I saw the pilot movie for Max Headroom the other day. I wasn’t lucky enough to catch the pilot or the full series when it first appeared in the US in 1987. In fact, I wasn’t exposed to anything cyberpunk until 1995, when I saw The Lawnmower Man on VHS (a movie I’d like to revisit sometime). I didn’t read cyberpunk literature until late into college, when my work crew boss (and college webmaster) recommended Neuromancer by William Gibson. Afterwards, I ate up anything like Gibson’s work I could get my hands on — the rest of the Sprawl trilogy, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell (the manga, the movie and the TV show!), and others. But Max Headroom had to wait until just recently before I could see it.
The show follows an intrepid reporter, Edison Carter, who lives “twenty minutes into the future” in a world dominated by TV networks. After a motorcycle crash, his consciousness is copied into a powerful computer, creating the eccentric AI Max Headroom (so-named after Carter’s last thoughts before the crash). Carter recovers, and with Max he continues to investigate the gritty secrets of his media-ruled world.
Well, it’s nothing like the cyberpunk I came to love in college.