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Home > Sci-Fi > Max Headroom M-m-mondays #5: War

Max Headroom M-m-mondays #5: War

October 4th, 2010

Continuing my weekly look back at 1987’s Max Headroom series.


Written by Martin Pasko, Rebecca Parr, Michael Cassutt and Steve Roberts

“Since when has news been entertainment?”  –Edison

“Since it was invented?”  –Murray

The Story: State-sponsored terrorism has given way to commercially-sponsored terrorism. A Network 23 reporter is injured and subsequently captured during her investigation of the “White Brigade” and its connection with a television packager.

Network head Ben Cheviot has a difficult decision to make. Explosions equal ratings during a crucial global “sweeps,” but what’s the real cost of purchasing exclusive rights to the White Brigade?

Behind the Screens: In another example of the television-dominated future, the Stock Market has been replaced by an “Ad Market” where commercial availabilities are traded in real-time.

Actor Robert O’Reilly, who played the bug-eyed Klingon ruler Gowron for the Star Trek franchise, here is Hauser, the bug-eyed leader of the White Brigade.

We never find out exactly what it is Hauser wants. While he largely seems content to blow up empty buildings for the sake of ad dollars, he professes to have another agenda. His attack on the Ad Market suggests that he’s protesting the very same mediacracy that’s providing him with funding. (Hmmmmm…)

Cheviot and Miss Formby are caught on the periphery of the Ad Market blast, and Formby sustains minor injuries. Despite this, Cheviot is not above contracting with the Brigade’s packager once Edison Carter’s investigation of the terrorists goes up a blind alley.

Max Headroom is barely in this one. Up ’til now, the writers have been good at finding ways to work him into the plot, but here he just offers occasional commentary.

The Ratings Report:

Theora’s Level of Concern

How Minutes Into the Future Is This Now?

The time has come to address a couple of significant ways in which Max Headroom the series got it both right and so very wrong.

The world of 20 Minutes into the Future is under the thumb of the media, but it’s specifically the medium of broadcast television. From my current vantage point in that industry, I can tell you that this is laughably unlikely.

The World Wide Web was only about four years away in the real world, yet there’s no suggestion here of people using computers for anything other than hacking and/or staring pensively at monitors. There are video screens everywhere, but they’re analog TV sets.

I also need to bring attention to the video cameras used by Edison and his peers. They’re bulky, shoulder-mounted affairs, not the tiny HD camcorders of today. Granted, they have built-in uplink capabilities–seemingly without any need for line-of-sight–so that might account for the extra load. But that does nothing to account for the bazooka-like “camera gun”–complete with videotape “clip”–that Network 23 reporter Janie Crane operates.

To my knowledge, no television networks are making back-door deals with Al Qaeda for exclusive news coverage. But media-savvy terrorists who profit from the system they want to bring down? That’s so 2001.

omnipresent media companies  +2 minutes
but they’re the wrong media companies  -5 minutes
bazooka video cameras  -2 minutes
terrorism ad-buys  +3 minutes

= 18 Minutes Into the Future

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