“20 Minutes Into The Future”

Phillip and I watched the first two episodes of Max Headroom last night. We watched the third episode this afternoon, after a trip to the laundromat.

My verdict: So far, it is even better than I had remembered it. I love this 1987-1988 television show.

As I tend to do when I run across something I enjoy, I did some internet research this morning. I learned that I had been mistaken about the origins of the show. For all these decades, I’d been thinking that I had watched an American remake of a British show.

The true story is: It began as a British made-for-TV movie named Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It was then made into a 14-episode British TV series for an American audience. Even though the cast was mostly American, it always was a British television show.

I remembered the show being dystopian, but I’m now being reminded of how dark is really is.

Here are my favorite parts from the first three episodes:

  • “Blipverts” – 30-second commercials compressed into 3 seconds, to discourage channel-surfing. “Blipverts” had a disastrous side-effect, as evidenced by the “two-way sampler” (a television’s ability to watch the viewers).
  • Laws created by television corporations which, among other things, make it illegal to turn your television off.
  • Body banks
  • Lines like “I can’t afford to buy Law” and “Justice is cash-flow”.
  • “Missile Mike” – a children’s television program which apparently consists entirely of the same clips of war scenes shown over and over.

It’s rather amazing to me that this show was shown on television.

I understand, now, why my memory of Max Headroom differed from the nostalgic reviews I’ve read. It was a show about government control over the population, and about corporate control over the government. I remembered the corporate control – specifically the television corporate control. The reviews focused on the government control.


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