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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: max_head.txt

Max Headroom Episode/Series Guide




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                           ====================
                           ==  MAX HEADROOM  ==
                           ====================


                        20 MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE

   Max :  "Special bulletin :  There is still no news from New Zealand.  If
they ever have any, we'll be sure to let you know."

   Compiled by Ross Smith.  Comments, corrections, and additions to me
(alien@acheron.amigans.gen.nz).  Edited by Saul Jaffe, moderator SF-Lovers
Digest (sf-lovers-request@rutgers.edu).

                                 * * * * *


                               -- History --

   Edison :  "Since when has news been entertainment?!"
   Murray :  "Er ...  since it was invented?"

   "Max Headroom" was the first, and so far the only, cyberpunk TV
series.  It was characterised by intelligent scripts; a quirky sense of
humour; some serious speculation about the power and ethics of television;
a slightly satirical but intricately realised vision of the future with a
gritty, "Brazil"-like, "retro-tech" style; frequent references to
traditional cyberpunk concepts ("ice", "flatline", nanotechnology, and so
on); and some very good computer-generated special effects (mostly done on
Amiga 1000s, by the way ...  somebody knows a great hunk of hardware when
they see one).  Being an intelligent and sophisticated series, it was, of
course, cancelled after one season.

   The story began in 1984, when Channel Four in Britain wanted to produce
a really unusual music-video show, and decided to use a (fake)
computer-generated host.  They invented the character of Max Headroom, and
also commissioned a screenplay describing the fictional story of his
origin.  The original plan was to split this up into five-minute segments
and scatter it among the music videos, but they soon realised that this
would be impractical.  Instead, it was produced as a feature-length
made-for-TV movie, and was shown as a pilot for the music series, to
general critical acclaim.  Max Headroom, played by a heavily made-up Matt
Frewer, went on to host the series (although both the British series and
the later American one featured computer graphics on a large scale, Max
himself was never an actual computer image).

   In 1987, Lorimar in the US acquired the rights to the character, and
produced one season (fourteen episodes of about 45 minutes each) of a
series based on the British movie.  The first episode was a somewhat
shorter version of the original story, featuring some of the same actors;
later episodes continued the story of Max Headroom, reporter Edison Carter,
and Network 23.

   Differences between the British and American versions of the pilot ...
the British version was longer (about twice as long, in fact) and included
a few characters who didn't show up until later episodes in the American
version (notably Dominique and Blank Reg of Bigtime TV), but the plot was
generally similar, just shown in more detail.  The main differences were in
the character of Bryce Lynch (in the British version he was a nasty little
brat who ended up going down with Grosman (Grossberg), whereas in the
American version he had an attack of conscience and ended up on Edison
Carter's side), and in the fate of Max himself (in the British version he
ended up with Bigtime TV, in the American version he returned to Network
23).

   Incidentally, from the birthdate and age given for Bryce Lynch (in the
novelisation by Steve Roberts), it can be deduced that "Max Headroom" (at
least the British version) takes place in the year 2004.


                                 * * * * *


                               -- Credits --

   Grossberg :  "Max, this is the executive board of Network 23."
   Max :  "You mean you're the people who execute audiences?"

   Three actors (Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays, and William Morgan Sheppard)
played the same roles in both versions.

British version
   Written by Steve Roberts
   Directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel
   Cast
      Matt Frewer as Edison Carter and Max Headroom
      Nickolas Grace as Grosman
      Constantine Gregory as Ben Cheviot
      Hilton McRae as Breughel
      Amanda Pays as Theora Jones
      George Rossi as Mahler
      William Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg
      Roger Sloman as Murray
      Paul Spurrier as Bryce Lynch
      Hilary Tindall as Dominique

American version
   See episode listings for writing and direction credits
   Cast
      Jere Burns as Breughel
      George Coe as Ben Cheviot
      Rick Ducommon as Mahler
      Matt Frewer as Edison Carter and Max Headroom
      Amanda Pays as Theora Jones
      Charles Rocket as Ned Grossberg
      William Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg
      Jeffrey Tambor as Murray
      Concetta Tomei as Dominique
      Chris Young as Bryce Lynch


                                 * * * * *


                            -- Episode Guide --

   Reg :  "Remember when we said there was no future?  Well, this is it."

