Blipverts

Max HeadroomNetwork 23 TV reporter Edison Carter investigates the unusual death of a man in a low-rent apartment. Police aren’t saying much, and they’re not cooperating with Edison’s investigations – in fact, they sedate the victim’s wife while Edison is interviewing her during a live newscast. Edison’s boss gets a call from Network 23’s board of directors, ordering him to pull the story immediately – and the moment Edison’s camera light goes out when his satellite feed is cut, the police turn on him, and he has to make a desperate escape to the relative safety of the Network 23 helicopter. When he returns to the newsroom, Edison promptly decks his controller, Gorrister, and demands to know why Murray allowd the network’s board to pull the story.

In fact, what neither Edison nor Murray knows is that Edison was dangerously close to exposing the hazardous nature of Network 23’s new method of advertising, blipverts. The high-speed, compressed blipverts, while effectively cramming a few minutes’ worth of advertising messages into the viewer’s brain in nanoseconds, can also cause more sedentary viewers to spontaneously combust. Network 23’s corrupt chairman, Ned Grossberg, could care less about the mounting death toll, and resists board member Ben Cheviot’s insistence that the blipverts should be pulled in the interest of public safety.

Murray assigns a new controller, Theora Jones, to work with Edison. Though the jaded reporter is skeptical, he’s struck by her beauty – and her prolific hacking skills when she finds Network 23’s well-hidden research and development department. The network’s R&D isn’t so much a think tank as it is a single mind, brilliant boy inventor Bryce Lynch. Edison breaks into Bryce’s concealed apartment and finds the only evidence in existence of the deadly nature of blipverts. Before he can transmit that evidence back to the newsroom, however, Edison finds his satellite camera jammed and his network’s own security forces hot on his tail. With Theora’s help, Edison gets to a motorcycle and nearly escapes with what he’s learned, but Bryce springs a trap by remote control, sending Edison’s bike airborne. The last thing Edison sees before he slams into it is a clearance sign reading “Max Headroom, 2.3 meters.”

Edison is taken back to Bryce’s apartment. Grossberg wants Edison questioned about what he knows of the blipverts, but doesn’t want to risk awakening the reporter and allowing him to learn more. Bryce comes up with an alternative: scanning Edison’s synapses, transferring his knowledge and memories into the computer, and asking the resulting computer-generated construct what it knows. What Bryce doesn’t anticipate, however, is that the artificial intelligence created from Edison Carter’s mind – a personality which assumes a name from Edison’s last memory, Max Headroom – is every bit as stubborn and smart as Edison himself. And even if Edison is killed and disposed of, Max has worked his way into Network 23’s electronic infrastructure, and Max remembers everything Edison has seen, including the vital evidence that could topple the network and its chairman.

Season One Regular Cast: Matt Frewer (Edison Carter / Max Headroom), Amanda Pays (Theora Jones), George Coe (Ben Cheviot), Chris Young (Bryce Lynch), Jeffrey Tambor (Murray)

written by Joe Gannon and Steve Roberts
based on the British screenplay by Steve Roberts
directed by Farhad Mann
music by Cory Lerios

Max HeadroomGuest Cast: Jere Burns (Breughel), Rick Ducommon (Mahler), Charles Rocket (Ned Grossberg), Hank Garrett (Ashful), Virginia Kiser (Julia Formby), Lee Wilkof (Pat Zein), Billie Bird (Florence Nightingale), Ken Swofford (Gorrister), Viola Kates Stimpson (?), Urene Olga Lopez (?), Pearl Shear (?), Ricardo Gutierrez (Martinez), Skip O’Brien (?), Matt Roe (?), John Davey (?), Taylor Presnell (?), Heath Jobes (?)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Rakers

Max HeadroomAs Max grows paranoid thinking that a napalm-kerosene-and-testosterone soaked kids’ show called “Missile Mike” is an actual news report about a man who goes around shooting things and blowing them up, things blow up in Theora’s personal life. She receives a rushed phone call from her sister-in-law Winnie, who warns her that her brother Shawn has taken up the dangerous sport of raking. An illegal underground sport with a high body count, raking combines jet-powered skateboarding with no-holds-barred unarmed combat. Theora sets Edison onto the case, but to break into a raking arena – let alone stop a match in which an already-injured Shawn is scheduled to fight – Edison will be risking life and limb. And while Edison thinks raking should be outlawed altogether, Zik Zak is considering both legalizing and sponsoring it.

