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MTV to be hip & edgy again. No really

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • October 17, 2011 - 10:51 AM

MTV is always looking for ways to be edgy and hip and cool like it used to be. Occasionally they must have meetings about getting their old mojo back, and some says - timidly, cringing as if he expects to be beaten - “why don’t we do what we did before everyone gave up on us?” Looks like someone listened: they’re bringing back “Liquid Television.” Since that was a name for a showcase that had all sorts of different animated programs, you may wonder it means to bring it back. Well. Let’s go to the Wrap.

TheWrap talked with David Gale, the head of MTV's cross media group MTVX and former head of MTV Films, as well as David Harris, a vice president at MTV who is spearheading the new "Liquid Television." Gale and Harris dished on relaunching "Liquid Television," looking for the new "Beavis and Butthead" and almost let something slip about Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Can we please stop using “dish” to mean “discuss” or “reveal”? Just drop the word already. It makes you sound like a computer program that runs old Joan Rivers jokes through a People mag stylebook. Now, here’s the amusing part:

Q: So what exactly is your role, David?

Harris: Heading up "Liquid Television." I've run a couple projects for the division, and David let me take the ball on this one. From both a technical and creative standpoint, I'm an arts school kid. I went to 50/50 because "Liquid Television" existed and stuff like "Aeon Flux" that was the heyday of MTV interstitial -- creative weird stuff that felt so outrageous that anyone was broadcasting it at all."

Q: Given the popularity of some of those shows, why did it die, and why bring back now?

Gale: "There is no answer for why it went away. Times in TV have changed. One of the brilliant things about "Liquid Television" was it consisted of shorts. Shorts on TV...it's not an easy thing to have. MTV is one of few places that has occasionally had shorts in the form of interstitials."

He’s right, I suppose, but it’s amusing to say “shorts are not an easy thing to have” when MTV used to be entirely about shorts. Nothing but. Short videos, short news, short promos, shortshortshort. This was roundly attacked for eliminating the attention span of the young & impressionable, which was possibly the reason MTV began to downplay videos in favor of longer-form reality shows. They were concerned about their impact on the developing brains of American youth.” Yes, that’s the reason. Read the rest of the interview for a master class in corporate palaver, or PRBS if you wish. Read how everyone at the company loves the brand. Do you know why? Because it reminds them that the company used to be hip and edgy and cool, and if they’re resuscitating a brand from that era, it means everyone connected is hip and edgy and cool again. Even if everyone left them for Adult Swim. Years ago.

 

As for Aeon Flux, I never got into it - seemed pretentious, didn’t like the visual style, and the whole idea of “incredibly acrobatic beautiful female assassins who are six-feet-tall and have huge breasts and do not dress appropriate for the workplace” seems a big played out. According to wikipedia, don’t think I missed much:

With the exceptions of the exclamation "No!" in the pilot and the single spoken word "plop" in the episode "Leisure", all of the short episodes are completely devoid of (intelligible) dialogue. Instead, the sound track employs a variety of sound effects including sounds such as laughter, grunts, and sighs. Unintelligible dialogue was voiced by the series music composer Drew Neumann[

One peculiarity of the early shorts is the violent death of Æon Flux, which occurs in each of the installments (by contrast, she only "dies" once in the half-hour series). Often her death is caused by fate, while other times she dies due to her own incompetence. In the episode "Chronophasia", Æon is apparently killed repeatedly by a monstrous baby, but the reality of these events is ambiguous.

Aren’t they always?

Anyway, here’s a reminder of what those “shorts” on MTV used to be. It was a big thing when they had a new ID segment. These took work. 

 

 

I think this one ran once.

 

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