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Home > Sci-Fi > Max Headroom M-m-mondays #12: Neurostim

Max Headroom M-m-mondays #12: Neurostim

November 29th, 2010

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


Written by Arthur Sellers and Michael Cassutt

“We make everything you need, and you need everything we make.” –Zik-Zak advertising slogan

The Story: The Zik-Zak Corporation’s new promotion is the Neurostim bracelet. (Free with a Burger Pak and Crunch Fries!) This dangerous piece of bling puts its wearer into a hallucinatory world of sexual imagery and rampant consumerism. It’s all part of Operation Serendipity, Zik-Zak’s plan to bypass network television and implant advertising messages directly in its customers’ brains. When Edison’s investigation proves inconvenient, he is tricked into wearing an overpowered Neurostim that locks him into a perpetual state of shopping madness.

Behind the Screens: This one is a mixed bag for me. It scores some good points about the mindlessness of consumer come-ons–all of the Neumostim fantasies involve sexual encounters and/or fast cars–but the story logic is a bit of a mess.

The addictive properties of the Neurostim device are every bit as dangerous as Blipverts or Whacketts. In fact, the bracelets work so well that Zik-Zak is able to pull all of its advertising from Network 23. The resulting drop in 23’s stock price allows Zik-Zak to buy a controlling share of the network itself.

In the end, nothing that Edison does matters. Zik-Zak sells Network 23 once they realize that the other channels won’t accept advertising from a competitor. (Never mind that Neurostim makes traditional advertising meaningless.) And there’s no suggestion that Carter’s investigation puts an end to the promotion.

From a character standpoint, this is one of the stronger episodes for both Edison and Max. Max interrupts Edison’s timeslot because he feels that he can speak truths that Carter can’t or won’t. Meahwhile, Edison resents Max’s very existence; he’s furious that his personality was copied and is now in direct competition with himself.

The Ratings Report:

Theora’s Level of Concern

How Minutes Into the Future Is This Now?

In hindsight, the resolution of the story is naive in the extreme. Every American broadcast television network is now owned by a media conglomerate, and if there’s any serious resistance to advertising the wares of a competitor, I haven’t seen it.

We get our first glimpse of a location outside of the unnamed city in which Network 23 resides. The headquarters of the Zik-Zak Corporation is in New Tokyo, a sleek metropolis depicted in cheesy mid-’80s CGI.

A map of the world in the Zik-Zak boardroom suggests that there are two other similar conglomerates: Zuma, which controls the North and South American markets as well as Great Britain; and Zlin, which dominates Africa and the majority of Europe and Russia.

media conglomerates owning broadcast networks? horrors! -8 minutes
soda cups that open at the small end +1 minute
virtual clothing stores +2 minutes

= 15 Minutes Into the Future

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