- 1 David Letterman: "Larry Bud Headroom" (September & October 1986)
- 2 Neil Young: "Pressure" (1986)
- 3 "Maxine Legroom" (January 1987)
- 4 MAD Magazine (March 1987-1990)
- 5 Doonesbury & "Ron Headrest" (April 1987-1993)
- 6 "Sledge Hammer": 'A Clockwork Hammer' (September 1987)
- 7 Sesame Street (1987-8)
- 8 Maxine (1988)
- 9 Back to the Future II (1989)
- 10 Batman & Robin (1997)
- 11 T-Mobile Germany's "Robert T-Online" (2001-3)
- 12 Music Videos
- 13 Minor Parodies & Homages
David Letterman: "Larry Bud Headroom" (September & October 1986)
A few months after David Letterman had Max as a guest on his show, he jumped into signature parody mode and brought out "Larry Bud Headroom" - his regular "court jester" Larry Bud Melman (played by Calvert DeForest) transformed into a computer-generated talking head. More than just a brief joke, Letterman gave over a significant segment of his show to parody Max's talk show, with his "Headroom" answering audience questions and giving away absurd gifts (a package of fluorescent light tubes).
"Larry Bud Headroom" on Letterman,
15 Sep 1986
"Larry Bud Headroom" on Letterman,
6 Oct 1986 (begins at 13:26)
Letterman ran the skit twice, once on September 15, 1986, and then again on October 8. The first appearance had a very approximate version of Max's background (mostly neon-green stripes), while the second one used a bouncing lines background that may well have been borrowed from the ABC series video archive.
The joke does not appear to have been repeated a third time, and even Letterman alludes to the waning popularity of Max humor in the introduction to the second.
Tracey Ullman (with her baby) was a guest on the October show, and had been a guest on Max's show just weeks before.
Neil Young: "Pressure" (1986)
It's hard to imagine a singer/songwriter who would be less affected by the Max phenomenon than Neil Young, and something of a tribute to Max's pervasive influence that Young referenced him in a song on the "Landing on Water" album, released on July 28, 1986. It's much more homage than parody, but the lyrics about the pressures of television influence and its drive of consumerism - at least, as I read them - include:
- You watch the box and the video jocks
If you could talk that could even be you up there
That's why you need max head room
Too much pressure for peace on earth
Too much tryin' to get your money's worth
Too much dying
The eldorado, the mercedes benz
The job security that never ends.
- You watch the box and the video jocks
"Maxine Legroom" (January 1987)
When Max was interviewed for Playboy magazine, the editors accompanied the interview with a layout for a rather hot blonde (female, of course) equivalent named Maxine Legroom. It's an absurd self-parody of their usual Playmate pictorials, complete with a "biography" listing Maxine's interests. It ran under the subtitle, "Max, have we got a girl for you!"
The model was Playboy regular Sondra (Sandy) Greenberg, who also appeared in Playboy Video Magazine #12, doing four Max-like segments. I haven't seen those yet...
(There is also a series of workout videos under the "Maxine Legroom" name, but if there's a connection - to either Max or this Maxine - it's escaped me.)
MAD Magazine (March 1987-1990)
Max famously appeared on the cover of the March 1987 issue of MAD, albeit wearing his Alfred E. Neuman mask. An inside sidebar was the only related content, showing that the decision to go with Max was probably a late decision by The Usual Gang of Idiots.
MAD ran a few Max items over the next few years, probably stuff that was in hand, in prep or in press as Max started to fade from the scene. Most are fairly sharp, even unkind observations... but still funny.
(Ah, MAD, I miss you...)
This issue of MAD is in the MaxRchives; inquiries about the content are welcome.
Doonesbury & "Ron Headrest" (April 1987-1993)
Gary Trudeau was one of many comics artists to latch onto the Max meme, turning then-President Ronald Reagan into a digitized parody of himself, Ron Headrest. The gag outlived Max's run, as well as Reagan's. "Ron Headrest" makes 77 appearances through about 1993, which (subscribers only, sorry) can find in the GoComics.com online archives.
Garry Trudeau is quoted as saying that this was one of his least popular characters... but damn if it isn't the most spot-on parody of them all. Trudeau clearly "got" what made Max interesting and a little scary, and found the ideal candidate to carry the joke...
"Sledge Hammer": 'A Clockwork Hammer' (September 1987)
This ABC sitcom was a running parody of tough-guy cop shows and ran on ABC in the same years as Max's show. It ran on the broad humor of a punning title that used "sledge," "hammer" or both, for a parodic theme for each episode of its two-season run. It is probably inevitable that one episode would be based on the title character becoming Max-Max-Maxified.
Some reports have the episode, which premiered on September 17, 1987, originally being titled "Max Sledgeroom" and being much more Max-focused, but drawing objections from either the Max Headroom producers or parent ABC. The episode as-run is a mashup of star David Rasche's over-the-top Mike Hammer parody, elements of Max, and added elements from A Clockwork Orange.
The Max-ish elements included the evil head of another network, "Landon Smartikoff" - a very blunt swipe at NBC's young and very successful programming head Brandon Tartikoff; Max Headroom had been prevented from naming the net of Network 66 Brandon Grossman/Grossberg but somehow this briefer, lighter poke was allowed to pass. There are also sneers at the notion of a "fourth network" coming along... in the earliest years of Fox, which no one in the industry thought could crack the monopoly of ABC-CBS-NBC (and poor stepchild PBS). Had they only kn-known...
Sesame Street (1987-8)
Along with his brief appearance reciting the al-al-alphabet, Max made two appearances in the Muppet universe.
