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Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Max was created by Peter Wagg, head of creative services at Chrysalis Records in London and George Stone, then working for an advertising agency. The name came first and after making connections with Andy Park at Channel 4 TV they were given the go-ahead to make a series, but a team of animators and directors were then needed to bring him to life.


Video directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel had been successfully directing promo clips for the likes of Elvis Costello and Donald Fagen through their Cucumber productions company since the late seventies, but were now considering moving in to TV and, eventually, movies.


Morton and Jankel directed the initial one-off drama. Broadcast 4th April 1985 by Channel 4 'Max Headroom Twenty Minutes Into The Future' saw video journalist Edison Carter (played by Matt Frewer) working for Network 23, the only TV channel that employs Blipverts, adverts whose content was been concentrated into three-second bursts intended to get into the subconscious mind of viewers. Carter intends to expose the truth that the adverts are actually killing viewers with neural overload. Pursued by the baddies in a motorbike chase, Carter doesn't look ahead at a crucial moment, smashing in to car park sign which said "Max Headroom 2.3M" The crash doesn’t kill him and he is taken unconscious to the teenage computer prodigy who created Blipverts who, when the network isn't looking, creates artificial intelligence video-generated personality software. He loads Carter's consciousness into the software, creating the Max Headroom character, named after the last thing Carter sees before the accident. However, the technology is then stolen and given to pirate TV channel Big Time who use Max to introduce and interrupt video clips, becoming a star in the process. His cheesy wit and wisdom comes with an annoying mid-Atlantic accent and video stutter, but it was a part of Max's charm and this trademark would become the hook for impersonators around the world, while Max's character may even have had an influence on Jim Carey's early hit movies like The Mask.


Having Chrysalis as the show's producer gave them access to Midge Ure and Chris Cross from Ultravox to provide the score.


In the real world Max became a star very quickly, appearing in his own series on Cinemax in the US and Channel 4 in the UK, while his image was used in Coke commercials on TV and even having his own hit single, Paranoimia, with The Art Of Noise. Chat show kings Terry Wogan and David Letterman had him as a guest, albeit on a video screen, while he also guested on Channel 4’s Bliss and The Tube in the summer of 1985.


While the first series saw Max on his own, the second, beginning 22nd July 1986 on Channel 4, made room for guests like Roger Daltrey, Duran Duran and Boy George, while the third, beginning 6th January 1987 had an audience present and played host to film stars and other non-pop celebrities. So popular was Max that Chrysalis even dedicated a horse race in his honour, the Max Headroom Stakes in the summer of 1987. Another series, The Original Max Talking Headroom Show was not shown in the UK, while ABC in the USA developed a sci-fi series based on the pilot show which ran for two seasons in 1987 - 1988.


Like Crocodile Dundee and John Hughes movies Max was everywhere in the late eighties, and then suddenly nowhere. Bar a cameo appearance in the 2015 movie Pixels he was absent for decades, while Matt Frewer continues to have a successful acting career.



THE MAX HEADROOM SHOW


C4 / Chrysalis

6th April 1985 - 10th March 1987