After more than a decade off the air, Mike Judge and MTV’s Beavis and Butthead has returned to television. When we last saw this dynamic, perpetually-giggling duo, they were…well, not doing much, actually. Has time matured Beavis and Butthead? Would we tune in tonight to discover an older, wiser, perhaps college-bound pair? Would Judge change the show’s formula, improve the show’s “look”, meddle with its overwhelming immaturity? Thankfully, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “Hail, no”: Beavis and Butthead are just as dumb– and funny– as they were when we left them. Read on for our review of tonight’s season premiere of Beavis and Butthead, my gentle Examiner readers….
Damn near two decades ago, MTV aired a bizarre little variety show called Liquid Television. This series gave birth to a number of sideshow freak-acts: some of these were live-action (like the too-strange-for-words “Dogboy”), others were animated (like the also-strange “Aeon Flux”, which went on to become the worst live-action movie based on a cartoon starring an Oscar-winner ever made), and all of them were popular…but none so much as Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead. The duo appeared in a brief short (“Frog Baseball”, if I recall correctly) early in Liquid Television‘s run, and the rest–as they say– is history.
Well, it was history. Now– against all odds– Beavis and Butthead are back, ready to expose themselves (insert Beavis-esque giggling here) to a whole new generation of imbeciles. Don’t take offense to that, tweeners: Beavis and Butthead appealed to the imbeciles of my generation, as well.
So what does it mean, then, that I found myself laughing throughout the majority of tonight’s broadcast? I remember Beavis and Butthead being only moderately amusing back in the day, a show with a very wide dumb streak. I was prepared for more of the same, so I was surprised when tonight’s premiere turned out to be so sharp. Could be that age (and a few false starts in Hollywood) have sharpened Judge’s abilities…or it could be that the writers working on the 2011 version of the show are simply funnier than anyone who crafted episodes back in mid-90’s (I see that tonight’s premiere was written by a former Daily Show writer and two former King of The Hill producers). Doesn’t matter: whatever the reason, Beavis and Butthead 2011 is funnier, the punchlines are sharper, and the humor’s a whole lot snarkier.
It’s kind of a little miracle, in its own way. When’s the last time we saw something this old brought back out onstage for a victory lap, something that didn’t completely embarrass everyone involved (viewers and talent alike)?
According to press materials, Beavis and Butthead aired 200 episodes back in the day, but I’d be willing to bet that I never saw more than a handful of them. Even though the 8th-grade version of me watched the show religiously, whenever I tuned into the show it was “the one where they searched for T.P.” (the purpose of said T.P. is better left unexplained), or “the one where Beavis and Butthead‘s gym teacher requests to be kicked directly in the testicles”. I’m stunned that there were actually a couple hundred of these made back then, and I find myself wondering if any of them are as good as tonight’s premiere was. If so, I might seriously consider revisiting the series.
Anyway, tonight’s premiere– like the episodes that aired in the 90’s– was broken into two ten-minute segments interspersed with a healthy dose of “music video commentary”. In the first segment, Beavis and Butthead attempted to become werewolves in order to “score” with all the Twilight-loving chicks populating their high school (the Twilight gags provided some of this episode’s best moments). In the second segment, Beavis is eating a chili dog when he bites into an onion, which– in turn– makes him weep. Butthead then spends the next 80 years ragging on him about it. The second segment was lighter on plot and slightly less funny than the first, but I laughed throughout. Sometimes with gusto. No one is more surprised by this than I am.
The animation’s still rough, somewhere in-between Family Guy and South Park, and it’s still painfully obvious that Judge and company are recycling footage during the “video commentary” portions of the show. But Beavis and Butthead has never been a series that we tuned into for its beauty, and it would’ve been emotionally jarring to see a streamlined, high-tech version of the show. This is a series whose punchlines benefit from its low-rent aesthetic, and I’m sure that Judge made a conscious decision to keep things suitably rough around the edges. It’s also worth noting that the “video commentary” sequences remain the show’s high points, even if the animation’s much more pleasing to the eye during the “storyline” segments.
One thing gives me pause, though: it remains unclear who this new iteration of Mike Judge’s second-best animated series (the first, of course, being King of The Hill) is for. I’m very curious to see how this show does, ratings-wise. Is this show for the teenagers of 2011, or is it nostalgia-porn for thirtysomethings? I know that I got an overwhelming whiff of nostalgia (at least, I think that was nostalgia) while watching the show’s season premiere this evening, a little buzz of recognition every time one of Beavis and Butthead‘s all-but-forgotten supporting characters wandered onscreen: look, there’s the forever-shouting gym teacher! Hey, there’s Stewart, always in a Winger t-shirt (a t-shirt whose inherent punchline will be entirely lost on the teenagers of 2011, by the way; maybe Judge oughtta outfit him in a Bieber-tee)! Hey, it’s the guy who sang “Lesbian Seagull”! There were times that tonight’s premiere felt like a high school reunion.
Then again, high school reunions are generally considered to be awkward and unpleasant experiences, while tonight’s season premiere of Beavis and Butthead (I can’t believe I just typed that) was anything but. One hates to say something as trite as “Beavis and Butthead are back and better than ever!”, but– for tonight’s installment, anyway– that appears to be the case. I will continue watching the show for as long as it can continue to make me laugh as hard as it did tonight (and, if the promos MTV’s released for the rest of the season are any indication, that looks to be a very long time, indeed).
My grade? A-
Stay tuned for more funny videos, news, reviews, interviews, and more from Comedy Examiner HQ in the near future, folks. We’ve got all manner of nonsense to keep you informed and entertained during the week, so hit the ‘Subscribe’ button up top to get all future Comedy Examiner articles delivered straight to your inbox, free of charge, the moment they’re published … including any of our future Beavis and Butthead-related updates. You can also head on over to THIS PAGE to follow your humble Comedy Examiner on Twitter.