Max Headroom the character was an icon of the 1980s, but “Max Headroom” the TV show was ahead of its time. Thematically, it still is, although it’s quite dated in terms of look and production value, as Shout! Factory’s complete series set reveals.
Forever set “20 minutes into the future,” the show imagines a not-so-friendly world that may look like “Blade Runner,” yet feels even bleaker, with a populace virtually anesthetized by the never-ending barrage of Big Brother insta-media messages. It’s a time where mass media and politics are one and the same. (Sound eerily familiar?)
Max is the hip, stuttering, electronic avatar-cum-TV host of investigative reporter Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), who’s rendered unconscious from an accident in the pilot episode. With the help of friends at the network (Amanda Pays and Chris Young among them), Max becomes a hero to the underground, and the powers that be aim to squash “ unplug? “ him like a bug.
The pilot involves a “Scanners“-esque signal that causes TV viewers to explode. In the 13 eps that follow, the team notably encounters a “Rollerball“-style danger sport, terrorist bombings, organ harvesting, rigged elections, a cult masquerading as a church, and genetic selection. (Again, sound eerily familiar?)
As its creators freely admit in a highly informative one-hour documentary, “Headroom” was never going to be a hit show, and it wasn’t. Barely a two-seasoner, it was arguably the most intelligent program on ABC’s prime-time lineup from 1987-88, yet never the most accessible. Both can be attributed to the British creative team driving the wry, wary wheel.
One wishes the nicely packaged set (lenticular slipcase, yay!) would’ve included the original British made-for-TV movie, Max’s New Coke ads, his MTV clips and especially his “Paranoimia” music video with The Art of Noise, but what Shout! does include comprises a healthy, full fifth disc, including a roundtable chat with four of the stars, but not Frewer, ironically (Young’s pornstache makes up Frewer’s absence).
This one’s for the su-su-su-suspicious SF fans among us. “Rod Lott