Is ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ the Next ‘Mad Men’?

Halt and Catch FireAMC

Mad Men is not long for this world. To add insult to injury, it will be an entire year before you get to see the end of the final season. But if you’re a fan of the mega-hit about 1960s advertisers, you are bound to have seen promos for AMC’s new series Halt and Catch Fire. This recent addition to the network seems like the perfect fit to fill the void. It follows the bad boys of the early 1980s computer industry. It offers the same blend of businessmen with mysterious motives, dark self-destructive tendencies, and nostalgia, all without feeling like a cheap carbon copy. Plus, the cast is pretty awesome.  

Lee Pace: The New Don Draper

Pace plays Joe MacMillan, a former IBM employee with a secret. He comes to Texas with a mission and a bunch of ideas. He’s the driving force behind a plan to reverse engineer an IBM computer. Pace was memorable as the lovable pie-maker in Pushing Daisies. He’s also been a part of quite a few recent franchises including Twilight, The Hobbit films, as well as the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. His enigmatic character is sexy, smart, and has that same dark Draper vibe. 

More Depressed than Pete Campbell

Scoot McNairy plays Gordon Clarke, a family man whose wife is doing better in the computing game than he is. The couple is licking their wounds after trying to build their own machine. Like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell, Gordon is struggling to make his mark in the industry while providing for his family. However, the 1980s brings the added pressure of having a wife as a potential competitor. He’s an ambitious idealist and a depressive pushover. McNairy is nearly unrecognizable with his geek makeover. He’s recently starred in Non-Stop and Argo. 

Post-Modern Punky Peggy Olsen

Mackenzie Davis plays androgynous engineering prodigy Cameron Howe. She and Joe have a will they/won’t they chemistry. Like Peggy, she butts heads with Joe and challenges his authority, and in true punk style, all authority. She’s a fish out of water at the Cardiff Electric but she is everyone’s only hope. She also seamlessly enters the “boy’s club.” She played Chelsea, Miles Teller’s love interest in That Awkward Moment. 

The nice thing about the series is it isn’t just a re-skinned version of Mad Men. It definitely has the potential to provide the same tune-in appeal with a completely new take on the pretty dry world of computers. And yet, given its impact on our society the computer was a major source of contention, innovation, and success. The series also has elements of the heist film genre. Joe is either a major mastermind or completely insane. He seems to have elaborate plans or no sense of self-preservation. There is also a lot of elements inherent to the 1980s that can be explored over the course of the series, including the hardcore push of capitalism, the rise in cocaine use, and the rampant bed-hopping before the AIDS crisis. Either way, the show looks primed to deliver something very special. You can catch the first episode early on the AMC Tumblr Page