A double dose of iconic comebacks.

Morris the Cat? The Energizer Bunny ? They're back!

Perhaps up next, the return of Max Headroom for Coke and Frito Bandito for everyone's favorite corn'n'oil chip!

...actually, bringing Max back would be kinda cool.

Neutered all the dead links which were as follows (in order)

The Voice of the Future

by Ken Mondschein


What with the pop culture detritus of the 1980s being canonized like Andy Warhol's used tissues, I'm somewhat surprised that one particular icon hasn't yet been resurrected, given that, in his heydey, he shilled for the abomination known as New Coke, had his own late-night TV show, hosted music videos, and even made it into Doonesbury as a cipher for Ronald Reagan.

I am speaking, of course, of Max Headroom.

Originally the host of a music-video show and then a 1985 movie on Britain's Channel 4Max Headroom won over American audiences in 1987 with a cleaned-up version that combined sardonic humor with state-of-the-art computer graphics. (They used a Commodore Amiga, for God's sake! An AMIGA!) For those whose memories of the Michael J. Fox decade haven't already been liquefied like a penguin by a yeti-wielded baseball batMax was set "20 minutes" into a dystopian future, where media is all-pervasive, every aspect of our lives is recorded on computer, never-ending entertainment is more important than food, "off" switches are illegal, and warring corporate powers struggle for control of their mindshare fiefdoms. Ratings, in Max Headroom's universe, are everything: If we had their political system, Paris Hilton would be President.* Other than that, though, it's pretty much like our own world.

The look and feel of the show was early cyberpunk—William Gibson was even a fan, and even wrote a script, but the show was canceled before it was ever used. The plots turned around the adventures of Edison Carter, an intrepid muckraking reporter for mega-conglomerate Network 23 , who goes into the field all alone save for his trusty video camera/broadcast station, investigates social ills ranging from anarchists with high explosives to bloodsports played on skateboards to body-parts smuggling, and usually gets beat up. Despite the Evil Mega-Corporations' best efforts, at the end of the day, Carter gets his story, justice is served, and Carter's ratings make up for his being a perpetual thorn in his bosses' sides.

Oh, yeah, about the titular character's origins, which were the point of the original 1985 movie in the first place: In the first episode, Grossberg, Network 23's head of operations, has invented the "blipvert," a form of subliminal advertisements that just might make your head explode even more efficiently than a "Giant Japanese Fighting Epilepsy Robots" marathon. Carter finds out that Grossberg is behind the recent rash of head-asplodings; Grossberg decides he wants Carter dead (much like Martha Stewart probably wishes her broker was dead right about now); Carter winds up running into a pole on a motorcycle. Boy genius Bryce scans the unconscious Carter's brainwaves into his state-of-the-art Tandy 2100, thus giving birth to Max, his wisecracking AI alter-ego. Carter nontheless recovers and, with Max's help, gets Grossberg fired. They then went on to make fourteen brilliant, brilliant episodes together, before the show died an unnatural death from being wedged in opposite Dallas. Sci-fi satire ain't no match for sex-crazed Texans. (Edison and Max were both played by Matt Frewer, who was most recently resurrected in the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Max himself, however, wasn't computer-generated—they used Frewer in prosthetics, with choppy video editing.)

The real genius of the show, though, was how it was eerily prescient, particularly in its depiction of the uneasy symbiosis between media megaconglomerates (FCC deregulation, anyone?) and indie outfits such as Bigtime TV, which was run by an old technopunk named Reg who lived in a trailer and whose production values resembled nothing so much as Web broadcasting. (Who would have guessed in the early 1980s that punks would be be old one day, given that they were all so busy overdosing on heroin at the time? Then again, waiting for streaming media to buffer on iFilm does feel like a codine bender. . .) Technology has made Max Headroom-style do-it-yourself media practical; today, there's nothing science-fiction about a man-portable TV studio with a real-time remote upload; all you'd need is a digital camera equipped with a wireless modem. The way Max goes from the computer world to peoples' TV sets is pretty much what the Internet would have been if Web TV had turned into anything other than a means of high-speed spam propagation. Even Edison's real-time mobile link with his "controller," British babe Amanda Pays, and her bottomless well of information has come to pass: Ever call a friend on your cell phone and ask them to Google something for you?

The other way in which Max Headroom is geek-deep is its nuanced look at what, exactly, it means to work in media. Edison works for Network 23, the biggest outfit around; he knows they're assholes, but he also knows that his chance of reaching the most people is by working through them. We are a nation of proto-celebrities: These days, no one makes art for the sake of art; everyone, even the revolutionaries, wants to be "discovered." However, most people start with authenticity, and then slowly sell out until they've "jumped the shark." Max, who was a corporate creation from the beginnng, took the opposite route: He started off as a corporate shill for music videos and Coca-Cola, and wound up being the centerpiece of one of the most subversive shows to ever make it onto prime time.

One last note: According to Tech TV, if you add up Bryce's date of birth and the age he supposedly was in the series, you find that Max Headroom was living in the year 2004. It's 'bout time Max made a little comeback, ain't it?

Just, please: No New Coke this time!


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