Max Headroom — Caveat Emptor!
My amazon pre-order of the 1987 14-episode series arrived yesterday afternoon. I’m four episodes in, and loving it all over again, partly because of its distinctive voice and partly because of its incisive humor, but mostly because of the world in which its set — a world in which omnipotent corporations and massively corrupt media networks rule a hellish planet peopled by somnambulists, while pointless puppet governments posture constantly and all cops are incompetent goons.
Max Headroom represents a kind of cyberpunk vacation from or antidote for the Milch-mania (which I actually prefer) that leads me to sound, even to myself, like some kind of sycophantic, pro-cop, law and order freak.
It’s nice to shift temporarily away from my steady diet of crusading detectives and visionary police officers (besieged by slime-covered news reporters and hamstrung by counterintuitive bureacracies) to one heroic, hardhitting newsman (mired in zombie-cops and soulless corporate nazis).
The series is just as low-budget, sometimes-tedious, and primitive as I remember, but it’s especially gratifying (after 23 years of waiting) to actually follow a reasonably-continuous storyline (no commercials, no week-long waits, no censored profanities…) and character arcs I hankered-after so long ago. (And the techno-mumbo-jumbo is probably lots easier now to translate into obsolete computer-speak.)
I’m finding, as well, that this show made remarkably cogent and prescient observations about Twenty Minutes Into The Future of television, media and society from 23 years in the past. And It’s FUN!
Important Update: Conversely, by episode 8, the drawbacks of crappy acting, deplorable dialogue, an unrelentingly cynical and whining view of the future, and the gimmick-ridden speech impediment of Max, himself, make this show increasingy difficult to watch and enjoy. It’s as though inert material is accumulating in my imagination, and the longer I pay attention to Max Headroom, the more difficult it is to pay attention to Max Headroom, a titular character whose charm and utility as comic relief cease to entertain as his appearances come to annoy, and I’ve begun to dread them.
What began as an almost-glowing pseudo-critique has become a serious CUSTOMER WARNING.