80’s Retro TV: Max Headroom


 Original Run: 1987-88
Creator: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton, George Stone
Stars: Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays, Chris Young, W. Morgan Sheppard, Charles Rocket, Jeffrey Tambor
One of the most indelible images of the ’80s was that of Max Headroom, a glitchy, computer-generated spokesperson/TV host with stuttering speech patterns. Throughout the decade, the character (played by actor Matt Frewer, stuck in a foam and Plexiglas costume) seemed to get reinvented every couple of years from TV movies in the UK to pimping New Coke here in the States. For a short stretch in the late ’80s, though, Headroom was the titular character in a dystopic series that ran briefly on ABC. Built off the same presence as the UK film, the show depicted a future that doesn’t seem that impossible today, a world is ruled by TV networks that use their technology to track the actions and thoughts of viewers. When an investigative reporter (Frewer) uncovers a scandal and is injured trying to escape with the information, a hacker uploads his mind into a computer and Max Headroom is born. The online figure helps his fellow reporters dig into the nasty work their employer Network 23 is up to. It’s a preposterous premise but the show has proven to be strangely prescient some 30 years after its premiere, and its dark undercurrent paved the way for other series like Twin Peaks and Dark Angel.

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