If you thought the matrix was glitching before, wait’ll Max Headroom is back onscreen.
The 1980s pseudo-artificial-intelligence talking head is in development as a drama series at AMC, TheWrap has confirmed. Matt Frewer, who has portrayed the glitchy video jockey (and his human counterpart Edison Carter) since 1985, will re-render the role.
Christopher Cantwell, co-creator of the AMC computer drama “Halt and Catch Fire,” is writing and attached as showrunner, according to Deadline, which first reported the news. Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah are producing via SpectreVision and All3Media.
Between the quantum leaps in VFX and modern de-aging techniques, bringing Max Headroom back to life – even with a 64-year-old Frewer – will be the easy part. More challenging: constructing a narrative around a character who is immensely well-known and popular, but for years has bounced from medium to medium without really landing a major hit.
The character of Max Headroom first appeared in a made-for-TV cyberpunk movie “Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future” in 1985 on Britain’s Channel 4. Though he was billed as “computer-generated,” the technology for digital avatars was nowhere near sophisticated enough; instead, it was Freyer in prosthetics, with lighting and editing tricks doing the rest.
The TV movie supported the launch of a short-running but hugely popular music-video British television show hosted by Max Headroom, conceived as an AI that had absorbed all its knowledge from television and represented the worst of TV hosts trying to appeal to youth culture. His mechanical stuttering and extreme voice-pitching became the signature of his oblique and (intentionally) naive social commentary.
In the pre-internet U.S., New Coke commercials featuring Max Headroom and bootlegged videos fueled mystery about whether some mad genius had really created a “computer generated” person – but that all cleared up when ABC acquired the rights to make a TV series starring Frewer as both Max Headroom and his crusading, anti-corporate journalist counterpart.
The show fell somewhere between proto-cyberpunk intrigue and mass-media commentary, ran for two seasons in 1987 and ’88…and never really took off. Max Headroom was also featured as the “vocalist” on a hit single by The Art of Noise called “Paranoimia,” which hit No. 34 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1986.
From there, Max Headroom was relegated to pop-culture reference, appearing in everything from a “Back to the Future” movie to songs by Neil Young, Eminem and Selena Gomez.