- "Muppet Babies: 'This Little Piggy Went to Hollywood'" (1987)
- Max was
- Sesame Street Magazine (1988)
- Max was portrayed as by 'Link Hogthrob' in the Spring 1988 issue of Sesame Street magazine.
It'sbefore anyone conceived of a Rule 34, much less an internet. Yes, it's Max-themed porn starring Porsche Lynn as both Allison Carter and Maxine Bedroom.
No, I'm not making this up.
Gawd help me, here's a synopsis:
- "Porsche Lynn stars as Maxine, an intrepid reporter for a busy metropolitan TV news show. She's hit upon the story of a lifetime when she meets a couple of couch potatoes who claim that by watching network television that were turned into a pair of feverishly frolicking sexual animals. Rather than just enjoy the situation, though, the couple feels the need to expose the networks nefarious scheme — to entice viewers into sex through subliminal manipulation. How causing sex among your viewers is supposed to boost ratings is a mystery, but Maxine lays bare the whole sordid story on her nightly broadcast. But now she's run afoul of the powerful network execs who created the whole plan! They plot to assassinate Maxine, but little do they suspect that her personality will be transplanted into the network's own central computer. She becomes more powerful than ever, beaming her sexy shenanigans into homes from coast to coast. A take-off on the one-time hit series 'Max Headroom,' this video uses flashly effects, gorgeous women and plenty of white-hot action to keep you intrigued from start to fiery finish. It's a cyber-sexual trip to the far side of sexual bliss — a trip you'll be happy to take again and again."
Back to the Future II (1989)
The second installment of the time-traveling movie franchise took Marty McFly to, uh... 2015, where among our flying cars, rehydrated food and other wonders he encountered several Max-like characters on the service screens of the old diner.
(I have to say that I am beyond embarrassed not to have realized, until it was pointed out to me, that in an additional layer of satire these t-talking heads were pitching The P-Word... Pepsi.
Excuse me, I'm going to go ride my hoverboard around to look for flying cars and self-lacing shoes...)
Batman & Robin (1997)
Al-Alfred P-Pennyworth in Batman & Robin
(begins at 1:10)
In what is regarded as the nadir of the Batman film franchise, director Joel Schumacher shoehorned in a brief Max reference as an AI made from Alfred Pennyworth's computerized mind.
(It made me laugh when I saw it, but the movie still stank.)
T-Mobile Germany's "Robert T-Online" (2001-3)
One of the more bizarre Max spin-offs was the use of a very Max-like character to pitch Deutsche Telekom's mobile service, branded T-Mobile after the US service of the same name, logo and signature color (magenta). Unlike Max, "Robert T-Online" was a full-figure character with hands and arms and legs and everything, but otherwise, he was the same kind of strange plasticky robot/computer image avatar. Like Max, he was portrayed by an actor in prosthetics, Matthias Kostya, and with additional video processing.
Robert T-Online and Enie sell DSL.
In 2002, he appeared in a television ad with the well-known VJ/presenter Enie van de Meiklokjes, who was known for her bright red-dyed hair (much like that of "Lola" in Lola Rennt / Run Lola Run). For the commercial, her hair was T-Mobile's trademark magenta instead.
Rebranding of T-Mobile as T-Com in 2003 brought the "annoying" spokesbeing to an end.
For some reason, Max and his stuttering-head trope continue to be popular on the music video scene...
- In the Gigi D'Agostino's video for "Another Way" (1999), the main character resembles Max's appearance and movements. However, as a full-body figure with gloved hands, and appearing in a European artist's video, "Robert T-Online" might have been the more relevant influence.
- The Canadian band Sum 41 wrote and performed a song called "Second Chance for Max Headroom" on their album "Half Hour of Power" (2000). The lyrics have no connection to Max, though.
- In the beginning of Tony Yayo's video for "Pass the Patron" (2010), 50 Cent appears as a Max Headroom-like character who drags two nerds (Yayo and another band member) into the video.
- Selena Gomez appears as a Max-like character on video screens in her video, "Love You like a Love Song" (2011).
- Eminem's single "Rap God" (2013) features an extended homage to Max with the singer in full costume and on a signature moving-lines background, and seen in stacks of old-style TVs.
Minor Parodies & Homages
These entries will be expanded and added to the listings above as time permits.
- "Carmen Sandiego"
- The animated series featured Carmen's boss, seen only as a talking-head on TV.
- The 2007 commercials for Channel Four could also be called parodies... or at least self-satire.
Most of these popular culture references, taken from the Wikipedia entry, have not been verified. They will be deleted or added to the more complete listings above as time permits.
- The season 4 episode of Farscape "John Quixote" featured the actor Ben Browder appearing as a Headroom-type version of his character, John Crichton.
- In the 1987 film Spaceballs, a parody of Max Headroom appears as the character Vinnie, henchman of mobster Pizza the Hutt.
- During the final season of the educational television series Square One Television, another parody of Max Headroom named FAX HEADFUL had his own segment.
- Channel 8 of Sirius Radio, which features songs from the 1980s, will sometimes have a character called "Less Headroom" between songs. He is billed as Max's "younger, more sophisticated brother".
- In the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, the main character uses Max Headroom as the avatar and personality representation of his personal assistant.
- In the YouTube video series titled "Baby Cakes" by Neely Comics, Max Headroom is mentioned in Diary #4
- In the late 1980s, activists in the Social Democratic Party re-cut a video interview with the Right Hon David Owen MP (now Lord Owen) in Max Headroom style.
- In a Season 2 episode of Family Matters, Steve Urkel appears as a Max Headroom version of himself.