Showing posts from 2017

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - Michael Cassutt: The Max Headroom Interview

Michael Cassutt is a writer and producer of a number of television series, including THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1985), THE OUTER LIMITS (1990), and EERIE, INDIANA (1991) and most recently, Z NATION (2014). But he can also take credit for his work on MAX HEADROOM (1987), and during this 30th anniversary celebration, I am thrilled that he agreed to an interview on what is now regarded as “the first cyberpunk television series.”  The interview was conducted during the 25th anniversary, and reposted here.
GK: Thanks for subjecting yourself to this interview- this is very exciting for me, as I was in college, majoring in Radio/Television/Film when MAX HEADROOM debuted, so you can imagine how it resonated with me. And that affection has only grown over the years.

So, to begin, how did you become involved in the MAX HEADROOM TV series?

MC: I got hired on MAX because of Phil DeGuere, who was my boss on TWILIGHT ZONE. A vastly experienced network showrunner, Phil had been teamed with Peter Wagg (who…

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - Shades of Gray: Morality in the Max Headroom Series

Having watched the entire series thanks to Shout Factory’s release of the complete series on DVD, I have noticed that there are some six distinct shade of morality present in the series.

Morally Bankrupt Ned Grossberg, the original chair of Network 23 is clearly the most morally bankrupt person in the series. He was ousted as the chair of the largest network in the world after he authorized the failed Blipvert campaign. The blipvert technology compressed an entire 30-second advertisement into a fraction of that time. The intended result was the prevention of channel switching, thus ensuring Network 23’s hold on the ratings lead, but what actually happened was that particularly sedentary viewers had a nasty habit of spontaneously combusting because they’re nerve endings were over stimulated by the blipverts. Grossberg refused to pull them, choosing to profit above people. 
He later resurfaces as the chairman of Network 66, a rival of Network 23.  Not long after joining Network 66 as an …

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - In Consequence

As a follow up to the previous post on Truth and Justice in the Max Headroom world, I wanted to reflect on the consequences for crimes and misdeeds as portrayed in the series.  One of the tropes in cyberpunk (of which Max Headroom is an example[1]), is the subversion of justice in favor of the wealthy.  I’ve already explored briefly the fact that justice is outside of the means of the have-nots dwelling in the Fringes and beyond[2].
But on the other side of the equation, it appears that the Haves in the world of Max Headroom don’t have a problem securing sufficient cash to avoid much of the consequences of their actions.  In the pilot episode, “Blipverts,” Ned Grossberg is the chairman of the number one television network, Network 23.  Edison Carter is the largest ratings producer though his investigative journalism program[3]. Edison stumbles upon a conspiracy to roll out a revolutionary advertising system that has the unfortunate side effect of causing sedentary viewers to spontane…

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - Truth, Justice and the MetroCity Way

There was once a disparaging comment about believing in something simply because “I saw it on TV.”  Max Headroom takes that tension and makes it a central theme.  Many episodes deal with what people see and how easily they can be duped and the cavalier attitude that people in power have toward the truth.

In a media and corporate-driven society, ratings are cash and cash is power.  If one has enough cash, one has enough power to shape truth to whatever form is most expedient to increase ratings and thereby increase revenue.
In this world, network executives realize that they are playing fast and loose with the truth, but that knowledge is of no concern. One board member of Network 23 accuses Network 66 of theft by “falsifying ratings,” to which Network 23 Chairman Ben Cheviot responds “Nonsense, its merely ethically dubious, perfectly normal practice.” [1]
The same episode focuses tightly on the role of media and its manipulation of the truth.  Theora Jones, controller for ace reporte…

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - Matters of Faith

There are three episodes of the Max Headroom series which deal either directly or indirectly with religion and matters of faith. The first season episode ‘finale,’ “Blanks,”[1] dealt with individuals who have elected to remove themselves from the computer databases of the world.  There is no official record of their existence and they are referred to as the “Blanks” of the episode title.  The plot of the story is one where the political chief executive officer,[2] Simon Peller, has decided to wage a campaign against the Blanks. Because they have no records, they don’t officially exist, and therefore have no rights.  In a later episode where another Blank is arrested,[3] we see that Blanks are matched up by a computer with unsolved crimes regardless of whether or not they actually committed them.  It’s almost as if racial profiling has gone berserk.  In “Blanks,” Simon Peller arrests and imprisons the Blanks because he finds them “untidy” and a threat to his vision of “order.” The Bla…

Max Headroom: Thirty-Year Celebration Reblog - Future Tense

In celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the premiere of the Max Headroom television series that ran on ABC in the US, I am reblogging my posts from five years back and on:

The Max Headroom television series almost invariably begins with the tagline “20 minutes into the future.” This is usually seen in a caption at the bottom of the screen superimposed over the establishing shot for the episode.  It is also, not coincidentally, the title of the UK telefilm that served (with a handful of adjustments) as the pilot for the series.
But I see it as more than just a clever indicator of the setting.  In one way, it reveals a sense of immediacy.  That is, it informs us that the society we are witnessing on the screen is right around the corner.  We are not that far off from the passage of laws banning off switches on televisions, the limitation of education for only those who can afford to pay for it, and from television network ratings determining elections.  This future is upon us and…

[Monday Review] Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales

A friend of mine loaned me his copy of Identity Crisis, and I finished it in one sitting. It is a heartbreaking story about the toll being a superhero can take on your personal life and the lives of those around you. Also, as a friend on Facebook pointed out to me, it was a very intimate story, as worlds were not at stake. It was personal, and yet, the tension was still high, because you cared about the characters enough to want to solve the mystery and resolve the titular "crisis."I have been a fan of Brad Meltzer, surprisingly enough not from his books, but from his History Channel television series, Brad Meltzer's Decoded and Brad Meltzer's Lost History. The latter program identified artifacts that had been lost, misplaced or plain stolen and asked for viewers to aid in their recovery. The first episode detailed the story of the "911 Flag" that was raised over Ground Zero.  Toward the end of that single season, it was reported that someone had come forwa…