This was a show that dealt with so many societal problems in a way that the networks couldn't disguise, and they hated it. The social commentary was amazingly well-done, the setting of the show was Cyberpunk before Cyberpunk was anywhere but books, and the visual technology of the show was better than anything else at the time. Even more, there simply was no show like it on tv at the time. There still isn't.
Max Headroom was this crazy idea come up with originally in England (on TV4) back in 1985 as a VJ. He was supposed to be this futuristic, computer-generated personality (but not perfect -- the 'video stutter', for instance) that was on between music videos -- Max's oddball appeal was surprisingly strong. It was decided that Max needed a "backstory" to explain his existence. Thus was born a TV-movie: "20 minutes into the future", an acerbic commentary on television news that almost as an aside explained Max. There was also a bizarro interview show (grown out of the video show -- it still showed videos) with Max (or rather, a television showing Max) 'interviewing' celebrities of the day like Bill Shatner, Grace Jones, Don King, Jeri Hall, Ron Reagan (the Presiden't son). It was wisecracky and fun (but wasn't by any stretch a political commentary like the movie.)
Never to be too very far behind a trend, ABC-TV decided to take "20 minutes into the future" and make it an hourly show. It was to be edgy (which is to say not particularly) and energetic, and star Max. It received a primetime weekday slot (Tuesdays) - it was a serious entry into ABC's (replacement) lineup. The cast was remade to be more US-centric (the original movie was more British, of course), the star - Matt Frewer played the human hero Edison Carter and Max - was US born and Canadian raised, which made things easy.
ABC's Max Headroom followed the movie otherwise -- crusading reporter Edison Carter, assisted by the rest of the cast (including, most of the time, his alter-ego Max) makes the world safe from various slightly futuristic perils (capitalism gone wild, drug use gone wild, technological elitism, excessive governmental control, genetic engineering, etc.). The overarching story, though, was TV news and its not-so-secret comercial underbelly (this was back in the day when the myth of TV news as heroic activity was still abroad, and the evils of 'corporate synergy' hadn't become quite so obvious.) As Edison asks naively of his boss at one point, "Since when has TV news been about entertainment?" His boss replies matter of factly "Since it was invented?"
Still in all, Max was well written, well acted, and well presented. The show's depressing future of a TV-addicted, hopeless, facelessly regulated populous, ruled more or less by commercial interests (specifically, the TV networks) was all too real. The show complete 'world' of high-flying powerful and low-life (but cared for) powerless seemed to encapsulate both
capitalist and socialist nightmare scenarios (recall that the Soviet Union still existed back in these days).
Max didn't last, of course. Brought in as a 'mid-season' replacment in 1987 (that is, a show put on the air to plug a hole left by a cancelled show -- such shows have a somewhat lower level of expectation from the networks), Max was renewed for fall 1988, but cancelled five shows into that season. Max's appeal in the existing population of Dallas/Hunter Moonlighting/20-20 shows wasn't a fit to the general audiences of the day -- its ratings were, shall we say, unexciting. Max Headroom has often been called "ahead of its time" (usually for its computer-heavy cyberpunkish outlook), but if Max had come along five years later -- X-Files premiered in 1993 -- it might have been better treated by broadcasters and gotten the success it deserved.
In a post-apocalyptic future, a television network rules society through television. Investigative reporter Edison Carter is the only one looking for the truth in this new, completely mediated age. Anyone who dosen't give this show a chance because of the
A show that would still be ahead of its time if it were on TV today. Max Headroom starred Matt Frewer as investigative reporter Edison Carter, a hero of principle in a dark future where truth is obfuscated by the media. The only thing holding this show back was the unfortunate association with the computer-generated character Max Headroom. Yes, the show is named after him, but he appears so infrequently and provides so little to the plot that its almost easy to forget him, if he weren't so annoying. Nevertheless, the show was well written with an impressive cast that included Jeffrey Tambor and Charles Rocket (as a sinister network executive). A rare attempt at true media criticism (thinly veiled in the sci-fi backdrop), it shows how the media can engender public acquiescience through obfuscation of the truth. The evil entity in this future is a network corporation (Channel 21) that controls the public (often literally) through television.
This show was, literally, ahead of it's time. There's this problem we seem to have, at least here in the United States. When bad news comes upon us, we'd rather not know. So much of what this show covered has come to pass...subliminal messages, the media 'faking' news...the lot of it. I really believe that the demise of the show was based on two factors: Americans hate bad news and the show was biting the hand that fed it. The chances of lasting a long time when you're a tv show taking on media is pretty small. Max Headroom was giving away trade (media) secrets...it had to go. Max Headroom was a science fiction show for those people who don't like science fiction. When the show was pulled off the airwaves there was a big to do by it's fans...thousands of protest letters were sent to ABC etc. but to no avail. At least the shows are being shown still...on places like the SciFi Channel and on video. Nicely written with a heeping helping of food for thought.
So why the heck isn't it on DVD yet?!!! There's loads of TV drek coming out all the time, some really obscure shows, some of them - mainly from the BBC. . . perhaps the TV Tax doesn't earn them enough - but such a quantum leap, insightful and truly entertaining show, with such a fantastic ensemble cast and fascinating - and sometimes downright scary - stories such as this stays in some video vault somewhere?! Disgraceful! I'm sure there are many who'd appreciate a digital disc incarnation, so sales can't be too much of a consideration, so unless tapes of the series simply don't exist anywhere on the planet, I simply don't see why Max isn't sitting alongside my boxset of Sledge Hammer and my Red Dwarf collection.
