Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future

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Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future
GenreScience fiction
Written bySteve Roberts
Directed byRocky Morton
Annabel Jankel
StarringMatt Frewer
Nickolas Grace
Amanda Pays
W. Morgan Sheppard
Roger Sloman
Hilary Tindall
Music byMidge Ure
Chris Cross
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerTerry Ellis
ProducersPeter Wagg
Chris Griffin (line producer)
Production locationsEast Ham, London, England
CinematographyPhil Meheux
EditorMichael Bradsell
Running time57 minutes
Picture formatColor
Original releaseApril 4, 1985 (1985-04-04)

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future is a 1985 cyberpunk television film created by British company Chrysalis Visual Programming Ltd. for Channel 4 to provide a back story for Max Headroom, a computer generated TV host. American network ABC later commissioned Chrysalis to produce the television series Max Headroom, which was based on the film. HBO (which owned another cable television provider Cinemax) provided some of the original funding, with the aim of making some use of Max Headroom on Cinemax.[1]


The film introduces Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), a headstrong television reporter investigating a home explosion. When Carter is pulled from the story by the television station management, Carter investigates further and discovers that his employer, Network 23, has created a new form of subliminal advertising (called "blipverts") that can be fatal to certain viewers.

While attempting to flee the network headquarters with proof, Edison suffers a serious head injury, caused by striking a low-clearance sign labelled "Max. Headroom 2.3m". Bryce Lynch, an adolescent genius working as a scientist for Network 23, suggests to the network's chief executive that they keep Carter sedated and generate a computerized version of him by digitally recording Carter's mind, to be used as a temporary replacement for Carter in order to hide his disappearance.

Bryce's program is flawed. It burbles "max headroom" repeatedly. Bryce instructs his hired goons to dispose of both Carter and his virtual clone, but the thugs sell both of them — Carter to a body bank, and the machine copy to pirate television station owner Blank Reg.

After a bit of nurturing from Reg, the computer program achieves a somewhat eccentric life of its own. With a gift for rapid-fire gags, he hosts his own show, and sends Reg's ratings through the roof.

Meanwhile, a merely unconscious Carter escapes from becoming a premature organ donor, pursued by Bryce's goons, who quote Hamlet's Response to Corruption as they search ("'Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes contagion to this world."). With the help of colleague Theora Jones (Amanda Pays), and the distraction provided by Max, Carter eventually defeats Network 23.



Two years later American network ABC hired the creators of the Channel 4 film to adapt it into the series Max Headroom. Fourteen episodes were broadcast during the 1987–1988 television season. The pilot was a remake of the Channel 4 movie with minor changes. It recycled some of the footage from the original film, but the setting was changed to an American city. Cast members Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays and William Morgan Sheppard reprised their roles from the original film and Jeffrey Tambor was added to the cast as Edison's boss Murray. Pablo Cruise keyboardist Cory Lerios provided the theme.

Home media release[edit]

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was released on VHS in the UK and US in 1986.[2]

In September 2005, it was released as a Region 2 DVD in Japan only.[2]


  1. ^ Bishop, Bryan (2 April 2015). "The definitive oral history of 1980s digital icon Max Headroom". The Verge. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b Saint John, Robert (29 January 2007). "Live and Direct from Japan… It's M-M-Max Headroom!". SciFi Japan. Retrieved 29 March 2020.

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