Picks and Pans Review: Max Headroom
ABC (Tues., March 31, 10 p.m. ET)
To start off its new Max Headroom series, ABC remade, condensed and Americanized the best Max show ever—the original British movie that explained how Mr. Video came into computerized being. TV reporter Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) discovers that his own Network 23 is killing viewers with "blipverts" that cram 30 seconds of advertising into three, overloading the nerves of couch potatoes until they explode. The network tries to kill Edison, chasing him until he crashes into a barrier that reads "MAX HEADROOM." Then a nerd tries to clone Edison's psyche in a computer but ends up with a stuttering bunch of cynical electrons named, yes, Max Headroom. I was afraid this superbly strange saga might lose something in the translation. But no. Not one whit of wit or wonderful weird-ness is sacrificed. And now the series will pick up the story with Edison and his altered ego Max exposing evil everywhere. This is not quite the same Max you see spinning videos and pitching Coke. This Max doesn't just make fun of talk shows, videos and the competitive cola. This Max makes fun of technology, corporate corruption and all TV—and does so with a look more daring and dazzling than anything on the air. This Max bites both hands that feed him, networks and advertising, and ABC has the guts to let him. Well, almost. In the version I saw, Max tells one of his dumb gags: "Know how to tell when a network president's lying? His lips move." But the censors said he couldn't malign all those nice men. So, I'm told, they'll make Max speak only of his fictional Network 23: "...our network president...." Innovation has its limits. Thank goodness this magnificent Max stretches them.
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