Max Headroom Reboot in the Works

AMC is working on a reboot of Max Headroom, which starred Matt Frewer as the titular character, who was the world's first artificial-intelligence television personality. Frewer will actually return to reprise the role, although it is not immediately clear whether the plan is to be a direct sequel to the 1980s original, or a reboot. Obviously, computer imagery can make Max look however the producers would like. According to Deadline, who first reported the project, Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell is writing the adaptation and is attached as showrunner for the project, which is to be produced by Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah's SpectreVision and All3Media. Cantwell, Frewer and Lisa Whalen will serve as executive producers.

The character, who was a smart-alecky host with strange, manic movements and regular glitches in his video output, debuted in the 1985 TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. The strange character would take on a life of its own, not just getting a TV series spinoff, but getting music releases, a book, and more. 

The original series only aired on ABC for two seasons from 1987-88, but the character has become a pop culture icon. He also took on a kind of underground status as a countercultural icon when in 1987, a TV pirate wearing a Max Headroom mask took over a pair of Chicago TV broadcasts, making strange and lewd comments on the air. That incident has become so famous, a horror movie was made that was based loosely on the event.

"I think that what's fascinating about the Max Headroom incident specifically is that, unlike other broadcast intrusions, it's unsolved," said Broadcast Signal Intrusion director Jacob Gentry. "I mean, unsolved mysteries just in general are always really interesting, and that's why we still talk about that one. But it's also like, before you really dig into what broadcast intrusions actually are, you're like, 'Well, how was this unsolved?' We live in a world where there's so much metadata with everything that, the idea that you could create something and it not be able to be tracked, seems archaic. It's just fascinating because it's one of those things that's really creepy, but you can't really put your finger on why, you know what I mean?"

Here's how the original series is described on the DVD collection:

20 minutes into the future…

Television networks battle one another in an unrelenting ratings war. Whoever controls the airwaves controls the dystopic world in which they broadcast. So when Network23's star reporter, Edison Carter, uncovers a deadly secret that could shake up the station's dominion over its viewers, the only option is to eliminate Carter before he can make his story public. After Carter's "accident," his mind is uploaded to create the world's first self-aware, computer-generated TV host—Max Headroom! But will Max bow to his creators? Or will he be the key to his human alter ago bringing down a network superpower?

With his own international talk show, music videos, countless endorsements and merchandising, the puckish Max Headroom became more than just a character on television. He was a decade-defining icon, never better represented than in this sardonically witty, adventurous look at society and media's own place within it. All 14 uncut episodes—starring Matt Frewer (
Watchmen), Amanda Pays (The Flash), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) and William Morgan Sheppard (Star Trek)—are available in one DVD collection!