He was a visionary…ahead of his time and a head of his time. He predicted many of the things we have today. And now, he's back – in DVD form, oddly for the first time. Who was he?
I personally find it amazing "Max Headroom" hasn't been released on DVD before now (apparently, from what I can gather, there were some issues over who had the rights to actually put the DVDs out). For those of you who haven't seen the series, it originally aired in 1987-88, and each episode was labeled "20 minutes into the future…". Max was an Artificial Intelligence created from the memories of of reporter Edison Carter, nearly killed in a not-so-accident while tracking down a story embarrassing to people in power.
In the future of Max Headroom, powerful TV networks control almost everything, due in part to their control of much of the flow of information. OK, we seem to have dodged that one, but in Max's world, TVs are *everywhere*. Hmmm. Seems to me I've seen them in supermarkets and gas stations, among other places…and I can watch just about anything on my cell phone. So give him a point for that one.
His future also has a lot of people running around with video cameras taking shots of just about everything that happens. And there's a lot of "news" being staged just for the ratings, including terrorist attacks (and if you don't think many of today's terrorists are media-savvy and plan attacks for maximum media exploitation, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you). In Max's world, though, the TV station *pay for the rights* to get exclusives on terror groups! I don't think we've come quite that far yet.
You've heard of people "going off the grid" – trying to keep as low a profile as possible and stay out of databases, camera range, etc. – Max had those too. They were called "blanks," because they wouldn't show up in any files. Being a blank was a serious crime in Max's world.
The show was not afraid to skewer television in it's satirical look at the future – in fact, that was one of its main targets. Maybe that's why it only lasted two seasons. It poked fun at advertisers, networks, and their desire to be first with a story at all costs. It also made fun of the fact that while there were plenty of channels, most of them were filled with dreck. More correct predictions!
I remember when it first came on, I ran out to buy my first VCR with a stereo tuner in it so I could watch and listen to the show in all its glory. I still have the tapes of those shows – but sadly, they are completely unwatchable. (So here's another lesson for all of you in Professor Carson's Friday backup class – just because you have something backed up, doesn't mean it's a *good* copy – test those backups!).
Max Headroom actually was on in the UK before being slightly re-worked and brought over the the US. There were 14 episodes in the States – episode 14 not airing until 1995, seven years after episode 13! So even many of you who did watch the show might not have seen the last episode (I know I haven't).
So head into the past and go 20 minutes into the future with Max on the new DVD set. Sure the "high tech" graphics are not exactly world-class by today's standards, and the Internet is replaced mostly by broadcast networks, but if you can look past that, the stories still hold up pretty well.