Dates given are the dates for the first U.S. broadcast.

(1) Blipverts  3/31/87
   Written by Joe Gannon and Steve Roberts
   Directed by Farhad Mann
   Network 23's new "Blipverts" - commercials shown at high speed to
prevent channel switching, appear to have the undesirable side effect of
causing viewers to explode.  Ace reporter Edison Carter comes uncomfortably
close to the truth, but is badly injured making his escape.  Network
executive Grossberg decides to let him die and replace him with a computer
simulation created by his pet genius, Bryce Lynch, but both the real and
simulated Carters prove to be tougher and smarter than he expected.

(2) Rakers  4/7/87
   Written by James Crocker and Steve Roberts
   Directed by Thomas J Wright
   The latest fad is the illegal sport of "raking" or "rakeboarding" -
gladiator-style combat on powered skateboards.  The promoters want raking
legalised so they can sell it to Network 23's sports channel; meanwhile,
Theora's long-lost brother Shawn has got involved.  Theora is looking for
her brother, Edison is looking for Theora, Murray is looking for Edison,
and Network 23 is looking for something to replace everyone's favourite
children's show, "Missile Mike".

(3) Body Banks  4/14/87
   Written by Steve Roberts
   Directed by Francis De Lia
   An old woman is dying, and young women are being kidnapped to provide
body parts to keep her alive.  But even 21st century medicine can't keep
her going forever, and the alternative is to keep her mind alive - by
stealing the technology that created Max.  One of their victims has a
boyfriend who persuades Edison Carter, with the reluctant help of
organleggers Breughel and Mahler, to track them down.

(4) Security Systems  4/21/87
   Written by Michael Cassutt
   Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
   Security Systems, Inc., is the largest security firm in the world, with
fingers in the government, police, and everywhere else you can think of.
Somebody is trying to take it over, and Edison Carter wants to know who.
But SSI have an artificial intelligence of their own and A-7 has one or
two ideas about what to do with nosy reporters.

(5) War  4/28/87
   Written by Martin Pasko, Rebecca Parr, Michael Cassutt, and Steve
Roberts
   Directed by Thomas J Wright
   The White Brigade, a terrorist group fighting for neo-radicalistic
anarcho-syndicalism, is going around the city blowing up buildings and
Breakthru TV appears to have somehow acquired the exclusive rights to all
news coverage of their activities.  It occurs to Edison and Murray, though,
to wonder how you sign a contract with terrorists, and why a tiny little
outfit like Breakthru managed it when all of Network 23's resources seem to
have gotten nowhere.  But Edison isn't the only one on the job, and new
reporter Janie Crane has managed to get a bit closer to the story than she
really intended.

(6) Blanks  5/5/87
   Written by Steve Roberts
   Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
   The "Blanks" are the invisible people, the ones who don't appear on any
computer records.  Simon Peller, newly elected city official, is doing his
best to put them all in prison and the Blanks, in return, are doing their
best to wreck the entire computer network, which doesn't exactly endear
them to the now-TV-less general public.  It's up to Edison Carter and Blank
Reg to save the city with a bit of help from Bryce Lynch and the Trojan
Sheep.

(7) The Academy  9/18/87
   Written by David Brown
   Directed by Victor Lobl
   Somebody is "zipping" - hacking into Network 23's satellites and
hijacking their transmissions.  Bryce claims to have tracked them down and
fingers Bigtime TV as the culprits, but Blank Reg protests his innocence
("there's not enough power in that bus to zip up me trousers, never mind a
network satellite").  Theora does some tracking of her own and finds
something very suspicious about the Academy of Computer Sciences, Bryce's
alma mater, so Edison tries to find the real perpetrators before Reg is
sentenced to death by a game show.

