Max Headroom

Max Headroom is the name of a fictional faux computer-generated character, known for his wit and stuttering, distorted, electronically-sampled voice. The character was created by George Stone, Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton and portrayed by Matt Frewer. Max Headroom was featured in a music video programme, a feature film, a TV series and television commercials.


The Max Headroom Show 1985-1986Edit

The Max Headroom character originated in 1985-86 as an announcer for a Music video programme on the British television channel, Channel 4, called Max Headroom (TV series). 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, Wit, and Puns ("Like they say when you're buying suppositories, 'With friends like that, who needs Enemas?'"). The Original Max Talking Headroom Show was made by Cinemax in 1987.

Max Headroom and 20 Minutes into the FutureEdit

The Max Headroom Show was developed into the television movie feature film 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.

The background story provided for the Max Headroom character presents a dystopic look at a run-down near-future dominated by television and large corporations. Max Headroom was shown to have been created from the memories of Max Headroom (TV series). The character's name came from the last thing Carter saw during a vehicular accident that put him into a coma: A bar with a sign warning of low clearance, marked "Max. Headroom" along with the height of the bar.

The original movie was rebroadcast on More4 on 21 October 2007 as part of the 25th birthday celebrations of Channel 4.

The Original Max Talking Headroom Show/New CokeEdit

Max became a minor celebrity outside the television series. He was the spokespersonality for Coca-Cola (specifically New Coke after the return of Coke Classic), using his trademark staccato to deliver the slogan "Catch the wave!". In that capacity, he generated more interest from viewers than any previous spokesman for the company. In the UK, Max starred in television commercials for Radio Rentals. He also hosted an interview show on the Cinemax USA cable TV channel, called The Original Max Talking Headroom Show and performed vocals (as well as appeared in the Music video for the Pop music Single "Paranoimia" by Art of Noise.

Art of Noise featured an overdubbed Max on the song Paranoimia. Max was also featured on a single titled Merry Christmas Santa Claus (You're a Lovely Guy) released by Chrysalis Records.

In 1986, Quicksilva released a Max Headroom game, which was sold in the UK for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. The game's plot was to protect Edison Carter from bad guys with guns, whilst rescuing Max Headroom.

Digital TV campaign Edit

In November 2007 Channel 4 Television announced that an older looking Max Headroom would be used in a campaign to warn UK households of the impending digital TV switchover.

Production notesEdit

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-synced human head to be practical for a television series. Max's image was actually that of actor Matt Frewer in latex and foam rubber prosthetic makeup with a Fiberglass suit, superimposed over a moving geometric background. Even the background was not actual computer graphics at first; it was hand-drawn cel animation like the "computer-generated" animations in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (television series) TV series. Later in the U.S. version they were actually generated by a Commodore Amiga computer. But when these things were combined with clever editing, the appearance of a computer-generated human head was convincing to many.

References and homages to the characterEdit

  • Steve Urkel from Family Matters (TV series) once built a nuclear device which was controlled by an A.I. that looked & stuttered just like Max, only with Steve's face.
  • In his comic strip Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau parodied President Ronald Reagan as a Max Headroom-like character called "Ron Headrest".
  • On 1988 Mexico has his own "Max Headroom-ized" character sponsored by lemon-lime soda Sprite on the defunct TV show "Estrellas de los 80's" as an irreverent VJ called "Boris".
  • In the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II, main character Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels to the year 2015 and enters the "Cafe '80s", a "retro" diner furnished entirely with highly-stylized elements of 1980s pop culture. The diner's wait staff is made up of Max Headroom-esque AIs modeled after the likenesses of Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and the Ayatollah Khomeini.
  • The German Internet service provider T-Online used a character strongly reminiscent of Max Headroom named "Robert T-Online" in a 2000 advertising campaign.[1]
  • The 1997 movie Batman & Robin featured an AI based on Alfred the Butler, manifesting itself as a computer-generated head with a stutter.
  • On 22 November 1987, two Chicago television stations had their broadcast signals hijacked by an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask. The first attack took place for 25 seconds during the sportscast on the 9 O'Clock news on WGN-TV Channel 9 and two hours later around 11 o'clock on PBS affiliate WTTW-TV Channel 11 for about 90 seconds during a broadcast of the science fiction series Doctor Who episode Horror of Fang Rock. The second disruption also included the masked Max Headroom getting smacked on his buttocks by a fly swatter. The identity of the culprit was never determined. The term given to this act is broadcast signals hijacked. The incident is similar to an occurrence in the comedy film Used Cars and the "Academy (Max Headroom)" episode of the Max Headroom series itself. (See Max Headroom pirating incident)
  • In the animated children's series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, The Chief is depicted as a fully sentient, wild-haired, joke-cracking digital head, very similar in appearance and function to Max Headroom.
  • A parody character called FAX HEADFULL was used in short segments on the PBS educational math show for children Square One.
  • In a Season 4 episode of the sci-fi series Farscape, main character John Crichton appears as a Max Headroom parody, who controls an elevator in a strange video game.
  • The January, 1987, edition of Playboy magazine featured a centerfold spotlighting Maxine Legroom, a female parody of Max, played by model Sondra (Sandy) Greenberg.
  • Sum 41 have a song entitled "Second Chance For Max Headroom" on their debut "Half Hour of Power" album.
  • In 1985, UK television station ITV broadcast a Max Headroom parody as part of the Bobby Davro show.
  • The TV series Sledge Hammer! also parodied Max Headroom in season two-episode one.
  • "Eerie, Indiana" (1991) [TV-Series 1991-1992] also had a spoof of Max as a head in a bank cash machine. Matt Frewer also starred in a later episode.
  • The 1987 film Spaceballs featured a stylized TV news reporter who resembled Max, and an android character named "Vinnie" who occasionally exhibited similar mannerisms to Max.
  • On a 1987 episode of D.C. Follies, a puppet caricature of Katharine Hepburn was seen on a television exhibiting Max-like behavior, and calling herself "Kate Headroom."
  • The main antagonist in the computer games System Shock from 1994 and its successor System Shock from 1999 is a fictional Artificial intelligence called SHODAN, which uses a stuttering, discordant speech strongly resembling that of Max Headroom.
  • In a 1987 episode of The Charmings, "The Charmings Go Plastic", the Magic Mirror (Paul Winfield) appears with a blonde wig and Max Headroom-style background in an IRS agent's computer.
  • In the 2007 Christmas Special of Doctor Who Voyage of the Damned (Doctor Who), the owner of the company running the Cruise was called Max Capricorn, and at times when projected as a hologram began stuttering. It also states on the BBC's episode page that Max Headroom was the inspiration for the character's image.
  • The Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken (2002) includes a Max Headroom cameo on a laptop computer near the end of the series
  • In a video posted on YouTube by internet collective Anonymous (group), a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask is standing in a Max Headroom style enviroment while audio of an elctronic voice, stuttering like Max Headroom, sends a message to the Church of Scientology, as a part of Project Chanology.

See alsoEdit

  • Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion incident

External linksEdit