You don’t have to be too terribly old to remember Liquid Television, the groundbreaking animated-pastiche series that aired on MTV in the early 1990s. It was a diverse place; a stylized experiment station that served as the breeding ground for Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead and Peter Chung’s Æon Flux.
When Liquid Television disappeared from MTV in 1994, it stayed mostly gone. A few years ago, MTV momentarily made it available online — but then it disappeared again.
All 27 episodes are back now, and they’re free to watch over at the Internet Archive — so long as you don’t mind interfacing with a website that’s meant more as a pop culture repository (think: online media library) than a consumer-friendly entertainment channel.
The Internet Archive, which aims to preserve the ever-expanding ocean of media ephemera threatened with neglect or extinction in the information age, is hosting the series under public domain guidelines that allow everything from old TV cigarette commercials to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet to find an archival online home.
You never knew what to expect from one Liquid Television segment to the next. Each episode, which aired in 30-minute blocks, was jammed with anywhere from 7-14 animated shorts, and each stood completely apart from the others. Æon Flux and Beavis and Butthead, in their different ways, went on to become permanent fixtures in pop culture, but the show also had memorable recurring shorts like Stick Figure Theatre and the offbeat Invisible Hands.
We’ve gotta throw out a caveat: Don’t go in expecting to be overstimulated by a contemporary, hi-def entertainment presentation. The shows are listed in a simple clickable clip format, and their standard-definition visual fidelity from the grunge era…well, it is what it is.
So think of it as an educational experience, if nothing else. To take an informative — And perhaps even nostalgic — trip through one of the seminal pieces of the 1990s zeitgeist, head over to the Internet Archive and check it all out.