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Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future

Updated on December 16, 2013

W-w-Welcome to B-b-Big Time TV!

With his trademark stutter and quirky sense of humor, Max Headroom was a prominent and virtual media personality and commercial pitchman in the 1980s.  He had a British talk show he hosted, a US tv sci-fi series he starred in, and was one of the celebrities picked to promote New Coke. Take a look back, to twenty minutes into the future...

Delightfully (and only a couple of decades later than the fans would have wished) Max Headroom is coming to DVD! C-c-c-can you b-b-b-believe it! Long overdue, the full box set of the entire series became available in August 2010. Be sure to order yours now! (see below)

Max was a winner in the Squid's Choice Awards for August 2008!

GET MAX ON DVD - It's-it's-it's about time!

At long last the moment Max Headroom fans have been waiting for: the entire series on DVD! What's going to be really interesting is that although some of the hairstyles are going to be retro, a whole bunch of the issues that this tv show addressed are more relevant than ever. ID numbers and Blanks, violent sports, satellites falling from the sky, and networks battling for your eyeball time all seem to be a part of 21st century daily life.

Max Headroom: The Complete Series
Max Headroom: The Complete Series

Go back to the 1980s to go twenty minutes into the future with Edison Carter, Theora Jones, Blank Reg and the nefarious Network 23.

 

The Birth of Max Headroom

"This is the future: people translated as data." -- Bryce Lynch

Max Headroom was born out of the head of Edison Carter, mid-wifed by Bryce Lynch, in a secret lab at the top of the Network 23 building.

How all that came about takes a bit more telling. Edison Carter was a reporter who work for Network 23, a corporate news channel sometime in the near future. He had his own show (The Edison Carter Show), and his own tagline: "What I Want To Know Is....?" He's primetime, top-rated. And then he gets called off a news story. Something about a tv that blew up. He didn't think that made much sense, so he did what a reporter of his caliber does best: he dug further.

What he came across was footage of something called a "blipvert." Network 23 had their in-house teenage computer genius Bryce Lynch working on what they felt was their most challenging problem, which was channel switching. This simple issue revolved around the ability of tv viewers to change channels during commercials. Bryce's solution was the "blipvert" which compressed thirty seconds of advertising into just three seconds of screen time. However there was a side effect in some viewers, a nasty and rather messy side effect. As Carter was trying to escape the Network 23 building on a motorcyle, Bryce Lynch caused a traffic barrier to raise, blocking Carter's path and he crashed thru a wooden beam with the words "max. headroom 2.3m" printed on it.

Since it would be too hard to have the network's own star reporter suddenly disappear without an explanation, Bryce proposed that they replace Carter with a computer simulation. The head of the network, Mr. Grossman, gave his approval and so Bryce scanned Carter's brain to map his memories and personality. However, the only thing he'd simulated before was a parrot, and Grossman wasn't happy with the final product. He ordered Bryce to get rid of both Carter and the simulation.

Of course, the goons hired to get rid of Carter and Max don't quite get it right. Carter wound up back at Network 23, exposing the whole blipvert situation and saving the day. Max Headroom wound up in the hands of Blank Reg, a pirate tv broadcaster, who not only gave Max his name (based on muttered fragments from Carter's memory) but put him on air. The pirate tv station had a hit show and Max had the audience he craved.

How Max Was *Really* Created....

The most interesting thing about Max Headroom being a virtual personality was that in the 1980s when he was created, computer-generated imagery wasn't yet able to actually create a person. Fully digital actors or characters weren't going to be truly born for another twenty years or so.

So, how did they make Max Headroom?

First, they started with Canadian actor Matt Frewer. They put some very thick makeup on him, plastic hair and a suit made of fiberglass. Then they filmed him, using good ol' fashioned blue-screen technology. This let those moving computer patterns be dropped in behind the actor to make Max appear in "cyberspace." Those were originally drawn by hand, and later were rendedered with an Amiga. Then conventional editing was used to match everything up and give Max his trademark stutter.

Now, when you consider present-day motion capture and full digital CGI rendering, how Max was made seems downright primitive. But also remember, they were only just inventing VCRs around the time Max was born.

M-m-max.... To the Max!

Max lived in the days way before DVD, so we're still waiting for him to join us in the future.

20 Minutes Into The Future

The U.S. TV Series of "Max Headroom"

The tv series of "Max Headroom" aired in the US from 1987-1988. Frequently called the only "cyberpunk" tv show, the look and feel of the show embraced many of the elements of that literary movement. New technology existed alongside old, and the world was split very clearly into haves and have-nots. Stylistic comparisons are often made between this series and the movies Bladerunner (1982) and Brazil (1985).

The series pilot was redone for the US run, and several of the characters were made less dark and sinister. Episodes dealt with a variety of issues that still seem pretty timely, even a few decades later.

Season One:

-Blipverts - advertising overload, literally

-Rakers - commercialization of deadly sports

-Body Banks - harvesting and sale of bodily organs

-Security Systems - credit fraud

-War - the televising and sale of terrorist acts

-The Blanks - mandatory national identity numbers

Season Two:

-Academy - disruption of network broadcasting

-The Deities - cult religion

-Grossberg's Return - tv network supremacy battles

-Dream Thieves - illegal theft of dreams (personal identity)

-Whacketts - addictive media

-NeuroStim - direct brain stimulation via the media

-Lessons - access to education for all

-Baby Grobags - baby production via artificial means

Catch a Glimpse of Max - And maybe a few other things

Here's where you can find all sorts of retro stuff featuring Max. Wh-wh-what are you l-l-looking for to add-d-d to your c-c-c-collection?

F-f-or Your V-v-viewing Pleasure

The tidbits and excerpts of Max shown here include an appearance on the earlier incarnation of the David Letterman show, Max interviewing Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes (aka Arcadia aka 2/5-ths of Duran Duran), the infamous "blipvert" sequence and one of his "new Coke" commercials.

S-s-so, what do you have to s-s-say? - comments and feedback

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    • profile image

      MasterDripper 4 years ago

      I say...I still love watching Max...great series and great lens...cheers

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      Great lens with valuable info...

    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 5 years ago

      I loved Max Headroom!

    • Cinnamonbite profile image

      Cinnamonbite 6 years ago

      he was on Star Trek TNG, LOL

      Berlinghoff Rasmussen

    • profile image

      MobyD 6 years ago

      G--g-great lens! Matt Frewer has been on the SyFy series "Eureka" in recent years playing a very off the wall Australian scientist.

    • hunksparrow profile image

      hunksparrow 6 years ago

      I remember Max Headroom being so bizarre when I was a kid, and that I loved seeing his Coke commercials

    • ImmatureEntrepr profile image

      ImmatureEntrepr 6 years ago

      Fun lens! Max seemed so weird to me when I was a kid. I think I was more fascinated by him than anything for his oddities.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 6 years ago from US/TN

      Great lens! I was in high school when this show first aired and I've never forgotten it. I'm putting the DVDs on my Christmas wish list!

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks to everyone who voted for M-m-m-Max!

    • profile image

      enslavedbyfaeries 9 years ago

      Congratulations! This lens was a winner on the Squids Choice Awards lens where it will be featured for the month of September. I will send your badge and invitation to join the Squids Choice Awards Winners group soon.

    • KadabaCo profile image

      KadabaCo 9 years ago

      I'm in L-L-Love! I'm getting nostalgic remembering this great character! I found this lens very informative too! I always think of him when referring to the talking heads of TV!