You wouldn't really think so, but as far as I'm concerned, MTV has made some of the best animation coming out of North Ameria. This isn't mainstream stuff like The Simpsons, Futurama or South Park (though I love all three), this is usually edgier, darker and far more interesting stuff, IMHO. The shows I speak of are The Maxx, Aeon Flux, Daria and most recently Clone High. OK, so Daria and Clone high aren't in the same league as AF and The Maxx, but they are certainly outside the mainstream.
The first exposure I had to this animation was the Saturday night anime program that was on SBS starting in the late 90s. Not sure what happened to the program, I think they stopped a few years ago after showing Bubblegum Crisis (note that this was also the same show which ran Evangelion).
Anyways, lets take it in Chronological order... The Maxx - definately one of my favourite superheroes (or perhaps anti-heroes) along with The Crow. This one definately isn't for kids. Very dark and depressing. Not the thing you want to see if you're feeling down... For those who don't know it's about this huge big homeless dude who lives in a cardboard box, who wears a purple "superhelo suit". He's being helped by a freelance social worker Julie, and he's friends with this abused kid called Sarah. Oh yea, The Maxx also moves between this reality and another which he calls "The Outback" (a sort of twisted, post apocalyptic Australia, sort of Mad Max with mutants) where Julie is the Jungle Queen and he is her protector. Well, either that or he's just just completely insane. The Maxx is very definately making some pretty strong commentary on society and our need for heroes...
Some good links I found on The Maxx are:
- Film As Art - A very good review. Looks at the themes of the series. Though the review is of the "movie" version which has some of the stuff from the series cut out.
- The Maxx Homepage - an unofficial guide to the comic series. Has a useful FAQ.
OK, so moving on to Aeon Flux. This is one screwed up show. The show was originally a series of shorts which basically involved Aeon going out on a mission and getting killed in some interestingly brutal way. The following longer episodes weren't quite as violent as the shorts (I don't think anyone can take that much violence for 30 minutes), but involved much more intersting plots. Possibly too "interesting" because most of it just doesn't make much sense. People have accused of it of being all style and no substance, with pseudo-philosophy substituted for plot.. but hey, I like it. Though I'm still trying to work out the story myself...
Daria is probabaly the best known of the MTV animations. It survived for five years (if you go by IMDB). Definately another show of "outsiders looking in". Daria is based very much on the Buffy vein, with us following the social outcasts as they make snarky observations about the sillyness of highschool life.
And lastly, to Clone High. I only found this show via IMDB, when I was following the other work done by the Scrubs crew. Seeing that Clone was executive Produced by Bill Lawrence I decided to give it a go... and loved it! Besides the fact that lots of the Scrubs people do voices, the regular cast is just awesome. The premise of Clone High is described best in it's very cool title song:
Way, way, back in the 1980's, secret government employees
Dug up famous guys and ladies and made amusing genetic copies
Now the clones are sexy teens now. They're going to make if they try.
Loving, learning, sharing, judging. It's time to laugh and shiver and cry.
Clone High, Clone High.
Lets just say it's darn funny. Shame it lasted only one season. But it's probably pretty amazing that it lasted even that long considering just how bad networks are at supporting new shows.
Oh, and I just heard yesterday that there is a live action film of Aeon Flux being made with Charlize Theron as Aeon. I'll reserve judgement until I actually see something... but gee, I ain't that confident. A lot of Aeon was about the visuals, about how she moved, about the settings and of course the extreme violence. I'm sure they have the violence down pat, but the rest....?