Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future is a 1985 cyberpunk television film created by Chrysalis Visual Programming Ltd. for Channel 4 in the UK to provide a back story for Max Headroom, a computer generated TV host. A British produced, yet American broadcast, television series, Max Headroom, was later developed from the original film. HBO provided some of the original funding.
The film introduces Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), a television reporter trying to expose corruption and greed. Carter 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. It will 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.Matt Frewer as Edison Carter / Max Headroom
Nickolas Grace as Grossman
Amanda Pays as Theora Jones
W. Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg
Roger Sloman as Murray
Hilary Tindall as Dominique
Paul Spurrier as Bryce Lynch
After this film was made, an American television series was developed, titled Max Headroom. It lasted fourteen episodes during the 1987–1988 television season. It was broadcast on ABC. For at least the first episode, some footage from the original Channel 4 movie was used, while other scenes were reshot with American actors. Jeffrey Tambor was cast as Edison's boss Murray. Pablo Cruise keyboardist Cory Lerios provided the theme.
The first six episodes (Season 1) were released on VHS and LaserDisc in Japan by RCA/Columbia Home Video Japan (now Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) shortly after ABC cancelled the show. It was released on DVD by Shout! Factory on 10 August 2010, although this set does not contain the original 20 Minutes Into the Future film.
Max Headroom was adapted and used in 1987 by the American cable channel Cinemax for their own Max Headroom Show called The Original Max Talking Headroom Show.