The U.S. series expanded on the cyberpunk themes in the British TV movie but otherwise had no connection to the British music video show. In an arrangement perhaps unique in the history of television, the U.S. spin-off series featuring Max Headroom was a fictional drama, while its main character was originally created for a non-fiction entertainment show in Britain.
The series began as a mid-season replacement in spring of 1987, and was sufficiently popular to be renewed for the fall television season, but the viewer ratings could not be sustained, due to direct competition with CBS's Top 20 hit Dallas and NBC's Top 30 hit Miami Vice, and Max Headroom was canceled part-way into its first broadcast season; leftover episodes aired in spring 1988. Plans for a cinema version titled Max Headroom for President were mentioned in the media, but the film was never produced.
Comico comics also had plans to publish a graphic novel based on the story, but never fulfilled them. A few posters were produced for comic shops, with a picture of Max Headroom saying comics will never be the same again.
The series depicted very little of the past described by Edison, though he did meet a female priest that he once dated when his reporting put him at odds with the Vu Age Church that she now headed.
Edison cares about his co-workers, especially Theora Jones (who looks upon him as a friend and big brother) and Bryce Lynch (who regularly easily agrees to help Edison, despite all but ignoring everyone else's requests).
Theora was Network 23's star controller and, working with the network's star reporter, Edison Carter, she often helped save the day for everyone. She was also the pseudo-love-interest of Edison Carter, but that subplot was not explored fully on the show before it was cancelled.
Network 23's personnel files list her father as unknown, her mother as deceased, and her brother as Shawn Jones.
The Ogg Theora open video codec is named after this character.
His birthdate is 7th October 1988. In the show Bryce appears to be 16 or 17 years old, so in the episodes that we see on screen Bryce is living in the time frame of 2004-2005.
In the stereotypical hacker ethos, Bryce has few principles and fewer loyalties. He seems to accept any task, even morally questionable ones, as long as he is allowed to have the freedom to play with technology however he sees fit. This in turn makes him a greater asset to the technological needs and demands of the network (and the whims of its executives and stars). However, he also generally does not hurt or infringe on others, making him an uncannily neutral character in the Max Headroom universe. The character seems to have been loosely based on Alan Turing.
In the pilot episode of the series, Bryce is enlisted by network CEO Ned Grossberg to investigate the mental patterns of unconscious reporter Edison Carter, to determine whether or not Carter has discovered the secrets of the "Blipverts" scandal. Bryce downloads the contents of Carter's memory into the Network 23 computer system, and manages to boot them as a computer program. The resulting personality, an unhinged and unrepressed version of Carter's personality, is dubbed "Max Headroom" after its first words (the last words seen by Carter before being knocked unconscious by a parking-garage security gate). Ironically, it was Bryce, following orders from Grossberg, who fought a hacking battle of sorts (a la the opening scene to Hackers) with Theora Jones that led to Edison hitting his head on a traffic barrier and falling unconscious.
After the first episode, Bryce is generally recruited by Carter and his controller Theora Jones to provide technical aid to their investigative reporting efforts.
Bryce is only seen outside of his lab in two episodes:
Reg is a "blank", a person not indexed in anyone's database. He broadcasts the underground Big Time Television Network from his bus. He is a good friend of Edison Carter, and saves him on more than one occasion.
He dresses in cyberpunk style and has a Mohawk hairstyle.
In the UK telefilm Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future upon which the American series was based, the character was called Grosman and was played by Nickolas Grace. Rocket portrayed Grossberg as an American yuppie with a characteristic facial (and neck-stretching) twitch.
In the pilot episode, Grossberg is the chairman of Network 23, a major city television station with the highest rated investigative news show in town, hosted by Edison Carter. In the Max Headroom world, real-time ratings equal advertising dollars, and advertisements have replaced stocks as the measure of corporate worth.
Grossberg, with his secret prodigy Bryce Lynch, develop a rapid-speed advertising delivery medium known as Blipverts, which condenses a full advertisement into a few seconds. When Carter discovers that Blipverts are killing people, Grossberg orders Lynch to prevent Carter from getting out of the building. Knocked unconscious, Carter's memories are extracted into a computer by Lynch in order to determine whether Carter uncovered Grossberg's knowledge of the danger of Blipverts. The resulting computer file of the memory-extraction process becomes Max Headroom, making Grossberg directly responsible for the creation of the character.
In the end, Grossberg is publicly exposed as responsible for the Blipverts scandal, and is removed as chairman of Network 23.
