Monday, July 14

Max Headroom

When I was a kid, I remember a freaky computerized guy. My dad had to explain to me it was a mask. I found it interesting. When I was older, I saw the show Max Headroom and 20 Minutes into the Future on reruns and I knew actor Matt Frewer starring as Edison Carter and Max. I thought Max was only featured in those new Coke commercials and the show. What I didn't know was that he actually started out in the U.K. The Max Headroom character originated in 1985-86 as an announcer for a music video program on Channel 4, the British television channel and it was called The Max Headroom Show. The intent was to portray a futuristic computer-generated character. Max Headroom appeared as a stylized head on TV against harsh primary color rotating-line backgrounds, and he became well known for his jerky techno-stuttering speech, wisecracks, and malapropisms. The Original Max Talking Headroom Show was made by Cinemax in 1987.

The Max Headroom Show was developed into the television movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future which in turn became the pilot for a series which ran from 1985 to 1987. The first episode was presented in an extended edition to American audiences in 1986 on Cinemax. Though officially two seasons, only fourteen episodes were created, and only thirteen aired. And then he became the New Coke spokesman. Notwithstanding the publicity for the character, the real image of Max was not computer generated. 3-D rendering and computing technology in the mid-1980s was not sufficiently advanced for a full-motion, voice-synched human head to be practical for a television series. Matt Frewer was in latex and foam rubber prosthetic makeup with a fiberglass suit, superimposed over a moving geometric background.
n a 2002 web chat with, Matt Frewer expressed pleasant surprise at Max's continued popularity, and informed fans that he had a new Max Headroom project "in the deal-making process." No further information is known on this project.

In November 2007 Channel 4 Television made a campaign to warn UK households of the impending digital TV switchover featuring an older looking Max Headroom.

And of course, the famous...

During a broadcast of the Dr. Who episode "Horror of Fang Rock" on WTTW Chicago Channel 11, on Sunday November 22nd, 1987, at around 11:15pm, a Video "Pirate" wearing a Max Headroom mask broke into the signal and transmitted one of the weirdest, unauthorized things ever to hit the Chicago airwaves. Earlier in the evening on the same day, during the Nine O'Clock News on Channel 9 (Yes, a completely different channel) the Max Headroom Pirate also broke in - although it was for a much shorter time and there was no audio. He was never caught.