written by James Crocker and Steve Roberts
story by James Crocker
directed by Thomas J. Wright
music by Cory Lerios

Max HeadroomGuest Cast: Virginia Kiser (Formby), Hank Garrett (?), Lee Wilkof (Pat Zein), J.W. Smith (Rick), Howard Sherman (Simon Peller), Lee DeBroux (?), Joseph Ruskin (Promoter), Wortham Krimmer (Jack Friday), Wynn Irwin (?), Arsenio “Sonny” Trinidad (?), Ricardo Gutierrez (Martinez), B.L. Collins (?), Ron D. Ross (?), Kimberly Delfin (Winnie), Peter Cohl (Shawn Jones), Tain Bodkin (?), Brian Libby (?), Doug Hale (?), Bobby Brett (?), Kawena Charlot (Rick’s bodyguard), Kedren Zadikov (?), Jeffrey Weisman (?), Tabi Cooper (?), David Preston (?), Lorilyn Huckster (?), Heath Jones (?)

Notes: This is the first episode in which it’s hinted that televisions can no longer be turned off. The “Missile Mike” gag is a slight swipe at one of Max Headroom’s real-life TV contemporaries, The A-Team.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Body Banks

Max HeadroomTwo people are stalked and captured by a pair of thugs. They beat the man into unconsciousness, and take the woman who was with him to a body bank, where she’s moved to the top of the line for an organ transplant surgery – whether she’s a willing donor or not. The man goes to Edison with the story of the attack and the kidnapping, and Edison takes on the story. But he has to go to the streets to find the “blanks,” or unregistered citizens, and he has to recruit the help of Blank Reg, a rough-and-tumble but good-hearted blank who runs a pirate TV station called Big Time TV. Reg leads Edison to the two thugs, who in turn put him within arm’s reach of the doctor to whom they’ve been taking their victims – all of them female. But before Edison can ask too many questions, the doctor is killed. Edison is fresh out of clues, and Max may be able to help him, but Cheviot and Network 23’s corporate sponsors at Zik Zak want Max’s attentions on sponsorship announcements, whether or not it means a woman’s life.

written by Steve Roberts
directed by Francis De Lia
music by Cory Lerios

Guest Cast: William Morgan Sheppard (Blank Reg), Concetta Tomei (Dominique), Jere Burns (Breughel), Rick Ducommon (Mahler), Virginia Kiser (Formby), Hank Garrett (Ashful), Lee Wilkof (Pat Zein), J.W. Smith (Rick), Scott Kraft (Mel), Claude Earl Jones (Dr. Mason), Robert Dowdell (Plantegenet’s doctor), James “Gypsy” Haake (Nurse), John Winston (Plantagenet), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Arsenio “Sonny” Trinidad (?), Peri Kaczmarek (Rayna), Fred Holliday (News anchor), Michael Paul Max HeadroomChan (Japanese doctor), Grace Simmons (Poncho), B.J. Collins (?), Jay Arlen Jones (?), Rick Deats (?), Juliette Cummins (?), and Fang

Notes: Blank Reg establishes here that books have become a rarity – and are valued only by a select few, including him (though we later learn, in Lost Tapes, that Reg can’t read). Reg is played by William Morgan Sheppard who, sometimes credited as W.M. Sheppard or W. Morgan Sheppard, has appeared in everything from Babylon 5 (Soul Hunter) to Star Trek: Voyager (Bliss), to Doctor Who (The Impossible Astronaut) with many other genre guest starring appearances along the way.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Security Systems

Max HeadroomSecurity Systems Inc. is the world’s leading provider of personal and corporate security and surveillance, with access to more priveleged information than any single government in the world. And now a hostile takeover of SS is in the works, and while the company’s CEO says she’s terrified of the prospects, she outwardly seems calm – and Edison smells a rat. But when he persists in questioning her, he suddenly discovers that his credit and his ID won’t work anywhere. He can’t go home, can’t go to Network 23, and the Metro Cops are hot on his tail. Edison winds up getting help from Blank Reg and Dominique, but he’s going to need more help from Max and Bryce – and he can’t even hope to approach the Network 23 building without being arrested. Bryce is the only one with the hacking skills necessary to make Edison a citizen again and uncover the secret of who’s buying out SS…but even he may be outmatched by the SS central computer.

