You Didn't See That
the Max Headroom chronicles
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Surreptitious & Subliminal Credits in the Show
Getting credit for work on a television show is always a matter of the current rulebooks, the controlling contracts, and individual leverage. Television credits are much shorter than film credits because, in theory, there's less time and space to show them. (And let's not even get into the blipvert-like compression of end credits as is now practiced.)
Since a television show can require as large a crew as a modest-scale movie, this means that some people aren't going to get credit for their work. They get paychecks, and kudos from their peers... but none of that precious on-screen credit. Max Headroom had a number of critical crew who did not find their names in the credit roll - compositors, assistant editors and stuntmen among them.
Even though producers and directors argued for credit space for these contributors, Lorimar and ABC stubbornly refused, on many grounds including the nibbling away of valuable commercial airtime. (Don't forget that many of the reruns of the show were cut down by five minutes to make their commercial space more profitable... every minute means money to the broadcaster.)
There's a moral here, and it might read "Don't screw around with the crew of a cutting-edge, high-tech show." The studio and broadcaster did just that... and paid the price.
Subliminal Credits in the Credits
Zik-Zak Subliminals: Summary
Here are the subliminal credits found in the Zik-Zak montage of each episode:
Surreptitious Credits in the Show
Besides credits, the crew (especially the writers) put some items with hidden meanings right in front of the viewers. These are some; there are almost certainly others to be discovered.
The "Shash" Slide
Every episode of the series began in the same way, with a compressed form of the telefilm's dramatic beginning: the first thing viewers saw after the opening credits and first commercial break was a snowy screen with the sound of static, slowly fading into the opening scene. And, a moment later, the famous and brilliantly conceived "20 Minutes into the Future" slug.
Every episode but one, that is. Episode 2.6, "Blanks," began with the slide shown above, which quickly faded into the first scene, with the static noise. "Shash"? What was this?
At first, it looks like a compositing error - the "shash" slide being a placeholder for the fade-in static, with the substitution being forgotten before final compositing of the film. While it's possible for such errors to occur and even make it to air, that doesn't explain the blinking Network 23 logo.
The truth was ferreted out from one of the show's creators: it was deliberate jape at the network (ABC, not Network 23). "Shash" is apparently BBC technical slang for screen garbage caused by poor editing or mistakes - a holdover from the RAF radar days of many of the original BBC television technicians. Not to put it too delicately, the word is a composite of "sh*t" and "trash."
And, in the show source's explanation, that's a pretty good description of the inside of a network executive's skull.
Organization, format, design and all original content ©2005-2009 James Gifford