AMC made "Halt and Catch Fire" sweat it out a little before giving the '80s-set computer drama a second season renewal last summer. The pick-up didn't come until several weeks after the first finale, far from standard operating procedure on cable, where renewals have been known to come after a big premiere, or sometimes even sooner.
"There's so much scripted material right now that to break through and find an audience that can frankly support of the metrics of a TV show is hard. So I was not sure. I thought it was 50-50," "Halt and Catch Fire" showrunner Jonathan Lisco told me when we sat down in January.
It was a slightly strange time to talk about "Halt," since the second season hadn't even begun production and at the TCA press tour panel earlier in the day, Lisco had teased a time jump taking the show from the uncertain events of the finale -- Donna and Cameron plotting Mutiny, Joe heading out into the wilderness -- to an even more nebulous place.
So while there are some teases for the new season -- hints about a couple added characters make a lot more sense having subsequently seen the first four episodes, which are really good -- we talked at least as much about aspects of the first season, including the evolution of Donna, introduced misleadingly as another disapproving cable wife, as one of the show's most loved characters.
"When we got what you might call 'critique' of the first couple of episodes, we all just said, 'Guys, do you need your whole dinner served up to you right now? We can't thwart your expectations unless we're going to mislead you a tiny bit at first,'" Lisco laughed. "So we were lulling people into that belief. But then the level of aggression came out and the path I think was influenced more by what people perceived to be the flaws in other shows than the flaws in our own, which is perfectly understandable and I don't begrudge anyone. But I'm glad that now people see how dynamic the female characters are."
We also discussed the legal stickiness of featuring a Macintosh last season and the historical stickiness of wanting to depict their fictional characters as brilliant, without letting them be part of discoveries made by real people.
"Halt and Catch Fire" begins its second season on Sunday (May 31). Check out my full Q&A with Jonathan Lisco below...