Max Headroom: The Complete Series

Max Headroom: The Complete Series
One should be careful labelling something "groundbreaking." Sure, it may apply at the time, but as time passes, said album, artwork, film, social gesture, etc. is left to stand on its own merits. Fortunately, Shout! Factory's recent release of the complete Max Headroom series still stands on its own, while being plenty groundbreaking to boot. Set in an Orwellian dystopia "twenty minutes into the future" (by executive producer Peter Wagg's admission, the production team took its cues from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner), Headroom tracks the adventures of intrepid TV journalist Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), working to slowly expose the shady machinations of a futuristic media oligarchy. After a motorcycle accident, Edison's consciousness (or part of it) is uploaded into a computer system, eventually evolving into Max Headroom, a smart-alecky, computer-generated talking head whose glitchy snark differently undermines the very same media magnates Edison works so hard to take down. Running for only 14 episodes on ABC in the late '80s, Max Headroom materialized at a time when television was becoming increasingly self-aware, as demonstrated by programs like It's Garry Shandling's Show and, most pointedly, the arrival of The Simpsons a few years later. But Headroom doesn't get caught up in flaunting its prescience, developing a compelling satirical narrative of media saturation and subliminal control (think Videodrome meets UHF) alongside its more obvious winks and nudges at its form. Boasting the strong supporting cast of Amanda Pays (as Carter's producer and love interest), Jeffrey Tambor (as a high-strung newsroom chief) and Chris Young (as a hacker wunderkind), Max Headroom harkens back to the time when networks were willing to take chances on offbeat programming with a distinct point-of-view. As usual, the folks at Shout! Factory offer up an excellent DVD package, including an hour-long look at the genesis of the Max Headroom project, a roundtable discussion between the cast members (though Frewer is noticeably absent) and various featurettes profiling the writing process and production design. And considering that the series is the real peach, you can take all the po-mo winking as an added extra too. (Shout! Factory)