Posts Tagged ‘Max Headroom’

The Philosophy of Good Sci-Fi

This week saw the premiere of APB, yet another in a long line of police procedurals with a thin veneer of sci-fi slapped on top (the thinnest yet), the third on FOX in particular following the abysmal receptions of Almost Human and Minority Report (still can’t believe that got the green light). The basic premise is a Libertarian power fantasy: a tech billionaire, personally affected by crime, takes over the incompetently run police precinct by throwing his money around against the city’s politicians and turns it into his privately run force that works perfectly through the use of apps and drones and tech buzzword #37 not found. Admittedly, the premise annoys me on its face; this kind of billionaire “altruism” is just not true to reality, and by forcing this into the setting of a real, modern city like Chicago, it just makes the difference that much more stark. Yes, I’m aware it’s “inspired” by a real event, and the show had a female cop to voice the audience’s potential concerns in the pilot…

But, ironically, that’s exactly where it falls apart. In an attempt to head these off, they fall back on standard police tactics even where it doesn’t make sense, eschewing the tech advantage that they’ve built for “experience and street smarts beat all.” Trust me, the show had plenty of other issues in terms of acting and storytelling, but if it could commit to the idea at its core, it wouldn’t fall into the same category as its predecessors. Because after looking at dozens of these sci-fi TV shows over the last few years, there’s a pattern that’s emerged:

The longer a show has run, the more likely it is to have a clear philosophy to its story. Shows that aren’t founded on a core belief inevitably flounder and fail.

Why? Let’s take a look.

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What Could Have Been: Max Headroom Season 2.5? Animation? The Max Headroom Movie?

Max CityEarlier this month I introduced Max Headroom, the fictional show starring the computerized celebrity of the same name. If you’ve read that you know I had a pretty high opinion of the series itself, a fine example of 80’s cyberpunk on its own and one of the only TV programs to venture into that territory at the time. However, it seemed the world wasn’t quite ready for the dystopian adventures of Max, and the show met with cancellation after two exceptionally short seasons. Production was still in full swing at the time, though, so what did we miss out on by this abrupt ending? or Max Headroom season 3? And hell, even in spite of the cancellation, their plans for Max’s world weren’t done–a Max Headroom theatrical movie, anyone?

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A Subjectively Obscure SciFi Primer: Max Headroom

Max Headroom TitleMax Headroom occupies a weird spot as it relates to the Primer. Hell, everything about him and his origin is complicated. If you’re old enough to remember the 80’s (and I’m not), you’ll probably recognize the eponymous character, at the very least. He was a pop cultural icon for a while–a witty, irreverent “computerized” character that appeared in everything from Sesame Street to New Coke commercials… and yet the 1987 cyberpunk TV show that starred the character barely eked out 2 abbreviated seasons (14 episodes total) and is all but unknown as a result. I find him fascinating, a fourth wall-straddling fictional star who kind of became the thing he was originally designed to satirize. But is the show worth watching, or has it been rightfully forgotten?

Buckle up, this is a long one.

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4 Strange Cameos by Sci-Fi Characters–Friday Four

Daleks Looney TunesWe’ve talked about cameos a few times on here before. Cameos by celebrity fans are fairly common, and scientists are a great choice when you’re looking to lend your sci-fi some scientific credibility. However, there’s also the other side of the coin–when sci-fi characters drop out of their own universes and make cameos in shows where they wouldn’t usually belong. This isn’t just using the actor or referencing their famous role; we’ve actually got a pseudo-crossover on our hands. (The big difference between these cameos and crossovers is that these aren’t canon to their sci-fi origins.) Who does that? Let’s find out!

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