(8) Deities  9/25/87
   Written by Michael Cassutt
   Directed by Tom Wright
   The Video Church of the Vu Age promises its followers a secular
resurrection, by recording their brain-scans until the technology is
developed to give them new bodies provided they pay for it, of course.  The
church's founder, Vanna Smith, is an old friend of Edison Carter, who is
torn between his old feelings for her and his suspicion of a church that
seems to be raking in a lot of money but producing no visible results.

(9) Grossberg's Return  10/2/87
   Written by Steve Roberts
   Directed by Janet Greek
   There's a telelection on and Network 66's Harriet Garth is beating 23's
Simon Peller by a landslide.  Votes are based on ratings, and 66's show is
a total loser... so why are people staying tuned in droves?  Bryce
discovers that 66 has a scam called "View-Doze" that lets people tune in
while they sleep and the executive who thought it up has a very familiar
face!  But Grossberg's scheme turns out to be a lot deeper than it looks.

(10) Dream Thieves  10/9/87
   Written by Steve Roberts and Charles Grant Craig
   Directed by Todd Holland
   Edison runs into an old friend - Paddy Ashton, a former Network 23
reporter, now a street bum who claims to be making a living by selling his
dreams.  When Ashton mysteriously dies, Edison investigates Mind's Eye, the
outfit that's buying dreams.  Quite a few people have died of "nightmare
trauma" and it's all in the name of television.

(11) Whacketts  10/16/87
   Written by Arthur Sellers and Dennis Rolfe
   Directed by Victor Lobl
   Bigtime TV's "Whacketts" is the dumbest game show in the history of
television (and that's no mean achievement).  So what is it about the show
that keeps everyone addicted to it, to the extent of risking their own
lives to stay tuned?  Edison wants to know why, partly because it's
stealing his (and Max's) ratings and so does our old friend Grossberg,
now head of Network 66.  But when a cop investigating the same mystery
commits suicide, the plot begins to seriously thicken.

(12) Neurostim  4/28/88
   Written by Arthur Sellers and Michael Cassutt
   Directed by Maurice Phillips
   The Zik-Zak Corporation ("We make everything you need and you need
everything we make") has come up with a new gimmick - the Neurostim
bracelet.  It makes all your dreams come true, it's free with every Zik-Zak
product, and it could put network television out of business.  Edison
Carter's investigation is hampered by an argument with Max about just who
pulls the ratings around here.

(13) Lost Tapes [unaired in U.S.]
   Written by Adrian Hein, Steve Roberts, Colman Dekay, and Howard Brookner
   Directed by Victor Lobl
   A secret school, using pirated Network 23 educational programmes to
taech the children of the Fringe, is raided by the Metrocops.  Edison and
Theora help one of the children to escape, and try to track down her mother
and find out why Network 23's chief censor was involved in the raid.  The
censor appears to be getting ideas above his station, but he's
underestimated Edison's stubbornness and Bryce's ingenuity ("Extremely
difficult.  Virtually impossible.  However, it should take me only about
ten seconds.").

(14) Baby Grobags [unaired in U.S.]
   Written by Adrian Hein and Chris Ruppenthal
   Directed by Janet Greek
   Ovu-Vat offers the latest in high-tech pregnancy - you supply the genes
and they'll grow the baby for you; no pain, no inconvenience, no risk, and
no surprises.  Theora isn't very impressed, especially when her friend
Helen Zeno's baby disappears just before the "birth".  Meanwhile, Network
66 has a new, high-rating show about child prodigies.  Grossman is trying
to lure Bryce away from Network 23, Edison is trying to find out what's
going on, and Murray is trying to find an excuse to avoid visiting anything
resembling a hospital ("Why are men so infantile about biology?  I mean,
mine is much more of a nuisance than yours and I never complain.").


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