The 80’s in a hard drive
SERIE: Halt and Catch Fire
CREATORS: Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
AMC schedule executives found out that they needed a replacement for ‘Mad Men’ so they gave greenlight to a pilot of a 60 minutes drama that wants so badly to be like the publicists phenomenon that I can’t be happier about it.
You see, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ (‘HaCF’ from now on) is mainly about a tall, handsome low-pitch voice, compulsive liar that is also a marketing genius on a very rising and promising industry. Oh, and the action occurs in a very distinctive decade. So yes, it basically a replacement for ‘Mad Men’ taking all the ingredients that made the latter, one of the best dramas of all times. But can ‘HaCF’ succeed?
Joe McMillan (Lee Pace, AKA Thranduil) arrives to Texas to get a job in Cardiff Electric that’s loosely based in Compaq. After a year and a half of total disappearance from his last job in IBM, the giant of the industry, he shows up from out of nowhere. Joe is received by John Bosworth, the chief behind the chief, Nathan Cardiff himself. McMillan is modern. The ruling pair is old school. The friction won’t last to appear. And the crash will happen soon after they discover that Joe’s plan wasn’t to sell computer software to third parties. No. Joe wants to find one of Cardiff’s employees who have wrote an awesome article on BYTE Magazine. A sad, depressive mastermind named Gordon Clark (Scott McNairy, ‘Argo’) who works as a software engineer there but has the capacity to build a computer on his own from scratch, oh, and he totally did. The ‘Symphonic’. But it failed big time, and since that moment he can’t seem to crawl out of depression and his marriage with Donna (Kerry Bishé, ‘Argo’ also) is on the ledge. Joe gives him a purpose. So they try to reverse engineer an IBM computer to discover the basic code of the BIOS and make the necessary changes to have one on their own. When Cardiff finds out, hell arises. Because that’s fucking illegal son.
…And Catch Fire
So they team up with Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a punk/new wave college girl who is an absolute genius programming and as an outsider, can do all the work of writing the BIOS without entering in a legal process with IBM. But Cameron needs to be on a controlled environment so she does not cross paths with the engineer on charge. Cardiff backs it all up because firing the both of them would be even worse in so many terms. IBM shows up on Cardiff doors and after checking that Texans based are not actually stealing from them (they are, but they can’t prove it), they leave.
And the next day, all clients of Cardiff start to jump the wagon. IBM takes shit from no one son.
Indeed, catch fire.
These first two episodes of ‘HaCF’ were directed by Argentinean Juan José Campanella, who many of you may remember for ‘The Secret in his Eyes’, which won an Oscar to best foreign movie back in 2009. He has experience directing drama series in the US having directed episodes of CSI, House MD and Law and Order. It seems that Jonathan Lisco, the series showrunner wanted to start ‘HaCF’ in a high note with a mix of quality and understanding of the format, and AMC appears to be the place to produce these kinds of fiction, having harbored two of the best dramas of all times whether people enjoyed them or not: ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. To that short list we can add ‘The Walking Dead’ and the American remake of ‘The Killing’. The four of them have a distinctive approach that can only be found in HBO-like Networks. Quality encapsulated in a small amount of episodes. A history willing to end. Strong well developed characters. And above all, this series aren’t directed like series, but like tiny, 45 minutes movies.
‘HaCF’ recently started its second season and, after the recent ending of ‘Mad Men’ will probably take its place as the new brand of AMC. The quality of the series so far deserves it. I really look forward to more of this show and I would really like that the end would be predetermined. Knowing that ‘Mad Men’ was going to last seven seasons actually worked wonders and a lot of people saw it acknowledging that there was an end ahead and it was not going to be stretched for rating purposes. That’s exactly what quality means. Ideas being delivered no matter what.