At the end of Season 3 of Mad Men, Don Draper and the gang stage a mutiny after learning about their agency’s merger.
“How long do you think it’ll take us to be in a place like this again?” Roger Sterling says to Don before they skulk off into the night with file boxes and personal items.
Don pauses, and sighs. “I never saw myself working in a place like this,” he says.
The final scenes show the team huddled together in a hotel room, eating sandwiches as they make plans to start all over again.
Unfortunately, the real answer to Roger’s question was: “sometime between this season and the next one.” With the wave of a hand, in the first episode of Season 4, they were already back in new corporate offices.
I was so disappointed. How did they get there? What challenges did they face between that congenial huddle and sharing sandwiches in that tiny hotel room, and the new Manhattan address? That’s the show I wanted to see.
That very struggle is at the heart of Halt and Catch Fire, another AMC series that was initially billed as a kind of Mad Men for the ’80s computing industry, but it’s so much more than that.
I can hardly do it justice, so I will refer you to this wonderful writeup. Amid some very funny and colorful quotes from actor Toby Huss who plays John Bosworth, there’s this bit, which really caught me:
…As we dug into the research, we looked for stories you couldn’t find online, and we got to interview a lot of people who made big contributions to the personal computer, but were forgotten by history. These people were part of something that was not recognized in its time as very important, and now means a great deal, so that’s a very fulfilling part of it…These entrepreneurial renegades–both real and fictional–did not run around free and funded by virtue of their big ideas. It’s not just the Teslas and Edison types that deliver the future. There are the nameless and uncredited middlemen, playing by ear, who see potential and connect the Teslas to the J.P. Morgans and the Googles and Facebooks to Sand Hill Road.
As much as we glorify “superstars” and “rockstars” these days and build cults of personality around CEOs, the unsung middlemen and women are always there too, toiling quietly behind the scenes.
That’s the story I want to write.
Is it your story? Then let’s mutiny.