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Liquid Television was ahead of its time

Jubenhimer

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Nov 11, 2018
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Back in the days of the early 90s, MTV, before it became the vapid, corporate, reality-centric glitz machine it is now, was an edgy, young-adult focused network focused primarily on Music Videos. Videos dominated the entirety of the channel's early schedule. But as we moved into the 90s, MTV realized that just being a station that aired exclusively music videos wasn't really a concept that had longevity. So the channel as early as the mid-late 80s, branched out to offer general music themed shows, as well as a broader focus on pop culture.


One of these experiments was a show that threw together animated shorts, music, and other nonsense into a half-hour magazine of sorts called Liquid Television. MTV had already had experience with animation, with many of the channel's iconic bumpers coming from independent cartoonists and animators. Liquid Television took MTV's two biggest strengths at the time, animation and music, and based a whole show around it.

What's interesting about Liquid Television was just how far ahead of the curve and influential it was in the TV animation scene. Not only did the show serve as a launching pad for some of MTV's most popular shows such as Beavis and Butt-head and Aeon Flux, it kickstarted the trend of using an animated shorts showcase series as a testing ground for potential tv show concepts. A practice that would later be adopted by Children's cable channels such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, who have since introduced similar programs such as What a Cartoon!, Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and Random Cartoons to launch popular animated series such as The Fairly OddParrents, Dexter's Lab, Powerpuff Girls, and Adventure Time.

Liquid Television stood out however, with its target audience. At the time, animation was generally seen as entertainment for young children. Bright, flashy garbage designed to distract 2-11 year olds with for a few hours while adults and teens did the dishes or hung out with friends. Thanks to MTV's older target audience of 12 to 34 year olds however, Liquid Television was one of the first cable animated shows that didn't have to worry about making everything suitable for little Jimmy. As such, the artists could focus on making the shorts they wanted to make, rather than what executives think kids would like. The Simpsons had been around for a few seasons by that point, so "Cartoons for adults" wasn't a new concept on television, but it was still a bit of an untapped market, and MTV helped pave the way for networks such as Comedy Central and Adult Swim, who defined themselves on animated series for adults.

With MTV being a hollow husk of its former self, I doubt they have any interest in revisiting something that experimental again.
 
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Happosai

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It was great. However, less-than half the animators ended up getting an original series set via MTV. Danny Antonucci introduced himself with 'Brothers Grunt' long before Cartoon Network or Ed, Edd, n' Eddy on L.T.

The Mike Judge shorts "Inbred Jed," "Huh?," and early Beavis and Butthead pilots were also run on L.T.

The one that always creeped me out (not sure who the director was) was a short titled "Let's Chop Soo-ee." I probably spelled it incorrectly but it was all kinds of messed up.
 
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wondermega

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Liquid Television was a trip. I used to have a bunch of them on VHS which I am sure is long gone now. The whole show was great (and like.. realll weiiird man) and the Aeon Flux vignettes at the end of each episode were the cherry on top. There were a few really cool animation festivals that would pass through the local art-house cinemas (such as Spike and Mike) which would often feature very similar stuff, I think Beavis and Butthead made the rounds on those before hooking up with MTV. Very impressive to a young pre-art school wondermega!
 

Slouchy

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There was one Aeon Flux short that I recall being super-weird. It had a lot of sex stuff with the afterlife being like a giant tongue or something. It's been ages since I've seen it.
 

ItsGreat

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I suppose that kind of experimental stuff is still be made on YouTube. It's just not shared as collectively

We've all got our own little holes of niche.
 
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MastaKiiLA

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Aoen Flux was the best. MTV used to be great, but the Real World might have been the beginning of the end for the network.

Liquid Television had some interesting shorts, many of which I can't remember now. MTV also ran The State, which was a cool skit show with a bunch of actors who've gone on to have success in Hollywood. Ken Marino playing Louie with his dipping balls.