Black and white digital illustration of a talk show host who looks semi-robotic. Text: Criminal, Episode 153: The Max Headroom Incident.

The Max Headroom Incident

Episode #153

2020-11-20 14:11:49


One Sunday night in November 1987, something very odd happened in the middle of the WGN nine o’clock news in Chicago. Sportscaster Dan Roan had been talking about the Chicago Bears, when the screen suddenly went black. Then a person appeared, dancing back and forth in front of a moving striped background, and wearing a mask.

The mask was the face of a fictional character from 1985 named Max Headroom, who was supposed to be the world’s first computer generated TV host. He supposedly came from our “not so distant future”—a future where the world is run by TV executives. 

The interruption lasted about 30 seconds. And then, two hours later it happened again on a different channel—WTTW—during a broadcast of Dr. Who. As one television viewer said, it felt like someone threw “a brick through your window.” A little boy said it was “very, very funny.”

We speak with Dan Roan, Larry Ocker, Al Skierkiewicz, Jim Higgins, and Matt Frewer.