There was a time in the mid-90's when MTV, seemingly flush with cash, took a flyer and commissioned a boatload of innovative and (mostly) compelling animated shorts for their Liquid Television program. Anthology shows have a dicey history, at best, and asking underground comic artists to create animated shorts that often pushed up against the dreaded boundary of the avant-garde was a risky maneuver, and only one that the self-proclaimed arbiter of cool would ever choose to undertake.
Of course, the MTV of the mid-90s was a far different beast than what we have now, and Liquid Television would never, ever, ever possibly find a home alongside Teen Mom and Jersey Shore were it starting up again today. Still, for a vast number of suburban kids like me who relied on MTV for access to the latest rap videos when our parents were out at the grocery store, Liquid Television was something of a mind-expanding experience. In an era before anime took off in a big way, it was a statement that not every "cartoon" had to be for children. It was possible to make animation that didn't have any speaking characters, but which still communicated ideas clearly. Animation could deal with adult themes like sex and power and drugs, and still be irreverent and cool.
So, despite their current reign as cultural equivalent of Dr. Kevorkian's suicide machine, it's pretty cool of MTV to throw down the gauntlet and release the bulk of their Liquid Television archives online, for free. They've split things up into an archie of "series" and "shorts," since a lot of the content that was developed for the show was extremely short one-offs of less than a minute in length. You can find some diamonds in there, though, including a lot of work by famed animator Bill Plympton, as well as the Mike Judge shorts that would later grow into Beavis And Butt-head and Daria.
Series-wise, though, I'm of the opinion that everyone should watch a little bit of The Maxx. It's a fascinating series, telling the story of a homeless man and a social worker, who bounce between our world and a William S. Burroughs-esque other land called The Outback, where the homeless man is a proud warrior protecting his Jungle Queen. It's dark stuff, often, but to its credit it never shied away from mature themes. (The comics its based on are pretty rad, as well.) It's a dark and thought-provoking show with Things To Say about mental illness, escapism, sexuality, gender roles, etc. Watch it.
And, of course, where would we be without Aeon Flux, which still has an intro sequence that can creep me the fuck out. I never saw the movie based on it, but it seemed fairly pointless to bother with it: the series was a largely wordless, abstract affair, but was brilliant to watch, and still features some incredibly detailed animation, at least in comparison to what was on television at the time:
While Spike And Mike's Festival Of Animation brings a lot of weirdness to theaters as it tours the country, there's still something to be said for the accessibility of Liquid Television and its placement on MTV. Although it's long since cancelled, much of the material that was created for it is still as watchable as it was 15 years ago. Don't take my word for it, though.