written by Michael Cassutt
directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
music by Cory Lerios

Guest Cast: William Morgan Sheppard (Blank Max HeadroomReg), Carol Mayo Jenkins (Valerie Towne), J.W. Smith (Rick), Concetta Tomei (Dominique), Ricardo Gutierrez (Martinez), David Allyn (SSI Tech #1), Peter Mins (SSI Tech #2), Julia Calderon (Mrs. Rebus), Santos Morales (Mr. Rebus), Sally Stevens (voice of A7), Mark Voland (SSI Guard)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

War

Max HeadroomA news package broker contacts Network 23 and offers exclusive access to a terrorist group – for a premium, of course. Cheviot refuses to buy, and when the White Brigade blows up an entire city block, only rival network Breakthru TV has coverage of the event. Network 23’s board fumes over Breakthru’s sudden ratings surge – in the middle of a global rating sweep – but they jump at the chance of having Edison Carter expose the sinister link between Breakthru TV and the terrorists themselves. Edison eventually tracks the terrorists to their headquarters, and finds that their entire war is being fought on television, a war of publicity with as few casualties as possible to avoid negative reaction from the viewers. But when the bombers feel that their deal with Breakthru TV is no longer serving their cause, they change their policy regarding casualties…in a drastic way.

written by Martin Pasko, Rebecca Parr, Michael Cassutt, and Steve Roberts
directed by Thomas J. Wright
music by Cory Lerios

Guest Cast: Gary Swanson (Frank Braddock), Virginia Kiser (Formby), Hank Garrett (?), Lee Wilkof (Pat Zein), Richard Lineback (Hewett), Robert Max HeadroomO’Reilly (Croyd Hauser), Lisa Niemi (Janie Crane), J. Michael Flynn (Lucien), Arsenio “Sonny” Trinidad (?), Ricardo Gutierrez (Martinez), Tom Miller (Breakthru TV Reporter), Michael Colin Ward (Officer Wendt), Randall Caldwell (Phil), Yana Nirvana (Police Chief), Spencer Allan (Breakthru TV Anchor)

Notes: Guest star Robert O’Reilly may be best known to genre fans as Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. This episode is also the source of the series-defining exchange: “Since when has news been entertainment?” “Since it was invented.”

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Blanks

Max HeadroomJust as Simon Peller wins another term through the public telelection system, satellite signals go haywire, interrupting broadcasts on all the networks. And TV isn’t the only thing affected – even bank service has been disrupted. Then an ultimatum is issued: if Peller doesn’t reverse his policy of imprisoning all blanks – unregistered citizens with enough computer know-how to remove their identities from the central computer – the central computer will be crashed. Bryce and Theora hatch a plan to find the hackers by getting their attention with the most advanced artificial intelligence in the world – Max himself. But when the hackers take the bait and keep him, not allowing Max to return to Bryce’s computer, Edison has to resort to more extreme measures to keep a systems crash from laying the city to waste at sundown…and someone he considers a friend may be on the wrong side of the fight.

written by Steve Roberts
directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
music by Cory Lerios

Guest Cast: William Morgan Sheppard (Blank Reg), Peter Crook (Blank Bruno), Virginia Kiser (Formby), Hank Garrett (?), Max HeadroomLee Wilkof (Pat Zein), Howard Sherman (Simon Peller), Concetta Tomei (Dominique), Lisa Niemi (Janie Crane), Elizabeth Gorcey (Woman), Tom Everett (Tracher), Rob Narita (Ronald), Kenneth White (Police Officer), John Durbin (Police Officer), Lycia Naff (?), Cynthia Stevenson (?), Brian Brophy (?), Sandra Sexton (?), John Fleck (?), and Fang

Notes: This is the first episode where Bryce’s alma mater, the Academy of Computer Sciences, is mentioned; Blank Bruno was Bryce’s instructor before going underground.

LogBook entry by Earl Green