A few episodes later, in Grossberg's Return Grossberg reappears as a board member of Network 66. Again, he invents a dubious advertising medium and convinces the chairman of the network to adopt it. When the advertising method is shown to be a complete fraud, the resulting public reaction against the network leads to the chairman being removed, and Grossberg manages to resume the chairmanship.
|Blipverts||March 31, 1987||1|
|Investigative TV news reporter Edison Carter uncovers the disturbing secret of a new TV technology called "Blipverts,” high-intensity commercials with the ability to overload people's neural network causing them to explode.|
|Rakers||April 7, 1987||2|
|Theora's brother ends up tangled in the web of a mafia-organized sport called "raking,” a deadly mutation of motorized skateboarding.|
|Body Banks||April 14, 1987||3|
|A man forces a meeting with Carter after two thugs kidnap his girlfriend as an involuntary donor for a transplant operation. Meanwhile, Max demands to know some details about some fuzzy parts of his (and hence Edison's) memory.|
|Security Systems||April 21, 1987||4|
|An unknown buyer is planning to acquire Security Systems, the biggest security center in the world; the CEO of the company, however, while expressing her fear about the takeover, refuses to reveal more detail.|
|War||April 28, 1987||5|
|A terrorist group claims responsibility for a series of explosions - live and on air, with the aid of Network 23's competitive network, Breakthru TV.|
|The Blanks||May 5, 1987||6|
|The city's computer system is plagued by failures due to the Blanks, a group of anarchists who removed themselves from the central databanks.|
|"Academy"||September 18, 1987||7|
|Someone is "zipping" Network 23 — hijacking its satellites. While Blank Reg fights for his life on a Courtroom TV gameshow, Theora believes Bryce may be hiding something.|
|"Deities"||September 25, 1987||8|
|A New-age church wants Max so it can make good on its claims to preserve its members' personalities forever rather than merely fleecing them with claims of doing so. And the leader of this group knows just how to use Edison to get to Max.|
|"Grossberg's Return"||October 2, 1987||9|
|After his fall from the CEO chair at Network 23, Grossberg takes the helm of Network 66, and he's got an axe to grind.|
|"Dream Thieves"||October 9, 1987||10|
|The Networks are running out of creative material for new programming, so they turn to the audience's dreams. The process has some nasty side-effects, though.|
| "Whacketts" |
(alt. "The Addiction Game")
|October 16, 1987||11|
|When a building collapses, the survivors climb into the wreckage to rescue… television sets? Why is everyone watching Whacketts?|
|"NeuroStim"||April 28, 1988||12|
|Zik Zak's new promotional giveaway, the Neurostim bracelet, implants memories directly into your mind. Their bold new plan could spell curtains for Network 23… and Edison Carter!|
|"Lessons"||May 5, 1988||13|
|Edison discovers that the automated censor system is sending metro cops to arrest 'blanks' who are pirating pay per view educational programs: the only source of education for ghetto children.|
|"Baby Growbags"||Originally unaired in the U.S.||14|
Since Bryce appears to be 16 or 17 years old, this places the show in the real-world time frame of 2004-2005 (or 20 years after the Channel 4 film was made - "20 Years Into the Future").
Although it was not a comedy series, low-key (and sometimes dark) humor was a noteworthy part of the entire effect. Some was more overt, such as Max's wisecracking lines, while others were less obvious. The president of Network 23's largest corporate sponsor from Asia, the Zik-Zak corporation, is named Ped Xing. It could be a Chinese name (unlikely as Spoken Chinese has no syllables ending in "d"), but it is also the common American traffic sign "PED XING," an abbreviation for "Pedestrian crossing."
In similar fashion to the twisted, yet bizarrely familiar future world of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, the juxtapositions of intentional technological anachronisms were a recurring feature in the series. As Theora types in computer commands for real-time control of satellites, a tight shot shows her typing on the keys of a manual typewriter; in a similar way, some videophone calling devices featured large telephone handsets. Cars appear to be modeled from the 1950s.
In the end, the series all-too-accurately predicted its own demise. With story lines about TV ratings monitored on a second-by-second basis, and the power of the corporate dollar to control what information is delivered to the people through the medium of television, the series was evidently a little too far ahead of its time. After 11 episodes, ABC canceled it. (Three more episodes had been fully produced at the time of cancellation, completing the 14. It is also at least rumored that at the time of cancellation an additional episode was in production, another was in pre-production, and scripts for three more had been written; one of these five scripts has come out on the Internet.) There was some talk about the character returning in a movie entitled Max Headroom for President, but nothing came of it.
As a fad, Max faded from the public eye in the 1990s. In the late 1990s, U.S. cable TV channels Bravo and the Sci-Fi Channel re-ran the series. Reruns also briefly appeared on TechTV in 2001. Some episodes can now be viewed online for free on In2TV and Joost. While the series has yet to see a formal release on DVD, the original British version of the movie was released to the Japanese DVD rental market on September 2, 2005. Low-quality rough and unauthorized copies of the original shows ripped to DVD are periodically available through various sources.
The Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion incident, involved someone dressed as Max Headroom interrupting the signals of Chicago television stations WGN and WTTW. The person or persons responsible were never identified.
"Network 23"'s inspiration is the 23 enigma, with the specific, real and theoretical televisual reference derived from Genesis P-Orridge's use of the number 23, as the number of the Illuminati, in his groups Psychic TV & Thee Temple Ov Psychic Youth, itself derived from Robert Anton Wilson's seminal The Illuminatus! Trilogy. See also The Number 23.