Throwback Thursday: WGN and WTTW Hijacked by Max Headroom

Introduced in 1984, Max Headroom is a fictional AI character as the Worlds 1st Computer Generated TV Host, who was portrayed by Matt Frewer; chosen for his improvisation skills. The character originally appeared in the British cyber punk film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into The Future, with a background story coming from a dystopian near-future dominated by television and large corporations. He was known for his wittiness and his stuttered, distorted electronic voice and was intended as a satire of disingenuous and vainglorious TV personalities. One of his creators, Rocky Morton, describes him as a “very sterile, arrogant, Western personification of the middle-class, male TV host” as well as “media-wise and gleefully disrespectful.” He would also be referenced in pop culture by directors and artists, like in Eminem portrayal in the RAP GOD music video.

On Saturday Nov. 22 1987 Max Headroom would make a reference that was all too real! During the evening hours in Chicago, at two separate times, a couple of television stations would be hijacked. At 9pm during the sports cast segment on WGN 9 News, for about 25 seconds an unknown man sporting a Max Headroom helmet and sunglasses took over the broadcast signal, fit with a rotating background. Then again around 11pm during the Doctor Who serial Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW Channel 11 he appears again this time ending with a slap to a naked puppet butt with a fly swatter. The unknown hijacker was only able to achieve this by gaining a close proximity to WGN’s transmitter located on the Hancock Tower with his own transmitter. The culprits never caught or identified.

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