MTV stopped living up to the "M" in its name so long ago that the joke, "I remember when MTV used to play music," is itself a relic at this point. For those that remember the network's '90s heyday, it marked the last time that great, original shows were able to coexist with hours of music video blocks. And while YouTube is the new-- and likely permanent-- home for music videos these days, MTV could still reinvent itself as a channel that has cool shows that aren't just about pregnant teenagers.
One of the more popular cartoon/toy marketing machines of the Eighties was M.A.S.K., the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand (yes, command with a 'K', that's what happens when you have to make an acronym fit into your story concept). The show was a weird kind of G.I. Joe-Transformers hybrid, but it managed to combine the best elements of those franchises while adopting few of their flaws. But what really set it apart was the namesake of the show -- the super-powered masks the characters wore. The masks provided the ethnically-diverse-yet-stereotypical cast with abilities like anti-gravity, flight, and energy beams.
Hey, you know who's annoying? Just about everyone on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Taking the Spongebob-ish formula, which is really the Pink Panther-ish formula, of having your main character systematically strip others of their sanity, Foster's creates a whole new genre of kids show. It's almost a twist on Artaud's old "Theater of Cruelty," in which children's programming can no longer exist without an element of torturous lunacy. Revolving around a halfway house for "retired" imaginary friends, Foster's unleashes insanity at every turn. Because most every character is based on the erratic whims of their child creator, they're all freakin' bonkers, and serve to pester and drive each other mad at every turn. Our hero Mac doesn't want to let go of his best buddy Bloo, so he's allowed to hang around Foster's whenever he wants. Bloo himself is a study in selfish delinquency and one might wonder why anyone would want to create him in the first place much less keep him around. The great joy of Foster's however, aside from the animation style and the kickin' theme music, is that it never truly grates on you. Nothing is malicious. Sure, all the characters spiral out of control in their own way, but it's also all very funny and very endearing. And of course, all the characters are equal when compared to the most fantastically annoying character every created, Cheese.
Like a little psycho-drama with your superhero escapades? Or perhaps you like a little hero-action in your poetic melodramas? Based on the comic book by Sam Kieth, The Maxx often kept the frame by frame references intact, and in most cases moved the characters very little, if even at all. There's a lot of emotional turmoil and damage caused by physical assault, and we haven't seen any show give that damage as much of a voice as The Maxx. The Maxx, in all of its glory, allowed for grief, rage, guilt and despair as we followed the supernatural after-effects of the attack and rape of Julie Winters. Julie's own personal desire to feel whole again causes her to create an inner psychological landscape called The Outback, where she rules as The Jungle Queen. The Maxx might be the hero and protector of Julie's Outback subconscious, but in the real world he's a confused, homeless drifter. Both of them live in a state of denial that might become their own undoing -- that is if they're not done in first by the sadistic Mr. "You might say that I've got a problem with women" Gone. The Maxx was part of MTV's Oddities program, back when MTV was interested more in art than commerce. 2b1af7f3a8