‘Halt and Catch Fire’ eventually became one of the greatest television dramas of our times, but are the comparisons with ‘Mad Men’ justified?
There is something about dramas featuring white-collar industries that immediately grab attention! Be it ‘Mad Men’, the revolutionary drama about the advertising industry or ‘Halt and Catch Fire’, talking about the computer revolution of the 1980s and the 1990s. Both the series’ depict their own industries ‘warts and all’ and present the audience with deliciously gripping dramas that not only introduced them to two commercial industries but also gave the audience a deep glimpse into the darkness that lurks behind tall buildings, shining lights, fat paychecks and the world of World Wide Web. In its later seasons, during its glorious four seasons run, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ took to the advertising world as Joe MacMillan goes about marketing his path-breaking inventions that are about to turn the whole world around! But can both the series’ ever be compared? Or is it just a classic ‘old wine in the new bottle’ thing going on with ‘Halt and Catch Fire’? Let’s find out!
- ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ recap
- ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ vs ‘Mad Men’
- Can ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ and ‘Mad Men’ be compared?
‘Halt and Catch Fire’ premiered in June 2014 and featured a young entrepreneur named Joe MacMillan, a former IBM sales executive who is aiming to make it big and obsessively pursuing the ‘next big thing’ tag for himself. Our anti-hero does whatever necessary to ensure that his dreams come true and they do! But in the pursuance of his life goals of forming a tech giant company, he does a lot of ‘anti-hero’ stuff that make him one of the most complex protagonists we have ever witnessed on television. We meet more characters on the way, each of them carrying their own demons on their shoulders and following their individual goals. Characters like Gordon Clark, Cameron Howe and Dona Clark make the show worth all the praises it has achieved during its compact run of 4 seasons and 40 episodes.
‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Review
The series works on many levels and falters on many, particularly in the first season. In the first season, it seemed like AMC was trying to pull off another ‘Mad Men’. While the attempt was not entirely bad and it did fill the ‘Mad Men’ sized hole in the hearts left of audiences when the series ended in May 2015. The more sceptical ones among the viewers couldn’t help but complain about the uncanny similarity between the two, from the period setting to a troubled anti-hero protagonist. However, more forgiving fans still enjoyed the first season of ‘Halt and Catch Fire’. But still, somewhere it was well known that the series was trying to replicate the success ‘Mad Men’ had. But in the later seasons, everything turned around as the writers introduced the audience to some new angles that not only took the show many notches ahead but also made fans come over from the ‘Mad Men’ hangover. And that is saying a lot!
The second season of ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ amazed the fans, as if the writers had taken the criticism seriously. The second season was revitalizing and exciting as it turned away from a show about computers, and became way more about the ‘humane’ characteristics of our main characters. From a ‘technology driven’ drama to a character-driven series, it seemed like HCF had come a long way from a slightly above average first season. And it was with the release of the second season that the fans were actually reminded of the sheer class ‘Mad Men’ had exhibited.
In the latter two seasons as well, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ remained a show about computers, but around the entire technological revolution happening in the show, we become more interested in exploring the relationship dynamics the characters have. Somehow, it all boiled down to the final season, the fourth one, which surprisingly also happened to be the best-reviewed season of the series. As the show meets its conclusion, we are introduced to the characters on the verge of changing the world. While there was a lot of scope for it, the series never fell into the trap of including unnecessary turns and twists and maintains the character development in the best way possible.
Can ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ be compared?
Both ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ are great shows in their own ways. If ‘Mad Men’ takes a little longer to get you hooked, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ does it from the first couple of episodes itself. And on the other hand, if ‘Mad Men’ had God tier writing, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ comes pleasantly close to achieve the same feat. And then, as they say -Art is Subjective! The statement applies perfectly in this context.
Tell us in the comments if you think ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ ever achieved the level of writing and sophistication that dripped from every frame of ‘Mad Men’!