—Max Headroom writers expressing their butthurt over the fact that they're now unemployed because they got their asses kicked in the ratings by Miami Vice and Dallas
—Elitist Sci-Fi Snob
If you don’t know who Max Headroom is, go and ask your parents. They'll probably recall him as a wacky, madcap television shill with a fond smile, and then proceed to tell you to “Catch the wave” which is a reference to Pepsi clear or Coke clear or some other grandpa drink they sold one hundred years ago.
Max Headroom, for about three seconds, was the hottest thing on television. He appeared in advertisements, television shows, advertisements, movies, and advertisements. For about three minutes he was the star of a scandalous broadcast signal intrusion, back when hacking the broadcast signal of HBO required little more than pointing your satellite dish upwards, then pressing the "trasmit" key. How could such a star be so hot and command so much air-time and then literally be an unknown a brief two decades later? Probably because Max Headroom wasn’t real.
History and Description
Max Headroom was the brainchild of three co-creators who all had ties within the television industry. They, along with small-time movie/television actor Matt Frewer, combined their skills to craft a digital television icon using old-style computers, digital sounds, and the actor himself who was then dressed in a latex suit and covered in Hollywood styled F/X makeup to make him appear to be computer generated. After the acting portion was completed, the production team then would superimpose the visage of Max in front of a random background and then add the various jerks, stutters, and jilts which were part of the whole Max Headroom experience.
This was widely considered by those in the industry to be a work of true art, but widely considered by everyone else to be incomprehensible.
The Max Headroom Show
Originally, Max was nothing more than an early video disc jockey (VJ) for British television. On his show, Max would quip unfunny jokes for a few seconds and then a video would be played.
20 Minutes into the Future
Actor Matt Frewer soon got tired of sitting in the makeup chair 16 hours a day in order to shoot 14 minutes of video, and spoke to the producers, threatening to quit. After being told who he was, the producers agreed to look into other venues. Unsurprisingly, they settled on a TV show. Despite a cult following, a merchandising deal with a soda company, and the ever present possibility of seeing Lisa Peders' deliciously budding tits; the show was canceled. The cancellation left the creators wondering what they could do with their digital personality (other than hanging themselves in shame). Soon, they hit upon a plan to milk this cash cow before their 15 minutes of fame evaporated.
He sang Paranoimia by The Art Of Noise.
In the mid and late 1980s, the Coca-Cola company was getting its collective ass kicked in a battle with Pepsico which would later be affectionately called “The Cola Wars.” During this time, some blundering idiot who worked for Coca-Cola decided that the product needed a total face lift. After literally no testing and only a few prototypes, the cola giant got rid of the number one selling soft drink beverage of all time and replaced it with a product called “New Coke.”
Historically speaking, this gaffe would become synonymous with other such major blunders such as the Ford Edsel, the Union Carbide Bhopal incident, and uncyclopedia. Piling on the stupid decisions, Coca-Cola decided to use Max Headroom as its new product spokesperson, and the slogan “Catch the Wave” was drilled into the soft drink buying public. However, New Coke failed epically and was soon replaced with “Coke Classic,” but part of the fallout of the industrial stagger was Headroom’s and Frewer's careers. And nothing of value was lost.
Signal Intrusion Incident
A signal intrusion incident is the fancy word that federal authorities use to describe a practical joke played by television hijackers. Since most federal authorities do not consider practical jokes other than they one's they pull (like Waco) to be funny, they will attempt to prosecute any television pirates they may find.
For analog stations it is relatively easy to break into the transmission network. All that is needed is to determine the frequency used in the studio-to-transmitter link, then generate a higher-powered signal at the same frequency from a position near the broadcast transmitter site, essentially jamming the original signal. The input stage of a cheap video sender can produce the right kind of signal. A low-power microwave signal generator or a home-made equivalent from easily available components provides the signal (which is pointed at the receiving dish antenna). Most larger stations encrypt their signal, in which case one would just jam the signal, as is the case with digital. Most TV and radio stations are extremely vulnerable, but lack of knowledge has kept this from being a problem.