I feel that if Max Headroom were produced today, it would have been better received. It was a cutting edge science fiction show. The show has no super heroes or super powers. The only exploration of out of the ordinary is that there is a computer sentient personality, Max Headroom. The show shows much technology that has been developed and we use daily today. It showed a post-apocalyptic future that was dark in both resources and society. Society was being ruled by computers, television, and technology. Everything and everyone is tracked and followed unless you live outside of society as a blank. It shows a frightening future with hope. The hope is that morality is still alive and there are still people that will fight for what is right. If you want a look at an unusual science fiction show that was insightful and realistic, try Max Headroom.
Reporter Edison Carter is a normal man. He works hard and dreams of breaking a big story.
One day, he gets his chance. Does he ever.
A television conglomerate secretly places vast numbers of super-compressed subliminal ads called 'blipverts' into breaks between shows. They are so quick that it's impossible for people to turn the channel. The advertiser has a captive audience-- literally.
Until one day, the plan takes a turn for the worse: some viewers cannot stand the pressure, and their brains fry.
Carter wants to do the report, but the t.v. bosses are not so eager to let him do this. The man gets into a chase for his life, pursued by company thugs. A producer rescues him after network bigwigs have picked his brains. The brass siphoned out the computerized personality named for the traffic sign that was the last thing Carter saw:
Edison must bring the story to the public and save the lives of himself, his friends and everyone else fighting to get out from under the nightmare hegemony. Exciting, well-acted and written, and with visuals far above standard for prime time shows.
When all the media is being controlled by a few "greedy" bigwigs, whose sole motive is to control the entire population's mind using unethical subliminal techniques in their advertisements and other messages, it seems the world is doomed. However, one reported discovers this outrageous plan and is determined to expose it. Alas, the bigwigs come to know of his plans and try to catch him. In a fast and furious car chase, he has an accident in an underground parking lot and dies with the memory of the last thing he saw: a caution sign indicating the Maximum Headroom in the parking area. The bigwigs take his memory and digitize it into their computers and a new personality is born: Max Headroom. Max uses his knowledge and the computer access and the help of a few human friends to expose the corrupt businesses who were responsible for his death and for controlling the mids and bodies of milllions of consumers. Entertainment with a moral message. What more can one ask for ?
A look at a distant future, we may be there by now. The news media today controls how people think. With the advent of satellite television, people around the world can view the same news programs simultaneously 24 hours a day. This have both good and bad implications. News media companies who have agendas other than informing the public on current events are so real today. Max headroom was a prediction of what might happen to the world if news companies look to influence how the public thinks and create chaos to a society. This is a cool show that explores that very real possibilities happening now in the 21st century.
this show is one of my all time favourites. i just loved all of it: the dark. almost apocalyptic atmosphere reminding of "blade runner". the great acting of matt frewer playing both edison carter and max headroom. the social issues being brought up. the eccentric humour added by ma-ma-ma-max. the seemingly old fashioned computer equipment (back in 1987 mine looked most definitely more modern than this) in a story that was taking place in the future. the music. the thrilling storys. the sympathy added to weird characters like blank reg. the sometimes almost anarchistic criticism against a world that seems to have been made up in the mind of george orwell. for me all of this has made this show cult.
even though it dates back almost 20 years now, it still remains up to date in a very prophetical way.
When i first watched Max Headroom as a teenager i pretty much believed it. Many people stated that "a world like shown in the series Max Headroom will not happen nor will we see anything like those shows they show on TV there".
Well we are still not there but the path gets clearer. Meaning that from todays point of view, knowing the development of TV of another decade, the stuff they show in the series seem so much more possible. Doubt the series would be much of a success if aired again. The outdated equipment like monitors and cameras and the overwhelming 80s look is too much a contrast to work as a view 20 minutes into the future when it's 20 years into the past. I wish they would redo the series or at least make it a nice movie tho it might destroy some of the charm the series has.
If they would film Max Headroom today the stuff would be much more brutal and inhuman than the original as the stuff they showed then wouldn't shock anyone anymore.
This series had a surreal feel to it. It was a combination of "Roller Ball"(the original, not the awful remake) and "Blade Runner".
Max was a bright shining star that burned out far too quickly. He even appeared as a guest on David Letterman!
This is one series that begs to be remade. Frewer is still alive, give him a call! I heard hes currently on "Eureka!" So maybe hes ready for a big 2 series come back. If they do bring it back they need to keep the same look and feel of the originals. The atmosphere of the sets is a large part of its appeal.
This would be good series for the SCI-FI Channel to take on.
This was first aired originally on Cinemax (A sister premium movie channel to HBO). I had never saw it on ABC. I thought Cinemax only runs movies, Well you were wrong. Cinemax can also run their TV series as well (just like HBO).
While the technology shown within the show may seem out-dated today (they didn't predict or wide-screen High-definition the core ideas presented within this CRIMINALLY short-lived series were, for its time, very groundbreaking, and some of the ideas presented within the series STILL mirror whats happening in society today. The actors, writers, and directors (and all the other people) who worked on this cult masterpiece deserve to be saluted for presenting us with a show that was as off the wall as this one, and subverted the system, even while TECHNICALLY being a part of the system. I hope that someday, "Max Headroom" can get the big screen treatment, and it can reach the audience it always DESERVED to reach! After all, "20 minutes into the future" is NEVER as far away as it seems. Enough said, true believers!
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