his grand scheme to make money, and stick it to IBM in the process.
The third part of the triumvirate is Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). Since the Mary Stuart Masterson comparisons are all used up, I’ll say that she looks like a cross pollenation of Chynna Phillips and Alexis Bledel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
That’s the thing with depictions of female computer experts on television or in films: they are either impossibly hot, or stereotypically nerdy–there seems to be no middle ground. Then again, one persons nerdy is another persons hot: It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
And of course Cameron is a fan of the Clash–they are the only band that matters. I love the Clash, full stop. The thing about the Clash is that they melded rock, punk, reggae, and other styles of music into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Hopefully Halt and Catch Fire can do the same thing.