Here in America, we completed the switchover to DTV, the effort to end the public use of analog TV signals a few years ago.
Over in the U.K., that change took place on a region-by-region basis.
To herald the U.S. change, American broadcasters recruited the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Pat Sajak and other celebrities to inform the TV-addicted masses of the impending sea-change.
Not so for the Brits. In 2008 as their national effort was beginning, one network, Channel 4, decided to dig up an old celebrity to get the news out: They found Max Headroom.
For many, Max Headroom was the seemingly computer-generated pitchman for Coca-Cola in the 1980s.
In reality, Max was actor Matt Frewer in foam make-up with a cartoon background and an array of quick edits. He already had a lengthy set of credits before he hooked up with Coke.
Before he hit the air in America, Max was a minor sensation in Britain. There, he starred in “The Max Headroom Show.” His success attracted the attention of the folks of Cinemax, who borrowed the character for their own special “Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future.”
From there, Max’s show was moved to ABC and converted into an actual dramatic series. On network TV, it lasted a season.
But Max’s true success was adding fuel to the fire in the Cola Wars.
You remember them, right? I lost a brother in the conflict. (Abraham! … I’ll never forget you!)
Anyway, take a peek at one of those “blipverts” below:
But Max’s popularity didn’t stop there. It wasn’t long before he was all over the place. He showed up in a brilliant “Art of Noise” song, and even got to trade jabs with David Letterman. It was probably Dave’s first ever attempt to interview a TV set …
YouTube has several other snippets that show us Max Headroom’s manic personality. Even his effort to explain the rules of a mail-in contest was pretty funny.
In 1987, Max also inspired the only known incident of a completely pirated TV broadcast in the United States.
Back to the future now, and good old Max has been resurrected in a new set of commercials to sell Britain on the digital switchover.
You’ll see the years haven’t been kind to him, but his humor lives on.
Are we on the cusp of a total Max revival? Sadly, probably not, but at the very least we now have a DVD set (courtesy of Shout Factory) of his ABC show. … Come on, guys! Catch the Wave!