Off switch

Many years ago, when Max Headroom first came out in the U.S., I and my fellow computer animation friends used to watch it religiously. We knew that Max wasn’t actually a computer animated character — he was really Matt Freuer with prosthetics and video effects — but that made it even more fun.

I still recall my favorite moment from the series, a moment which I now take as an eerie harbinger of the future. It’s in a scene in which intrepid reporter Edison Carter (also played by Matt Freuer) enters a room that a group of renegade anarchists had recently made their secret lair.

The anarchists had apparently fled just minutes before the authorities discovered their existence. The great moment comes as Carter is looking in puzzlement at a television set. He is clearly trying to figure out why it looks strange.

Then, all at once, he figures it out. “This TV set,” he proclaims in astonishment, “has an off switch!”

In 1987 that scene played well as absurdist science fiction humor. Today it hits a little too close to home.

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