In the early 1990’s, in the prehistoric era when MTV actually maintained pretensions of being a music video channel, Mike Judge unleashed upon an unprepared populace the soon to be cultural phenomenon, Beavis and Butt-Head. Mike Judge’s iconic teenagers, with the combined wits of a sack of bricks, sat on their couch, viciously lampooned cheesy metal music videos of the day, desperately tried to “score”, set things on fire, and contributed absolutely nothing to society. The animation of the series was/is as low-budget as you can imagine, and the jokes are about as complex as you’d expect from two barely functional and nearly illiterate burn-outs. Yet, Beavis and Butt-head was (and remains) the great intellectual equalizer, because whether your IQ is 160 or something closer to the show’s heroes, there is something so intentionally dumb, crass, and tongue-in-cheek about this series that you literally can’t help but love it. My familiarity with the franchise was mostly limited to the under-rated movie, and after some requests from friends to review the new series for the show, I decided to break my rule about not reviewing half-hour comedies on an episode by episode basis and am now going to review the premiere of the first new episode of Beavis and Butt-head in nearly 15 years, and it was definitely worth the wait.
I’m treading new ground in terms of content again as this is now my first American cartoon I’ve reviewed. It’s also the first show to have to two distinct episodes inside of its half-hour of content. The first episode was “Werewolves of Highland” and the second “Crying.” For purposes of episode numbering, each half hour block of the show is 1 episode and I’m going to be using the very first episode of each block for my review’s title line. In “Werewolves of Highland”, Beavis and Butt-head go to the movies and watch Eclipse from The Twilight Saga. Deciding that the best way to score is to be turned into creatures of the night, the boys allow a homeless man to bite them in the hopes it will turn them into werewolves (and not just give them every transmissible disease on the disease planet instead). In the second story, “Crying,” Beavis starts to cry (from an onion) during The Bachelor and Butt-head rides him mercilessly for being a wuss. As in the classic series, the action of each episode is broken up with the boys riffing over music videos and TV, and this time MGMT, LMFAO, Jersey Shore, and True Life face the biting wit and hilarious barbs of our heroes.
I’ve watched these two episodes twice now, and I think I laughed even harder the second time than I did the first. The show is stupid that it borders on being wicked smart. It takes an almost ridiculous intelligence to make something this dumb so god damn funny. When they’re making fun of the MTV reality show True Life, there’s a good two minutes where all Beavis and Butt-head say is the word porn over and over again, but it’s one of the funniest moments of the whole episode. When they skewer Jersey Shore and the dumb-asses that populate its universe, you have to respect Mike Judge’s balls for attacking his network’s flagship property. The parody of “JWoww” that they do is especially hilarious. Really, there’s just something about these two. They’re hardly functional human beings in any sense, but when they’re ripping something, there’s this ferocious wit from Mike Judge that makes the show so much smarter than it wants you think it is. Even the simplest gags, like the throw-away gag that ends “Crying” is so elegant in how simply its executed against how hilarious it truly is. Beavis and Butt-head has mastered the art of comedic economy.
If you’ve never seen the original show but have been curious all these years about what all of the buzz was towards this cult class, now is the best time to jump right into the series. The general consensus around the blogosphere that the new series premiere was just as funny as you remembered it from the old days (except now, you can actually get the jokes since you’re part of the culture the show skewers). Whether you like the comedic stylings of Woody Allen and Frasier or you think Family Guy is the height modern comedy (since I consider Family Guy to be one of the dumber programs on TV), there will be something in Beavis and Butt-head for you. Every part of me wants to hate this show because of how gleefully and willfully stupid it is, but it is that same inherent idiocy that makes it so stealthily intelligent. Really, you just need to go ahead and give this one a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Final Score: B+