In 1987, towards the end of his climb to fame, Max Headroom’s appearance was stolen and used by television hijackers who chose him as their nutty and chaotic spokesperson, probably owing to the fact that Max Headroom Halloween masks were in the bargain bin at the local junk shop. They then used his image to interrupt some Chicago television shows by cracking jokes and showing Max getting his ass smacked with a fly swatter by some little girl.
First Incident – WGN-TV
—An apt, if over-hyped, description of the events that occurred.
—Dan Roan, WGN Sports Guy
Viewers of the November 22, 1987 broadcast of Chicago’s “News at Nine” television show were treated to one of the most epic pre-internet trolls of recent memory. During a sports highlight film, WGN’s signal was interrupted and replaced by a hijacker wearing the outfit and mask of Max Headroom. The interruption did not last long and contained no audio except for a buzzing sound. During the short interruption, a WGN engineer realized that he could shut the studio link down by flipping a switch on his console. The News at Nine show then continued.
Second Incident – WTTW
A second incident of hijacking occurred later that night and was a better planned and coordinated attempt at television piracy. In this second attack, viewers of the nerd-popular television show “Doctor Who” were invited to watch something quite different. At 11:15pm, pirates succeeded in boosting their own video feed over top of the lame Doctor and broadcast this:
Transcript of the Hijacking
This is what Max had to say during his intrusion. Which lead many to believe he only did it for the lulz. NOTE:
"He's a freaky nerd!"/"He's a freaking nerd!" "This guy's better than Chuck Swirsky."/"Yeah, I think I'm better then Chuck Swirsky.: (a WGN-TV sportscaster at the time) "Oh Jesus!" "Catch the wave." (a reference to the New Coke marketing slogan while holding a can of Pepsi) "Your love is fading." (hums the theme song to the 1959 TV series "Clutch Cargo") "I still see the X!"/"I stole CBS!"/"I stole some DX!" (unintelligible) "Oh, I just made a giant masterpiece printed all over the greatest world newspaper nerds."/"Oh, I just made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds." "My brother is wearing the other one." "It's dirty." "They're coming to get me!"
—Bob Strutzel, WGN-TV Director of Engineering commenting on the prank.
—some guy not overreacting at all
CBS Evening News attempted to gin up the story the next day, but by then nobody really cared. Even though The Feds exhausted several hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to catch the hijackers, they never caught anybody and the perpetrators still remain at large to this day.
Over two decades after the incident, Anons used Max again in a similar fashion, proving that either Anon is old and can read or Anon pays attention to such things.
From his humble beginnings as a shill for New Coke, Max recently had a revitalization and was in demand by advertisers once again. He even wants you to "Leave Brittany Alone!!!"
Probably The Only Interesting Fact About Max Headroom
Just like how Homer Simpson got the name Max Power from the side of a hair dryer, the name Max Headroom comes from a height warning in a garage saying "Max Head Room 13 Feet." In the television show, 20 Minutes Into The Future A sign with the warning Max Head Room was the last thing Edison Carter, the Human Version of Max, saw before wiping out on a motorcycle. Long story short, 30 minutes of bad science fiction that makes Doctor Who look well written and a living computer copy of Edison Carter is made and chooses Max Headroom as its name because that's the first thing it remembered.
What he Looks Like Now
- Max Headroom's H-H-Home Page
- Max is all over YouTube.
- Description of and commentary on the hijacking.
- TV Terrorism!!!
- Max Headroom Video Hijacking - 20th Anniversary
- Could you explain Max Headroom to me?
- History of Television Hijacking.
- Max Headroom soundbites.
- Season 1 of the TV show
- Season 2 of the TV show
- Original 20 Minutes into the Future movie.
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