MTV used to be quite odd
These days, kids don't remember that MTV used to be home to some of the most distinctive animation on television.
While the channel has since become a reality TV-soaked abyss, MTV used to cater to outlandish adult animation that was far more brazen than anything seen on Comedy Central.
MTV would often champion shows that didn't have a chance in hell of surviving the mainstream channels. Some efforts would die out quickly, such as the animated sketch show Popzilla, which featured poorly characterized celebrities doing nothing of importance (in one segment, Criss Angel watches Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a crowded movie theater and obnoxiously comments on how he could actually perform the spells.)
But the often peculiar ideas generated massive cult followings, with shows like Beavis and Butt-Head garnering enormous success. While people reflect on the pandemic-induced absurdity of last night's VMA's, let's look back on a time when MTV chose to be absurd on their own free will.
One can't discuss MTV's irreverent taste in comedy without first mentioning the gory folly of Celebrity Deathmatch. Written by legendary creative oddball Eric Fogel, the show was crafted as a satirical commentary for America's obsessions with celebrities. Each episode's premise surrounded claymation versions of our favorite celebs, who would beat the snot out of each other, with extremely grotesque results.
The show started as a short impromptu sketch that featured Charles Manson and shock rocker Marilyn Manson fighting to the death. The concept was soon brought back in 1998 for MTV's Super Bowl XXXII halftime special. After the special's success, the premise went full throttle into a stand-alone series, which lasted for four seasons and featured dozens of celebrities. Open discussions circled about the show's potential return in 2018, but no additional news has surfaced since. Still, who wouldn't want to see Donald Trump and Kanye West fight to the death in 2020?
Beavis and Butt-Head
Beavis and Butt-Head's ludicrous antics would have never survived 2020's cancel culture, but the show remains another legendary MTV cartoon that, for some reason, has transcended history.
Focused on the two teenage delinquents' misadventures, the show followed a barely-literate duo who often found themselves in uncomfortable scenarios that stemmed from their interest in "cool" things like heavy metal, sex, violence, and general destruction. Beavis and Butt-Head's "appeal" was their lack of social skills and empathy. They often giggled when they heard words that could be vaguely interpreted as sexual. The show's lack of empathy or respect was absolutely bizarre, and while it was given a two-season renewal by Comedy Central back in July, it remains to be seen if we really need Beavis and Butt-Head to return in 2020.
In The Head, Jim, a trade-school student in New York City, wakes up on a morning like any other to find his head has turned into a colossal behemoth. Roy, a strange purple alien, pops up out of his head a week later. He needed a place to stay to adapt himself to Earth, as he has entered the planet on a mission to save the world from an evil alien named Gork. Totally normal premise, right? Another gem from the quirky mind of Eric Fogel, The Head was a peculiar miniseries that, at times, barely held itself together.
The Brothers Grunt
From the mind of Ed, Edd & Eddy creator Danny Antonucci, The Brothers Grunt was a disturbing tale of five zombie brothers searching for their lost brother, Perry. Featuring ugly animation and over-the-top gruesome details, the show barely followed a narrative and was often confusing and uncomfortable to watch. "[MTV] created the most repulsive creatures ever to show up on a television screen," wrote The Chicago Tribune of the series.
This strange adult animated sitcom centers on a high school populated by clones of famous historical and cultural mammoths, like Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi. The latter of the two sparked an insane amount of controversy in India when viewers saw the revered activist being satirized and voiced by MadTV's super-white Michael McDonald. Many protested the program on the 55th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination, marching in the streets of New Delhi near MTV India's studio. The protestors "threatened to revoke MTV's broadcasting license in India if they didn't take the show off the air."
MTV did apologize, albeit briefly. They said the show was "intended for an American audience" and said they "regret any offense taken by the content in the show." The second season was pitched without Gandhi, but the show was inevitably canceled.
Ren & Stimpy
Ren & Stimpy have recently re-entered popular culture in 2020 as people begin to double back and reflect on how absolutely absurd the show was–not to mention grossly sexual. It was one of Nickelodeon's first cartoons, and while the show was originally created for children, it enjoyed further success among adults on MTV.
The series developed a cult following, with many of the show's die-hard fans noting the project's long-lasting influence on animated television. But the show's perversions eventually overshadowed its cultural impact, especially after series creator, John Kricfalusi, was accused of (and partially admitted to) grooming and raping a 16-year-old. Still, the show always put Rim and Stimpy in strangely intimate situations, such as when Stimpy gave birth to flatulence, and in hindsight, it often parodied the intimacy of heterosexual relationships in off-putting ways.