Max Headroom was initially conceived as a novelty host for a pop music TV
program on Channel 4
in Britain. He would introduce music videos
and also interview celebrities over the TV.
The original "20 Minutes into the Future" drama was a one shot made in 1984 that explained the origin of the character (it is the same basic plot as the "Blipverts" episode). The American production company Lorimar then produced a short series based upon this in 1987. Only 14 episodes were produced (and they were not all originally broadcast).
The main idea is that in a cyberpunk future where television is totally dominant as the "Opiate of the Masses" there is an investigative TV reporter called Edison Carter (played by Matt Frewer). When he starts to investigate his own company he is disappeared and they attempt to create a computer duplicate. Unfortunately he comes back and there are problems with the duplicate that make it unreliable (Edison had concussion when they tried to copy his brain).
Other episodes investigate other cyberpunk style aspects of the future in which he lives. There were things like blanks (people who have no records in the system), Baby Farming, and TV Terrorism. The series is good though not particularly commercial, not least because it portrayed corporations (primary American network advertising sponsors) as amoral organisations.
Edison Carter was supported by his controller Theora Jones (played by Amanda Pays) back at Network 23, as well as their producer Murray (played by Jeffrey Tambor(US), Roger Sloman(UK)). The CEO at Network 23 Ben Cheviot (played by George Coe(US), Constantine Gregory(UK)) supports or at least often ignores what they are doing as long as it doesn't hurt the ratings. They also get help (or often grief) from the young and precocious head of Network 23's R&D division Bryce Lynch (played by Chris Young(US), Paul Spurrier(UK)).
Other regulars are Blank Reg (played by William Morgan Sheppard) and Dominique (played by Concetta Tomei(US), Hilary Tindall(UK)). They run the pirate TV stations "Big Time TV".
The episodes of the Television series were:
- Body Banks
- Security Systems
- The Academy
- Grossberg's Return
- Dream Thieves
- Lost Tapes
- Baby Grobags
Max Headroom is named for the words on the car park traffic barrier into which Edison Carter is hurled when he tries to escape Network 23 on a motorbike. It is the last image he sees (as his head hits it giving him concussion) and what the duplicate remembers as he boots up.
TV is so omnipresent in the society of Max Headroom that it is illegal to have an off button on a TV Set