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|Max Headroom: A Biography from Two Worlds|
| Max Headroom is an artificial personality, created by the head of Network 23's Research and Development Department, Bryce Lynch, and resident in Network 23's own corporate mainframe. He has essentially unlimited control of, and access to, all of Network 23's considerable communications powers. He is best known to the general public for breaking into network broadcasts with his own interpretations of the current program, advertising campaigns and reality as he perceives it through the network-wide Two-Way Analyzer. He can broadcast to the full range of Network 23 viewers or, through the Two-Way link, communicate with one or more of them. Viewers are often surprised to find themselves talking with - or being talked at by - the famous Max Headroom.
A few years ago, the global telecasting giant was experimenting with a new form of advertisement that compressed a full 30 seconds of images into 3. These "blipverts" allowed far more ad revenue through expansion of available commercial slots, but more importantly, they prevented channel-switching by viewers. The brief duration of the 'vert and its fascinatingly fast composition kept viewers on-channel, thus ensuring ratings.
Unfortunately, the blipverts had a peculiar effect on some viewers, related to the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion. Highly indolent viewers were physiological time bombs, and watching a blipvert could cause them to literally explode. At first, Network 23 exercised its considerable political power through its own security arm and its links to the city MetroCops, and covered up the explosions as microwave oven disasters.
It was the star of Network 23's own investigative show, "What I Want to Know," Edison Carter, who stumbled on the coverup and began investigating the true cause of the exploding citizens. With the assistance of his new controller Theora Jones, he pinned the problem on blipverts and uncovered the complicity of his own network's head of R&D and its chairman Ned Grossman. Their attempt to further the coverup led to Carter finding himself the subject of an intense manhunt by both network security and MetroCops. During an escape attempt, his controller and R&D head battled for control of the Network 23 building systems, locking and unlocking doors, forcing Carter's elevator to different floors and raising and lowering barriers. In a final valiant dash for the outside, Bryce Lynch was successful in raising a traffic barrier that caused Carter to launch his motorcycle into a traffic gate. By the time Theora Jones made it to the accident site, only the wreckage remained; Carter had vanished.
| Max Headroom is an entertainment figure created in 1985 at the behest of UK's Channel Four. Channel Four was a newcomer, launched in November 1982 to expand television options in the UK beyond BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. Unlike staid old "Auntie Beeb" and the mainstream ITV, Channel Four, with its relatively low power transmitters and charter to shake things up, took an independent, youth-oriented stance. By the time the channel was better-established in 1984, its operators wanted a music and video show much like rising cable/satellite star MTV.
Peter Wagg, a music producer with Chrysalis Records, was tapped to develop the idea. In concert with The early stages of development are not known, but the decision was made to look into a computer-generated host for such a show, whether it was real or simulated. It would not have taken long to determine that computer graphics and animation of the early 1980s were not up to such a task, at least, not without movie-level budgets and time. At some point, though, the project was approved and marketing man and science fiction aficionado George Stone was given the task of coming up with the host and a world he could represent. Blending punk, cyberpunk, Thatcher-era dystopian gloom, early ideas of computer animation and a host of traditional science fiction speculations, Stone crafted the birth certificate of Max Headroom, much as we came to know him after many iterations of change and development. Max, his bizarre humor and stuttering, blipverts, and general figure as a "talking head" all came from Stone's original treatment.
The treatment as written was not entirely suited to video and Channel Four use, so the directors, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, along with producer Peter Wagg, reshaped the concepts into something that would fit the small screen. With such a complete backstory in hand, the idea arose of making a full-fledged introductory telefilm that could lead into Max's hosting of the video/music shows. Once again, the actual process is murky, but led to the one-hour debut of Max and his world on April 4. 1985.
|This biographical essay ©2015 in its entirety by James Gifford. All Rights Reserved. Please contact me for re-use permissions.|